Yucca Valley Imposes 45-Day Moratorium On Short-Term Rental Units

Citing yet unresolved issues that beset neighborhoods in which short-term rental units proliferate, the town council in Yucca Valley last week imposed a 45-day moratorium on issuing permits for properties that are rented out by owners for use by vacationers.
Generally speaking, problems with short-term rentals have manifested in the mountain and desert communities of San Bernardino County as opposed to its more urbanized areas.
In most though not all cases, short-term rental units are ones owned by so-called absentee landlords, that is, ones that are not occupied by the owners and are not proximate or co-located to the domicile of the owners. In a minority of cases, the properties in question involve accessory dwelling units, those being ones that are located on a property on which the owner resides or on which another long term residential unit exists.
In recent years, increasing numbers of homeowners, particularly in areas such as Yucca Valley which attract tourists, have exploited the opportunity their possession of properties in what some consider to be exotic locales affords them. Some have simply garnished their living room floors with an air mattress to transform their residence into a temporary bed and breakfast inn, in keeping with the concept of an “Air BNB.” that is, an air mattress bed and breakfast. Others have moved out of their desert or mountain homes entirely, making way for the properties to be rented for a night, a weekend, a week, two weeks or even a month, to vacationers ready to pay the equivalent of a monthly rent or more to have access to a house and all of its amenities – a kitchen, dining room, living room, separate bedrooms, a yard and garage. These arrangements generally last for less than a week or a relatively short time. Short-term rentals are most likely to succeed if the abode is advantageously located.
While renting their properties out for a short span has proven advantageous and lucrative for some homeowners or investors, the influx of temporary residents into the mountain and desert districts created nuisances for those living near such leased properties. In many cases, homes or cabins were simply converted into temporary accommodations without regard to local ordinances or regulations, and there was no government oversight or control of the operations.
Nearby residents were put at the disadvantage of having, for a short time, neighbors they did not know and who in some cases had no regard for others they would not be likely to ever see again.
On occasion, those guests would prove to be poor neighbors, creating disturbances, inviting dozens, scores or even hundreds of others to parties on the leased or rented premises, involving parking and traffic problems. On occasion, such parties proved to be raves, with highly intoxicated participants. Excessive noise was an issue in some cases. Bonfires were a staple of such gatherings. In some isolated cases, those lodging at the rental properties or their guests grew aggressive or confrontational with nearby residents.
Owners of the short term rental properties skipped out on paying lodging taxes, referred to as transitory occupancy or bed taxes.
In 2015, the county first sought to regulate short-term rentals that exist in unincorporated county areas in the form of an ordinance. That ordinance was updated in 2019. The ordinance created a permitting process by which property owners must register the property as being utilized for rentals on a less than continuous basis, meaning, practically, for thirty days or less. Those short-term rental permits are to be renewed every two years. The ordinance requires that acknowledgment of the rental status must be signed by the renter and kept on file during the term of the permit. The ordinance further mandates that owners of the units maintain records to document compliance with the applicable elements of the county code. The ordinance provides the county with the authority to revoke, based upon violations, a short-term rental permit. Tenant violation can trigger the suspension of the short-term residence permit for the unit in which that tenant is staying.
Generally, in the case of desert properties, the ordinance created regulations that previously did not exist. One element of the regulations called for the owner of properties on which two dwelling units existed to occupy one of the units if the other unit was to be rented, such that an absentee landlord could not be involved in multiple short-term rentals. Subsequently, the board of supervisors altered the ordinance to allow both accessory dwelling units and the primary residence on a property to serve as short-term rental units as long as the property is two acres or larger.
The regulation called for the units rented to have placards, signs or notices that provide the renters with county standards for the rentals in writing, including the phone number for the county’s 24/7 short-term rental complaint line.
The ordinance requires that the owners of short-term rental properties arrange to have trash service for each of the rental units.
The county ordinance provides variegated maximum occupancy standards, such that there are seven categories of short-term rental units, with 20 persons being the maximum allowed to occupy a property at any given time. Parking standards are in place to provide clarification that vehicles of renters shall be parked on the property of the short-term residential rental unit. These latter elements of the code revision appear to be angled toward preventing the units from serving as a hosting ground for parties or extremely large social gatherings with scores of people or even hundreds in attendance. A somewhat controversial element of the ordinance is that it provides the county with the power to issue and serve an administrative subpoena to obtain specific information regarding short-term rentals.
The Town of Yucca Valley, which is proximate to Joshua Tree National Park, has not been immune to the problems created by short-term rentals, despite its status as an incorporated municipality.
Last week, the Yucca Valley Town Council, at the recommendation of Town Manager Curtis Yakimow, took action to counter, at least temporarily until permanent measures can be devised, impacts that short-term vacation rentals have impinging on the quality of life of Yucca Valley residents.
Yakimow indicated the moratorium, which could be extended, will allow the town to “stop the bleeding” from what many consider to be a gaping wound – that wound being the proliferation of short-term rentals.
Yakimow indicated the town did not want to shoot itself in the foot by discouraging tourism, which represents revenue to local merchants and the town itself in the form of sales tax on goods sold. Still, he indicated, unbridled short-term rentals were having a deleterious impact on the city.
The town has scheduled a hearing for November 23 at Town Hall at 6 p.m., at which town officials can introduce regulations on short term rentals going forward. The goal is to formulate an ordinance, likely to be voted upon no later than April 2022.
The moratorium was passed as an urgency ordinance. Under California law, such an urgency ordinance can be in effect for no more than 45 days. The moratorium can be extended another 320 days to a full year with a second vote and to two years with a third vote of the town council. Two years is the longest such a moratorium can remain in place.

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