Over the past few months, a conversation has been happening in Council Chambers throughout Orange County. The words “Short Term Rental” can cause hatred and joy. Cities are divided over what to do about the rising trend of Short Term Rentals. Through online services such as AirBnB, VRBO, and others, homeowners have the capability of doubling and soemtimes even tripling their income. These online services, which many of us millenials love, are becoming a central topic of debate for communities with high tourism rates and an attraction for visitors.
The biggest issue with Home-sharing or short term rentals, is that it’s reaching a point where elected officilas have to make difficult decisions. Recently, the City of Laguna Beach adopted a resolution proposed by its planning commission to essentially ban all new short term rentals in R1 residentially zoned regions. The primary reasoning, according to many of the councilmembers who spoke, was to best represent the interests of the community, while making sure that illegal commercial business does not happen in residential areas. This conclusion was met with the support of residents wearing white, and brandishing pins that were openly against Short Term Rentals. While the city council has decided to follow the Planning Commission, the uphill battle is only beggining. Laguna’s Mayor, Steve Dicterow stated that “What we are passing tonight will not end the issues,” He also stated that “(Enforcement) will be complaint driven. Prohibition by itself does not solve this.”
What does this mean for other cities in the region, and what about the wonderful coastal commission? The answers to these questions can only be answered through time, but a trend is starting to show. The city of Hermosa Beach recieved notice from Coastal Commisison Staff, that certain regulations on rentals and property use may require Coastal Commission oversight. Beyond the Commission, various groups, elected officials, and corporations are split on the issue. Republicans tend to side with the “My property, I can do what I want with it” ideology. Democrats may be more willing to accept home share regulations, that is unless they’re benefitting from the service themselves. The chairman for Laguna’s GOP spoke out against regulation at the council meeting, and challenged the elected Republican Mayor. With political parties invovled, now new “homeshare alliances” are forming to futher combat regulation.
Now as for my opinion? I believe that it is imperitive that poperty rights be protected for everyone, and that cities evolve with the new trend of a “Sharing Economy”. As Dicterow said, an outright ban will not solve any issues, but is the beggining of a process into resolving and regulating this emerging trend. I don’t agree with many of my republican colleagues in regards to Short Term Rentals being a “Property Right”. Residential zones exist for the reason of allowing people to live in a community near neighbors that they can recognize, and an area free from commercial use. Commercial use includes short term rentals, thats why motels and hotels are in commercial zones!
If Short Term Rentals become legal in residential areas, there will be significant reprocussions on everyone, including the millenial generation. As a future homeowner myself, I know that artificial property value increases are an honest threat to my ability to purchase a home. Short Term Rentals, easily turn my future home into a motel, and thus its value can be based on its commercial use (Short Term Rentals). Beyond the fact that my once affordable home is now outside my reach, it also will negatively affect those who are in the long term rental market. Property owners will be much more inclined to follow the money, and I don’t need to prove that. Depending on location, properties can exceedingly surprass previous earnings from the long term rental market when switching to STR use.
Another negative impact of STR’s is that they adversely change the nature of a neighborhood. A once quiet street can now become a bustling parking lot of strangers and tourists. Commercial use, is still commercial use, and it sets precedent. If STR’s are allowed to work without regulation, people will see this as a sign to expand into other home uses. Kennal homes, restaurant homes, and other services are becoming more popular by the day.
A great analogy is like living next to a person, or living next to Frankenstein. A house is a home, not a restaurant, a kennal, a motel, a hair salon, or anything else we come up with in the “Sharing Economy”. When we lose community boundaries, we lose a communities identity.
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