Palm Springs City Council met this past Wednesday evening. Among other items debated and voted on were two items designed to resolve the ongoing issue of short-term vacation rentals (STRs).
A PAC (cynically, Citizens for a Better Palm Springs) led by a former San Diego city councilman and funded by outside interest (Wyndam Worldwide and the National Association of Realtors) had forced the city into a referendum on the recently approved VR Ordinance 1907.
City officials, in private meetings with representatives of the VR “Industry”, agreed to a new Urgency Ordinance designed to replace VR Ordinance 1907. The Urgency Ordinance was negotiated without the input of those citizens or organizations opposing the proliferation of STRs overwhelming our neighborhoods. PON was later briefed by Councilpersons Kors and Roberts; the deal was declared non-negotiable.
Further, the industry threatened to drop $300,000 in advertising on our little village. One can only imagine what acidic alternate facts might be polluting our airwaves. Oh, they also threatened a recall of Councilpersons Kors and Roberts.
Historically, such backroom dealings haven’t benefited the citizens of Palm Springs.
The Council rescinded VR Ordinance 1907 and failed to pass the proposed Urgency Ordinance which required 4 votes. (Mills absent.) Council handed the proposed ordinance (named 1918) to the Planning Committee for review on March 8, 2017. It may live again and be back for a regular, non-urgency vote as early as March 15, 2017.
PON spoke against the Urgency Ordinance as both unnecessarily hasty and a continued giveaway to the industry, most of whom neither live nor vote in Palm Springs. Industry representatives, for the most part, spoke of the need for compromise. However, the “compromise” they sought included additional concessions from residents, e.g. more contracts, more investor-owned houses, less enforcement – more unregulated motels in our neighborhoods!
We commend Mayor Moon for standing alone in his refusal to back the Urgency Ordinance, stating this latest compromise “goes too far” in allowing 36 contracts per year, as well as forever grandfathering multiple STRs owned by a single person/entity. Instead, the Mayor recommended an immediate and temporary moratorium on the issuing of VR permits until a replacement ordinance was passed or the voters had their say. Councilperson Ginny Foat was adamantly against any type of moratorium. Mayor Moon then asked that a moratorium be put on the agenda for the next meeting for regular vote. Further, he asked that the city implement enhanced enforcement measures, as they are legally able to do.
PON believes that full-time STRs are an incompatible, if not illegal, commercial use in R-1 zoned residential neighborhoods. We have proposed multiple paths forward. Allowing the conversion of every single-family home into a business in R-1 zones is a non-starter.
PON has always supported true compromise. However, no compromise can begin with the newly proposed ordinance and concede further. You don’t start a basketball game in the 4th quarter! A process that excludes citizen/voters is doomed to fail.
PON is pursuing all avenues. We believe that the people are indeed the city and that Neighborhoods are for Neighbors.