Residents look at ways to approach short term rentals

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Council extends moratorium on transient rentals

Part of an ongoing series on housing.

The Avalon City Council on Friday morning, Sept. 15, voted 4-zero to extend the moratorium on short term rentals for 10 months and 15 days. That’s the maximum length of the extension allowed by law, according to the city attorney. Mayor Anni Marshall was absent. According to City Attorney Scott Campbell, the moratorium required approval by four-fifths of the council.

This brings us to recent public discussions about short term rentals. The second city staff townhall meeting on vacation rentals drew significant in-person and online participation, so much so that the Islander didn’t have room for all of it in last week’s edition. This article aims to give readers a sense of the issues raised at the town hall.

Those issues included whether transient rentals enjoy different regulations than small businesses, whether rentals should be allowed for less than a week, as well as limiting the number of vacation rentals that Avalon should allow.

Kate Rudden said the long-time visitors have stopped coming back. She suggested a focus on enforcement. She said the city needs to fine people who break the law. She said other cities charge property owners for police and fire calls to short term rental properties.

Dave Thompson said Avalon used to have redevelopment money that was used to do things that helped some people. He said if you built a 100-room hotel, you would absolutely have mitigation on that project. “That mitigation would be you have to build housing for the people that you’re planning to have work at your hotel,” Thompson said.

He said lately there were places that were slipping through the cracks. He said they were employing more people but there was no mitigation.

He argued that 30 vacation rentals equal a 100-room hotel.

“They need to pay into a fund because that would be their mitigation,” he said, apparently referring to owners of transient rental properties.

He proposed incentives for property owners who don’t want to become short term rentals or who want to go back to having long term rentals. He also suggested an annual fee for short term rentals. He suggested “a significant amount of money” so there would be fewer people who wanted to have short term rentals. He said you can’t expect the city to come in and pick up all the expenses of your business. He said somehow the city needs to start collecting money and doing something with it. He proposed a housing trust fund, such as a 501c3 company.

An individual who identified himself as Ace said everyone needed to know what the problems were.

“We really need to hear from the community. What is impacting you?” he asked.

“Because without knowing that, we can’t do anything,” he said.

“As a community we can’t get any better until we know what actually affects you,” he said.

He proposed a working group to discuss the issues. He said the concerns raised need to be addressed and codified in a way that makes everyone feel at least a little bit better. “What if we did set up TOT in part to work on housing?” he asked.

Ace said that would be difficult. The city can’t expand. He expressed the hope the city would not get bigger vertically.

He said the intent of the city is visitation.

He said everyone in Avalon needed to be responsible for that.

“In some way, we need to figure out a focus group to talk about that,” he said.

He suggested weekly meetings for a couple of hours.

Rather than infringing on the rights of property owners or investors, maybe the community should focus on the residents and what they would like to see, according to Ace.

He argued against more artificial restrictions.

“It’s not going to get bigger, but it can get better,” he said.

Leslie Warner said Avalon needed more than 45 days. (This was a reference to the moratorium on vacation rentals that was set to expire on Sept. 15. A City Council hearing was scheduled for 10 a.m., Friday, Sept. 15, to consider extending the moratorium. The meeting was held after this week’s edition of the Islander went to press.)

She proposed a cap on transient rentals.

“We are not Palm Springs. A percentage is not going to work,” she said.

She said if Avalon added housing, more vacation rentals would be allowed. She said Avalon was at 25.5% of vacation rentals with or without current licenses.

“I believe we need to bring that down to 20%, which would be 300” she said.

“We need housing for all the people who take care of all the visitors that are coming,” she said.

She wanted reports of Sheriff’s Department visits to vacation rentals be forwarded to the cities.

She wanted to know if Avalon asked Airbnb to have a city license number on their listing.

She also called for fines for illegal vacation rentals.

Referring to real estate investors, she said the limit should be one vacation rental per entity. She argued that a husband and wife could each have one and maybe their kid could have one and their LLC could have one.

George McCormick said the Planning Commission should look at everyone who is doing short term rentals in the same category. He said some people have one property they live in part of the time and other people have three, four, or five units that they are renting out.

He said San Diego has four tiers of owners. According to McCormick, owners in Mission Bay have to have a lottery to be allowed to have vacation rentals.

He said all the owners have to have a TOT certificate, a rental business account and those things have to posted at the site along with a 24/7 number for contact and they have to have someone respond within an hour in San Diego.

In some tiers, vacation rental owners have to provide quarterly reports to the city as well.

He said he didn’t necessarily think the San Diego tiers would apply to Avalon, but Avalon could set up its own tier structure.

He said that vacation renters usually come for three or four days, not one week.

Cathleen Carlisle said she lived here her whole life. She grew up on a street that had five families living on the street and the rest were vacation rentals. She liked the idea about talking about the issue. “Our workers need to live here,” she said.

The workers need to be able to afford to work on the Island, hopefully without having to work for jobs she said. She said she wanted more affordable housing.

She said it was a travesty that Avalon didn’t make Vons build housing. She said requiring them to provide housing would have taken up units that were already there. She said other businesses have added wonderful things but Avalon had not required them to build housing.

She said she has had to live the last couple of years above a vacation rental. She said the vacation rental has a Jacuzzi and it has been promoted as a party house. She said the owners have taken that down from the website and they at least try to get the tenants to bed by 10 p.m. “But nine times out of 10, it’s 11 p.m. and I finally text the owner,” she said.

She said the new people that are watching over the property at least try to get the tenants quieted down.

In once instance she described, renters threw eggs at her home because she called the police.

She said the owners got another transient rental house approved by the Planning Commission. She said the Planning Commission had no codified law to do anything about that. There were other speakers at the nearly two-hour meeting, but this report give readers a sense of the issues raised.