Short-term rental changes coming before Paso Council


Meeting is set for Tuesday, Feb. 5

PASO ROBLES — The Paso Robles City Council is expected to put a short-term rental ordinance into place at Tuesday’s, Feb. 5, meeting.

The ordinance that is being brought before Council is the same one that was proposed to Council in November 2017. The proposed ordinance was the result of input from the short-term rental task force, the Planning Commission and the public. The issue came before the Council after complaints and concerns from residents that short-term rentals were negatively impacting their neighborhoods.

Back in 2017, the Council did not put the ordinance in place, instead deciding to require short-term rental operators to purchase a business license.

In August 2018, residents, mainly from Hilltop Drive, again voiced their displeasure with short-term rentals and asked that something be done.

Council tasked city staff to reconvene the task force and bring an ordinance back for their consideration. Paso Robles City Manager Tom Frutchey explained this was not something they could do quickly and it would be well into 2019 before an ordinance could be brought back to Council.

Frutchey at the Jan. 15 City Council meeting said it was possible to bring the 2017 ordinance back to the Council for consideration in February and shave some time off of the process. The Council liked the idea.

Since August, some residents of Hilltop Drive as well as proponents of short-term rentals have been busy making their positions clear.

“Our neighborhood is saying no more,” said Hilltop resident Angela Andre.

Signs are posted in several yards of Hilltop Drive homes clearly visible to anyone driving on the street prized by visitors because it offers nice panoramic views of the city and is close to the Downtown square. One sign reads “short-term rentals” in black lettering with a large red circle with a line through it over the top of it. Another reads, “NEIGHBORHOODS are for neighbors NOT vacation rentals.”

The road is roughly a mile long with 25 homes, a fifth of which are advertised on online short-term rental sites such as Airbnb, according to residents. Some are managed locally by Paso Robles Vacation Rentals, which oversees more than 100 rental properties in North County, including two on Hilltop Drive.

Rates for nightly rentals range from $50 to over $500, depending on size, location, and other amenities. One of the homes on Hilltop Drive boasts it can sleep more than 10 people.

There isn’t a week that goes by without one of the Hilltop houses being rented, according to locals.

“They (the city) have allowed this to become a business area,” said Hilltop resident Taryn Palmer. “We have hotels up here now.”

In fact, the owners of Paso Robles Vacation Rentals have resided on Hilltop Drive for years.

In 2004, Bryan Bonelli’s parents started the business in Paso Robles with just one house. Bryan moved back to the area a little over three years ago to help run the business that employs 30.

Bryan speaking on behalf of the PRVR said they are in favor of an ordinance and much of what was proposed back in 2017 has been their common-practice — limiting the number of occupants, having someone available 24/7 to respond to complaints, requiring renters to acknowledge receipt of good neighbor practices, which include using designated parking, cleaning up after themselves and keeping noise to a minimum.

“It’s a start there to see if it works,” Bryan said of an ordinance. “We might find that it does and nothing else needs to be done. Or they can make changes later, if needed.”

The City estimated there are 275 short-term rentals operating in Paso Robles, which is roughly 2.5 percent of the city’s housing stock. The City said that as of December 2017 it had only issued 200 business licenses for short-term rentals.

In addition to money from the modest business fees, the city also benefits from TOT or transient occupancy taxes and sales tax from visitors making purchases in the area.

Renting a room to someone or a second house on property to someone short or long term has been commonplace in America. It wasn’t until short-term rental apps and websites such as Airbnb and VRBO came on the scene that it became an issue for tourist-driven cities across the country. These websites make it easy for people to list their homes and easy for someone to rent a house or rooms of a house for short stays, instead of using a hotel or motel.

Councilmember Steve Gregory is on the record saying he owns short-term rental properties and is expected to recuse himself from the agenda item.

Frutchey “doubted” Gregory was “going to participate when this comes back to Council.”

The repurposed proposed ordinance will include good neighbor guidelines that cover parking, noise, occupancy limits, trash, dogs and a complaint hotline.

Cities have taken different approaches when it comes to regulations such as outright bans in residential areas; only being allowed in mixed-use zones; limiting occupancy; and limiting the number of days in a week, month or year that homes can be used for STRs just to name a few.

Some of this has been worked out in court and some has been decided at the polls by voters.

Some Hilltop residents want short-term rentals moved out of residential areas altogether and restricted only to mixed-use areas.

“We just want our neighborhoods back,” said Katrina Keatts.

The City Council meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 5, in Council Chambers, 1000 Spring St., Paso Robles.

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