Five years after Riverside County first established rules governing short-term rentals in unincorporated areas, Idyllwild has emerged as a major hotspot for the services.© James B. Cutchin A view of Tahquitz Peak from North Circle Drive in Idyllwild on Oct. 21, 2021. The area has almost half of all of unincorporated Riverside County's short-term rentals.
The area has nearly half of all registered short-term rentals under county jurisdiction, with a 70% higher ratio of short-term rentals to residents than Palm Springs, according to a Desert Sun analysis of county, city and census data.
Some residents claim lax enforcement of short-term rental regulations is degrading their quality of life, resulting in proliferation of loud parties, trash and parking issues and ballooning rents.
One petition, created by a citizens group in early October, calls for a series of amendments to the county's short-term rental ordinance aimed at cracking down on problem rentals as well as a one-year moratorium on the issuance of new short-term rental licenses in the area.
County officials acknowledge many of the issues and say they are working to address them as part of an in-progress revision to the short-term rental ordinance.
Both sides in the area's short-term rental debate say they are working with the county to ensure their concerns are addressed in the revised ordinance, although it remains to be seen if a solution can be reached that will satisfy all parties.
Mixed feelings in a tourism-dependent community
The Idyllwild area's 355 registered short-term rentals fall far short of the roughly 2,250 units currently registered in Palm Springs, the largest short-term rental market in the Coachella Valley.
But Idyllwild-Pine Cove's much smaller population and housing stock — both roughly one-tenth that of Palm Springs — means their relative presence in the alpine community is much larger.
According to 2020 census data, Idyllwild-Pine Cove had about 4,160 residents, compared with Palm Springs' 44,575. The area had about 3,950 housing units, while Palm Springs had approximately 35,180. This indicates that the ratio of short-term rental units to total housing units is roughly 40% higher in Idyllwild than in Palm Springs, while the ratio of short-term rentals to residents is about 70% greater in Idyllwild.
The number of short-term rentals in the Idyllwild area is 40% higher than that of the second-highest concentration under county jurisdiction: 214 units spread across the unincorporated areas around Temecula — such as Temecula Wine Country. Bermuda Dunes comes at a distant third with 65 registered short-term rental units, according to October county data.
Short-term rental opponents in Idyllwild say the density of units in their area has exacerbated longstanding issues of lax enforcement of existing regulations on short-term renter behavior.
"We're not calling for a ban on short-term rentals, what we're calling for is accountability and enforcement," said Brian Tracy, a leader of the citizens group that started the online petition to the county on short-term rental issues.
Tracy, an Idyllwild resident and owner of a small commercial real estate business in Palm Desert, said the current short-term rental situation amounted to hundreds of hotel rooms "that have been approved up here, in the middle of our neighborhoods, with no inspections, no regulations, no review of health codes, fire codes, insurance, nothing."
Tracy and other Idyllwild residents cite short-term rental-related issues ranging from blocked driveways and trash buildup, to constant noise and fire hazards from visiting partiers. He said these problems have "been tearing at the fabric of the (Idyllwild) community."
"The county treats short-term rentals as a commercial property, as a hotel/motel, presently only for the purposes of collecting transient occupancy tax," Tracy said. "This is really the source of the problem."© James B. Cutchin Idyllwild resident Brian Tracy at Idyllwild Town Hall on Oct. 21, 2021. His citizens group is planning a public meeting to discuss short-term rental issues in the area on Nov. 10.
Tracy said his group was hoping to work with the county to "begin to classify these (short-term rentals) for what they are, commercial enterprises, and have the same level of enforcement, the same level of inspection and the same level of accountability that a commercial enterprise should have."
Tracy said instituting a one-year moratorium on new short-term rental permits was the only way to ensure that a more effective system of regulations and enforcements could be rolled out with minimum disruption to residents and businesses in Idyllwild.
"Just hit the pause button," Tracy said. "Let's get our arms around this problem. Let's figure out what we have going on here."
Idyllwild businesses appear to have mixed feelings about short-term rentals in the area.
"As a business owner, we like tourists," said Becca Frazier, store manager at the Idyllwild Gift Shop, "but as someone that has lived here for 20 years, we don’t like the effects (they have on the community)."
Frazier said her main concerns with short-term rentals centered on poor enforcement around issues such as large parties, fire hazards and speeding in her neighborhood. She said that, while the short-term renters brought in additional revenue, she was concerned that they were contributing to a labor shortage in the town by pricing long-term renters out of their homes.
"The rents now are what mortgages used to be," she said.
Chris Perreault, owner of the Silver Pines Lodge in Idyllwild, said she was not personally bothered by the number of short-term rentals in the area, but thought that better enforcement was needed to limit impacts on residents' quality of life.
"People are crazy," Perreault said. "They'll build campfires inside of barbeques; they'll turn their music super loud and not care at all about who is next door. So you need enforcement."
Perreault said the growth of short-term rentals in the area has had limited impact on her business because she appeals to a different market of people looking for some level of person-to-person interaction as part of their stay, at a lower price than many short-term rentals. She noted that she manages a website that tracks the total availability of lodging in the area and had recently added a link to Airbnb listings.© James B. Cutchin Chris Perreault, owner of the Silver Pines Lodge in Idyllwild, in the hotel's check-in office on Oct. 21, 2021. Perreault said her business has not been affected by short-term rentals in the area.
"I always want there to be good things available," Perreault said. "When I'm full, I want to know where to send people."
Both Perreault and Frazier said they would support a one-year moratorium on new short-term rental licenses while the current issues are being worked through.
A potential fix on the way
Riverside County appears to have been aware of the issues with its current ordinance for some time.
First passed in 2016, the short-term rental ordinance, officially known as Ordinance 927, requires short-term rentals in unincorporated areas to register with the county and to pay a transient occupancy tax of 10%.
The ordinance does not include any requirements for property inspections, occupancy limits, or visitor and on-site parking caps, which are common in other municipalities.
Enforcement of the limited rules established by the ordinance, such as mandatory quiet hours between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., has, by most accounts, been spotty.
A Riverside County Civil Grand Jury report on the situation in early 2021 described a process reliant on under-staffed code enforcement personnel who are unable to investigate many short-term rental complaints. Complaints received outside of standard business hours or on weekends, which the report notes comprise the majority of reported short-term rental complaints, are handled by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.
Code enforcement is only able to levee a $100 fine on noise violations, the most common short-term rental-related offense, if sheriffs deputies respond and provide documentation that a violation occurred. The grand jury report notes that county code enforcement believes this fine is too small to create a meaningful deterrent to violations.
The report concluded that an in-progress draft revision of the short-term rental ordinance "does not provide enough protection for, nor does it allow input from neighboring residences of short term rental properties."
It raised a series of recommendations including mandating property inspections and increasing short-term rental initial licensing and renewal fees to fund better enforcement.
Riverside County spokesperson Brooke Federico said the county has been undertaking "substantial community outreach" to gain feedback on the ordinance and enforcement of it and that "additional revision recommendations from the grand jury, are being included into the revised ordinance, where appropriate."
The latest revisions to the draft ordinance incorporating the grand jury report feedback are not yet publicly available but Federico said enforcement was a "main component" of the revised ordinance. She also said the county expects to take the revised ordinance to public hearings before the end of this year.© James B. Cutchin A man crosses North Circle Drive in Idyllwild on Oct. 21, 2021.
Both sides in the county's short-term rental debate say they are attempting to work with officials to ensure current shortcomings are addressed in the revised ordinance.
Vacation Rental Owners and Neighbors of Riverside County — a group which represents vacation home owners in the unincorporated areas of the county — declined to comment on the situation in Idyllwild specifically, but Olivier Chaine, one of the group's leaders, said in a statement that VRON-RC has been "working closely with the county supervisors on strict ordinances around rentals throughout the county."
Tracy said his group was hoping for more dialogue with the county and is planning a public meeting to discuss the issue at Idyllwild’s town hall at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 10. He said the group has invited V. Manuel Perez and Chuck Washington of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors to attend and has been in contact with the supervisors' respective staffs, although neither has responded to the invitation yet.
When asked about the possibility of a moratorium on new short-term rental licenses, Federico said only that changes to the short-term rental ordinance were pending and were expected to go to public hearing by the end of this year.
"We cannot speculate what the outcome of those hearings may be," she said.
James B. Cutchin covers business in the Coachella Valley. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Idyllwild has nearly half of short-term rentals under county jurisdiction. Some residents are pushing back
Source : https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/realestate/idyllwild-has-nearly-half-of-short-term-rentals-under-county-jurisdiction-some-residents-are-pushing-back/ar-AAPTOGf2550