29 PALMS CITY COUNCIL VHR DECISIONS PAVE THE WAY FOR MORE BUSINESSES IN OUR RESIDENTIAL NEIGHBORHOODS
Unintended consequences of ignoring community warnings
The recent changes to the 29 Palms VHR code reflect an understanding of VHRs as businesses, which unfortunately paves the way for more businesses in our residential districts. This is certainly not the intention of the City Council; however it is an unintended consequence of their direct decisions ignoring community warnings.
The recent VHR changes privilege VHRs that operate as a business 100% of the time. How? Only full-time business VHRs can easily absorb the increased registration fees and other costs. This will push out casual AirBnBers who do not VHR primarily as a business. This will result in only business focused VHRs in our residential neighborhoods.
Not all VHRs are full-time businesses.
The original concept behind AirBnB is the "sharing economy." Where you can share what you have when you are not using it. I've participated in sharing economy tool exchanges, and home shares for over a decade. I share what I have, borrow what I don't, and make new friends in the process. I consider myself a casual AirBnBer. A casual AirBnBer is not in it for the profit, does not run their home as a business. Someone may live in the home full-time, as a local voter, or they may not. The casual AirBnBer may also rent their place for more than 30 days at times. They may have health issues and only rent when they feel up to it. They may only VHR when they travel. There are many realistic situation where someone will want to casually VHR their place. I have expanded on this concept in this piece from May 2022.
When I bought my property in 29 Palms, almost 10 years ago, I didn't want to be a VHR business. I wanted to share my amazing dome with others, and sometimes charge money so I could improve the property. In order to do this legally, I had to change the regulation. It took two years, but we did it, and released the first VHR regulation in the Hi-Desert in 2015. It has served our community well, and I applaud the City Council for their actions then.
But things aren't as simple as they were in 2015. This situation is more complex and nuanced. I think the current regulation updates did a pretty good job reacting to the business impact on our community. But they completely missed the opportunity to understand and protect casual AirBnBers. Because casual AirBnBers must also comply with the regulation, it is a larger burden for casual AirBnBers to pay higher fees. This ends up privileging VHRs run as businesses.
I appreciate that the City Council wants to reign in Business VHRs, I truly do. But the perspective of the Casual AirBnBer has been lost and even penalized. It is extremely distressing that at least 5 people brought these points up in the VHR regulation meeting, yet the City Council ignored these voices urging concern about the unintended consequences of their decisions. (Yet at the same time, the City Council listened to the lone voice of a single VHR owner who owned four properties and adjusted the new regulations to accommodate him.)
I have asked for meetings with the City Council since May 2022 to explain the casual AirBnBer scenario and have been pushed off. I have respectfully explained this situation to our City Manager, Frank Luckino, in what I thought was a step forward and written clear explanation documents outlining my concern. And still I wait for a reply.
Unfortunately if nothing changes, the City Council has paved the way for more business VHRs in our quiet residential neighborhoods. And this will be bad for 29 Palms and bad for all VHR owners.