From the desk of Christy Gilbert Holstege
May 1, 2018
This weekend, we visited Santa Barbara Alumni Weekend for our 10-year college reunion. Our friends booked a beautiful vacation rental for our group trip. As millennials, Airbnb is the main way we travel with friends. I realized when we arrived that the County of Santa Barbara has banned short-term rentals. Our friends then mentioned they were surprised there were so few options on Airbnb, but they figured it was a busy weekend.
I spent about an hour researching the city and county websites to try and figure out if our rental was in a permitted area. As a City Councilmember and an attorney, I couldn’t find enough information to find out if our vacation rental was illegal or permitted.
That is one example of why I am coming out against the poorly drafted, harmful initiative to ban vacation rentals in Palm Springs. Bans don’t work. Tourists don't know about, care about, or police bans; they will continue to travel by short-term vacation rentals. The sharing economy is here to stay and the best action we can take as a city is to regulate it.
If passed, Measure C will drive STRs underground in a way the city can no longer regulate or enforce our rules. We will no longer receive the yearly $7.5 Million in transit occupancy taxes and $1.7 Million in fees, which funds our vacation rental compliance department and frees up our police to do important police work instead of responding to vacation rental complaints. Our strong STR ordinance and enforcement department are working.
Measure C takes the control away from the city council and only allows changes by the further initiative by the voters. In my opinion, the people of our city elected me and my fellow Councilmembers to do the hard work of legislating and updating/changing ordinances to make them more effective. That’s what we do from the dais every other week. To remove that power makes no sense in this case. I just spent almost a year campaigning and walking door to door to speak to all residents on different sides of this issue. I hear the complaints of neighbors and I want to work to mitigate the effects of problem houses in neighborhoods. The best way to do that is through city ordinances drafted by the city council and our city attorney, not this initiative with problematic and questionable legal implications.
Tourism is the lifeblood of our economy. If Measure C passes, our economy will lose $200 Million annually in economic impact. Many of our residents will lose their jobs and livelihoods. It will obliterate the economic growth and resurgence we have experienced over the last 5 years and destroy the #PalmSpringsRenaissance.
Worse, it will undo the choice that voters overwhelmingly made in 2017 with Measure D to tax ourselves at a higher rate to maintain a high level of essential services that our residents enjoy. If Measure C passes, we will be back looking at $7.5 Million in budget cuts that would negatively affect incredibly important programs like our work on homelessness and our no-kill animal shelter. I can tell you as someone working to balance our city budget right now, we do not have an extra $7.5M to lose and just give up for an extreme ban on vacation rentals in a tourist economy.
As the only millennial City Councilmember, I have to say that Palm Springs is exceedingly cool and hip again, especially with millennials, who just became the largest generation with significant buying power and the majority of our current and future workforce. Where millennials travel today is where they will live in the future, just like so many of our residents who live here now. To ban the main way that a growing number of people of all generations travel would be to shoot ourselves in the foot, both for our current economy and the future of our city.
Please join me (in my personal and political capacity) in voting #NoOnMeasureC. #NoOnC #bansdontwork
-Councilmember Christy Gilbert Holstege
Note: While the law is clear that I have a free speech right to campaign for/against any issue regardless of a conflict, I waited until my husband sold his vacation rental company and I no longer had any legal or financial conflict to comment on this issue to avoid even an appearance of impropriety. I no longer have any financial interest in the vacation rental industry through my joint income. However, as someone who works to make a living in Palm Springs, the effects of this measure overall on our economy will affect all of us. I don’t have to comment on Measure C, but I am making that choice because I believe the consequences will be disastrous and I think that speaking out about the future of our city is important political leadership.