County Will Take Up Numeric Limitations On Short-Term Rentals In November

(March 30) County officials will not institute any further regulations or limits on short-term rentals at least until November.
Short term rental units have been proliferating in the county’s unincorporated mountain and desert communities over the last five to ten years, prompting efforts to impose and enforce regulations on the owners of and the guests at those concerns. The transformation of what were formerly standard residences into temporary bed and breakfast inns, sometimes called “Air BNBs” [for air mattress bed and breakfasts] along with people living in typical homes located in traditional vacations spots in the mountains or near the Colorado River or at the periphery of Joshua Tree National Park have become a magnet, for a short time, for temporary 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, creating parking and traffic problems. On occasions, such parties proved out 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 rental properties or their guests grew aggressive or confrontational with nearby residents.The county took up the issue directly and generally in 2019 putting regulations in place and imposing a hefty fining regime on violators. Similarly, Big Bear Lake, Twentynine Palms and Yucca Valley instituted regulations, although those regulations were not always adequate as far as the neighboring landowners were concerned.
Those regulations involved, more or less, behavioral issues involving guests.
Another matter raised by short term rentals is the degree to which properties which might otherwise be providing permanent housing to the county’s population are being monopolized by weekenders, that is, vacationers, who typically stay two days a week, generally, at a home, sometimes a week, and only rarely two weeks or as much as a month. This has contributed to the housing shortage manifesting in local cities and all of Southern California.
In May 2022, Twentynine Palms set an 8.525 percent cap on how many of the city’s housing units can be utilized as vacation rentals, which practically means that no more than 500 of its 5,797 dwelling units can be occupied by short-term renters.
Through the county’s adoption of its current housing element in September 2022, the board of supervisors sought to address housing needs and the development of affordable housing. An issue identified was the degree to which short-term rentals impinge on the availability of housing throughout the county. The board requested that the county’s department of land use services study the issue, and carry out an assessment of short-term rentals by today, March 31. Thereafter, the board wanted land use services to collect information on how short-term rentals are affecting long-term housing, to be completed by June 30. Ultimately, the board asked that a presentation of findings be made by August 15, at which point, presumably, the board was to institute a policy, perhaps containing a percentage or numerical limitation on short-term rentals, similar to that in Twentynine Palms.
This, week, however, interim Director of Land Use Services Chad Nottingham said the department had run into a couple of roadblocks in assembling enough information upon which to make a recommendation.
“Unfortunately, due to the complexity of the data, to make an informed recommendation simply wasn’t available at this time,” Nottingham said. “We pushed hard to get the study done to get the data, but we couldn’t get it in time. We didn’t want to come before you and make an uninformed recommendation on this matter.”
Thus, Nottingham said, his department will begin a public outreach that will last from April to June, it will complete the data collection and study findings should be completed in August. “We’ll brings those findings and any recommendations back to you all later this year in November,” he said.
-Mark Gutglueck

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