Viewpoint

Vacation rental ban could cause new problems

November 7, 2013 

Until recently, most residents were unaware of the ordinance limiting vacation rentals in the city of San Luis Obispo. Opponents of vacation rentals claim that short-term rentals bring noise, traffic and crime into our neighborhoods, yet this claim has never been substantiated with any facts or reports.

If noise, traffic or crime were really an issue, would it not be on the radar of our local law enforcement? Research by a member of SLO Hosts found that the police and/or city staff have received only five complaints in 30 years.

I have owned a home in San Luis Obispo since 1971. I have raised my family here and take great pride in proclaiming this as my home, my neighborhood and my community. I am proud to live in “the Happiest Place in America” and enjoy my role as ambassador and sharing my knowledge with my guests. I own a business and work from my home office for several local businesses, county departments and nonprofit organizations. I take great care of my home and am close friends with my neighbors, who are aware of and support my short-term rental.

I will not rent my extra rooms on a long-term basis because I wish them to be available when family members visit. Furthermore, I have realized after having long-term renters that there is a difference in having someone “stay” in your guest room for a few nights versus “live” with you and share the space of your entire home.

If the city continues to enforce this 30-year-old ordinance, and I receive a “cease and desist” letter, I am afraid that I will not be able to afford to stay in this home that I adore, I won’t be able to stay in the community and will be forced to forfeit my business.

Which brings me to my real point. Could the enforcement of this ordinance bring more harm to the owners and neighbors that it proclaims to be protecting?

My home is currently listed on Zillow with a value of $655,000. I question how many potential buyers have the necessary down payment and an income to support a $3,300-plus-per-month mortgage? According to a local Realtor, not many. It is far more likely that parents or investors would purchase it and rent it out to four or five students at $850 each per month. In effect, this would be converting a “workforce home” into “student housing.”

So I say, “be careful what you wish for.” Instead of my one car in the garage and a guest car in the driveway for a few days a month, my neighbors would see four or five cars in the driveway and on the street every day. Who can predict what kind of noise they would have to endure? Not all students are noisy or inconsiderate, but there would not be a parent or resident to supervise should the situation arise. Will they take pride in the property like I do and keep up the maintenance? Could their friends be criminals? How will this situation affect the value of the surrounding neighborhood?

If city officials are successful in displacing the 55 primary residents offering short-term rentals, are they prepared for the possible influx of 220-plus students instead? Will my neighbors be expressing their appreciation for replacing their long-term friend with renters?

As a proponent of residence stays, I offer that short-term rentals increase tourism and the length of stay because of the affordability. They increase local revenue through tourist spending and the transient occupancy taxes I am willing to pay. In addition, the money I earn stays local and is used for living expenses, to pay my mortgage and to maintain my home.

It will take courage and intelligence from both sides to come to the table to find a win-win solution to this issue. SLO Hosts are not asking for the current vacation rental ban to be overturned. They are proposing to create a new zoning use description classification to allow short-term rentals for owners of primary residences in the city of SLO. The reason for this is that owners of primary residences are available to oversee guest behaviors, which is different from the typical non-owner occupied vacation rental scenario. As a result, complaints by neighbors are rare and can be handled directly by the property owner. In the event that a particular homeowner received multiple valid complaints, a host could lose the right to conduct residence stays.

I encourage San Luis Obispo residents to support SLO Hosts by signing the petition and leaving your comments at http://www.change.org   (http://chn.ge/16iGhPM). We welcome everyone on Nov. 12 to attend the City Council study session on this issue. Together, we can find a solution.

Peggy Thayer is a graphic designer. She has lived in San Luis Obispo since 1971.

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