Desert Sun Editorial Board: "Palm Springs voters, reject Measure C's vacation rental restrictions. It's overkill."

Palm Springs voters will decide the long-term fate of short-term rentals in the city on June 5. We strongly recommend that residents reject Measure C as an overkill solution to problems seen with vacation rentals that have divided the community, but are now being addressed smartly by City Hall…

Imposing an ordinance in this manner is extremely dangerous in that it unwisely leaves City Hall no room to correct problems that might arise. Only another vote of the people – or possibly a court order as part of a legal fight – could undo or modify it in the future.

Meanwhile, the current ordinance is changing the city’s vacation rental market in ways critics should be celebrating.

According to Palm Springs’ Vacation Rental Department website, nine properties currently are serving a two-year suspension of their STR permits. In addition, the number of citations issued after complaints to the city’s STR hotline has soared since the new ordinance took effect a year ago.

Violators are being dealt serious penalties and the ordinance is being enforced through the new, permit fee-funded Vacation Rental Compliance Department. This is what was supposed to happen.

Though the wrenching away of a city governance function via the ballot box alone should make Measure C a nonstarter, the potential ramifications of Measure C passing could be devastating…

At that point, Council Member Geoff Kors acknowledges, the city could be faced with either choosing to wage a court fight in defense of a new ordinance that City Hall had opposed, or looking to reach a settlement. In either case, the legal potential is unclear and likely to be expensive.

Another strike against Measure C as an STR “solution”:  The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians -- which holds sway over the roughly half of Palm Springs’ that is on its “checkerboard-grid” reservation – has signaled that it doesn’t like the idea of a ban.

As a sovereign nation, the tribe might simply decide to ignore Measure C. Instead of City Hall capturing STR permit fees and compliance fines, and even the related millions in transient occupancy tax, the tribe could decide to take those substantial sums for itself rather than go along with phasing out STRs as in the rest of Palm Springs. City Hall and the tribe say about 770 of Palm Springs’ almost 2,000 currently permitted STRs are located on tribal-allotted lands.

In that scenario, the city could still have hundreds of STRs it cannot shut down with no dedicated resources to counter the problems that, no doubt, will continue to exist...

As far as daily life for all residents of Palm Springs, the tourism-driven city has a budget that depends on many different revenue streams to provide the services and benefits that the community demands. The vast majority of currently permitted STRs would be banned after Measure C’s two-year phase-in. A study commissioned by City Hall found a ban could cost the city about $10 million in transient occupancy tax, sales taxes and other fees directly related to STRs. The same report put the ban’s overall economic hit to the community at $199 million…

Voters should reject Measure C and allow the City Council, as promised by STR subcommittee members J.R. Roberts and Kors, to continue to improve the current ordinance to address concerns as they arise.

Along those lines, one of the most pressing concerns remains the sheer number of rentals that residents of some popular city neighborhoods must deal with as a fact of life. It is easy to see how frustrating it could be to have new “neighbors” every weekend on all sides, as exists now in some extreme cases.

Roberts and Kors must determine how the city can control the density of STRs in neighborhoods so those who rightfully want to enjoy their own homes in peace no longer feel under siege.

Working together through the current process is the right answer.

The Palm Springs community would best be served if those so stridently opposed to vacation rentals who felt pushed to this extreme method of addressing their concerns return to working with their City Council to find the best solutions for the future.

Read more: https://www.desertsun.com/story/opinion/editorials/2018/05/04/palm-springs-reject-measure-c-vacation-rental-limits-its-overkill/581149002/

 

Palm Springs voters will decide the long-term fate of short-term rentals in the city on June 5. We strongly recommend that residents reject Measure C as an overkill solution to problems seen with vacation rentals that have divided the community, but are now being addressed smartly by City Hall…


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