Rental ban decision a win for all

Sky Bergman in the room she rents out in her San Luis Obispo home.
Sky Bergman in the room she rents out in her San Luis Obispo home. ldickinson@thetribunenews.com

The San Luis Obispo City Council did the right thing Tuesday when it agreed to relax the ban on vacation rentals by creating an ordinance that will allow “homestays” of 30 days or less.

This is a huge relief to homeowners, who had faced fines of up to $500 per day for violating the vacation rental ordinance.

And that wasn’t even the biggest concern: Some home-stay hosts told us they would no longer be able to pay their mortgages or would suffer other economic hardship if they were forced to stop taking in occasional guests.

The decision also makes economic sense for the city. As one of the requirements of the new ordinance, hosts will be required to collect bed tax, which will capture some new revenue. On top of that, home-stay guests will continue to spend their vacation dollars at local shops, restaurants and entertainment venues.

The change also sends a welcoming message to the growing number of travelers, including many international visitors, who prefer private homes to a hotel or inn. Had the city stubbornly refused to allow home-stays, we have no doubt that many visitors would have opted to stay in other communities that aren’t so stringent.

At the same time, the new ordinance should help protect the rights of surrounding residents, by requiring hosts in single-family neighborhoods to notify their neighbors of rental activities. Hosts may also be required to get a use permit for the city.

We commend both the City Council and city staff for showing flexibility and common sense. We are also impressed by the home-stay hosts, who ran a well-organized, even-handed campaign to have the rules changed.

What could have been a divisive, long-running controversy was resolved relatively quickly and painlessly, providing a textbook example of how government ought to operate.