Update: November 15, 2016
November 15, 2016
Link to Ventura Board of Supervisors meeting on STRs
There was a time when the words “short term rental,” did not mean “short term vacation rental.”
When I spoke at the Ventura County Board of Supervisors hearing on short term rentals in the unincorporated area (11/15), I mentioned that over the years, as a long term renter, I occasionally rented a room short term—but not to a series of out-of-town guests, like a hotel.
After I returned to my seat, someone whispered that there was some laughter in the audience over that admission. In case I didn’t make it clear, this was many years ago, long before Airbnb arrived on the scene.
There’s a world of difference between offering a room under thirty days to a friend who is in between places, or is down on their luck, recently divorced, in between jobs, etc., having them chip in for utilities, and giving them either free rent or accepting a modest token rent payment, versus running a for-profit STR in a residential neighborhood.
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Letters to the Board are public record—below is mine. I look forward to reading all the Letters, posted online, after City Council tonight.
Dear Board of Supervisors and Staff,
I am a newly elected Ojai City Council member (I previously served 1996–2000) who has lived in the Ojai Valley for 60 years. Throughout my campaign I made it clear to the voters of Ojai that, unlike my opponent, I am opposed to the short-term rental business model.
During my campaign I spoke with dozens of residents both inside and outside of the city limit regarding the pros and cons of STRs. One longtime homeowner on Mc Nell Road in Ojai’s beautiful East End told me that he is now surrounded by three STRs and that the owner of these STRs would like to purchase his property as well! There are weddings and other noisy celebratory events on the weekends—he said he feels like he’s living in a commercial zone. I heard similar stories from residents on the upper part of Foothill Road, the Arbolada and many other areas in the valley.
When there were just a few Ojai residents renting out a room or guest house for under 30-days (with the home owner living full time on the property), renting to visitors was not a problem. I remember when people opened their homes during annual events like the Music Festival and when over a thousand visitors stayed in the valley for a month during the Krishnamurti Talks. We accommodated these visitors without turning homes meant for residents into year-around-short-term-rentals!
Ironically, it is the very people who want to legalize STRs in residential neighborhoods by having multiple Short Term Vacation Rentals and/or turning whole houses located in residential zones into the business of vacation rentals, that have turned what was once a quiet mom & pop operation into a large-scale internet fueled business model that is gradually eroding the fabric of our small-town community.
When I served on the council twenty years ago the City worked with the Chamber and Visitors Bureau to attract more tourists. Our promotion of Ojai as a tourist destination has paid off big-time and we’ve now reached a tipping point. At every forum during my campaign, I emphasized that the time has come to bring the needs of the residents and tourists back in balance, with priority given to the residents.
The pros and cons of the Short Term Rental debate is really a debate about a vision for Ojai’s future. Should Ojai be gradually turned into a tourist town where locals are forced out? That’s really the heart of the question we need to ask when debating STRs.
The Ojai City Council and Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce recognizes that STRs irrevocably change the small town character of Ojai and that if STRs were legalized that the zoning ordinances in Ojai would need to be re-written in order to legally allow them in residential neighborhoods. The City has chosen to enforce our residential zoning laws and I am in agreement with that position.
Ojai is a small town with limited resources and a limited infrastructure. This must be considered when we think about allowing non-regulated short term rentals to proliferate. People come here for the quiet, natural beauty of this valley and to see what a true community is like. If our residential zones become over-run with short term rentals, we will no longer be what visitors come here to see.
To add to the irony of destroying the peace and quiet that tourists come here for, many of the longtime residents in the unincorporated area have told me that they no longer come to Ojai on the weekend due to the level F bumper-to-bumper traffic in our downtown core.
I am a long-term renter myself and over the years there were periods of time where I had to rent out a room in order to make ends meet. It never occurred to me to turn my house into a hotel and charge for a few days stay what my roommate pays in a month.
Those that truly need to supplement their income in order to afford their home have legal avenues to do so. (Perhaps there is a process where enforceable exceptions can be carved out for a small number of hosted homes in areas where no neighbors are impacted, with the stipulation that the home is not to be used for additional commercial activities such as weddings or other noise and traffic generating activities.)
As a City Council member, I am committed to protecting our community housing stock and preserving our small-town character. I am also committed to being a voice for the many residents living outside our City borders whose quality of life will be impacted if STRs are legalized in the unincorporated areas of the valley.
The plan identified by the planning staff is the right plan for our unique valley, and I urge the Supervisors to adopt it.
Ojai City Council Member Elect
208 N. Ventura Street, Ojai, CA 93023
We need to bring the needs of the residents and tourists back in balance, with priority given to the residents. The pros and cons of the Short Term Rental debate is really a debate about a vision for Ojai’s future. Should Ojai be gradually turned into a tourist town where locals are forced out? That’s really the heart of the question that we need to ask.
Short Term Vacation Rentals: Why I do not support the Plan Don’t Ban Initiative
Let me start by pointing out that when there were just a few Ojai residents renting out a room or guest house for under 30-days (with the home owner living full time on the property), this was not a problem. Ironically, it is the very people behind the Plan Don’t Ban initiative, by having multiple Short Term Vacation Rentals and/or turning whole houses located in residential zones into the business of vacation rentals, that have turned what was once a quiet mom & pop operation into a large-scale Airbnb fueled business model that is gradually eroding the fabric of our small-town community.
As a longtime Ojai resident, I will prioritize our community – now and for future generations. As a long-term renter, I am committed to protecting our community housing stock for our residents. I own a community-based business and will prioritize maintaining proper balance between our tourist-based economy and our residents who preserve, provide, and protect all the reasons that tourists come to our valley. For that reason, I am opposed to the short-term rental business model that has depleted our housing stock and made it increasingly difficult for our renting friends and family to remain in Ojai. (From my Candidate Statement)
If you are new to the short-term rental issue and, like so many of us, have stayed in vacation rentals and think they’re benign, please take two minutes and watch the video below. This short video captures the back story and shows what is happening to communities, small and large, all over the world. It is rampant here in Ojai, and our schools, renting friends, first-time home buyers, community-based businesses, and neighborhoods are hurting as a result. Thank you for caring about our community–Ojai Community First!
Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce Position on Short Term Rentals
“Plan Don’t Ban” Initiative (from the Chamber website)
“The so-called “Plan Don’t Ban” initiative wants to legalize short term rentals (STR’s) within the city limits of Ojai. The real question for Ojai voters is whether doing so, and specifically doing so under the auspices of this initiative, will irrevocably change Ojai for the worse or not. Certainly if this passes, the zoning ordinances in Ojai will need to be re-written to come into compliance with the new ordinance (as it would become if passed).
There are points in the “Plan Don’t Ban” initiative that could easily provoke legal challenges, including limits on the number of STR’s, where they will be allowed, who can own them and where the owners must reside. If any or all of these limits are thrown out by a court’s decision, and the rest of the initiative is allowed to stand as drafted – as its language actually reads – then Ojai residents could end up with very little, if any, regulations pertaining to the short term rental business within the Ojai city limits. Furthermore, having no restrictions on the number, location or ownership of STR’s would necessarily bring an immediate change to the character of the residential zones within the city limits and the overall character of the city and Valley as a whole. This initiative only requires a 50% plus one vote to pass and become the law of the land.
Ojai’s hotels are full almost every weekend, and especially so on national holiday weekends and other weekends when we have festivals, tennis tournament and independent school graduations. Ojai is a small town with limited resources and a limited infrastructure. This must be considered when we think about allowing non-regulated short term rentals to proliferate. Tourism supplies the bulk of our income as a city. People come here for the quiet, natural beauty of this valley and to see what a true community is like. If our residential zones become over-run with short term rentals, we will no longer be what visitors come here to see. The Chamber has repeatedly spoken at City Council meetings concerning the issue of short term rentals, and we have said we believe that strictly regulating them through city ordinances and zoning restrictions is the best solution. However, this initiative is a bad solution to the issue. If this initiative is passed, the city will not be able to pass any ordinances that conflict with it. Any changes to the initiative will have to be passed by a vote of the residents of Ojai. In essence the city will lose all control of the short term rental issue going forward. Click here for the PDF file of the initiative.“
Why Voters Must Consider the Negative Impact of Short Term Vacation Rentals On Our Community
An organization known as AirbnbWATCH is committed to holding Airbnb accountable for keeping communities and travelers safe by exposing how commercial operators are abusing short-term rental sites to transform residential properties into illegal hotels. Illegal hotels are disrupting neighborhoods, making communities less safe, and making it harder for America’s working families to find affordable housing in cities across the country. What’s more, they are hurting small business owners who play by the rules.
AirbnbWATCH is calling on the nation’s mayors to demand more transparency from Airbnb about where commercial operators are turning residential properties into illegal hotels in their city. Local leaders need this data to protect families, travelers and small businesses in their community from the damage caused by illegal hotel operations, and Airbnb has no good reason for keeping it a secret any longer.
Read the AirbnbWATCH open letter here: http://airbnbwatch.org/open-letter-u-s-conference-mayors/
(More articles and videos to come)