LAST STOP FOR REVISED STR ORDINANCE BEFORE HEADING TO COUNCIL
Will new members Alex Garcia and Jessica Cure impact the STR ordinance? Our agenda preview for the October 3 Planning Commission meeting
If you care about the effects of short-term rentals (STRs), also known as vacation home rentals (VHRs), on your neighborhood, attend this Planning Commission meeting, where Commission members will take a final pass at revising the City’s STR ordinance.
“There was a lot of comment about concern about the neighborhoods being undermined by the short-term rental market,” John Criste said in his presentation about the proposed Equity and Social Justice Development Code Element the at the September 19 Planning Commission meeting (reported here in the Desert Trumpet). “We also got the impression that this could be an important economic development component of the town….Let’s all be sensitive to this issue because it has real effects on our residential neighborhoods.”
As always, you have an opportunity to comment on agenda items and planning issues important to you at every Planning Commission and Homeless Committee meeting. Please use the opportunity to question your Commission and Commitee members on the issues affecting our City. The agenda is here.
To comment, pick up a green form at the desk, fill it out, and hand it to the Clerk who is usually sitting on at the desk at the front of room on the right side. The public can also send comments via email to Planning Commission members and the Community Development Director and request that comments be read at the meeting.
Consent Calendar items are considered routine by the Planning Commission, and all items can be approved with a single motion and vote and can be enacted by on motion.
1 Approval of the Planning Commission Meeting Minutes of September 19, 2023. The minutes included with the agenda packet report that “Director Gardner presented the staff report to the Commission and mentioned that Hip Camp had suggestions for code changes as well. Director Gardner provided a letter from Hip Camp to the Commission.”
Should an “online marketplace company” such as Hipcamp shape the City’s policy? What were their suggestions? The letter from Hipcamp was not provided during the September 19 meeting nor was it included in the agenda packet. The Desert Trumpet has filed a Public Information Request to make this letter public.
The Planning Commission continues its work to make needed changes to the City’s development code to come into compliance with the changes the State of California has made over the past several years.
2 DCA23-000014 - Legal Access. Many undeveloped lots within the City are landlocked - they have have a property line in common with other lots but the lot cannot be legally accessed. An example of this issue is Mojaveland, which had physical access but is moving to a new location in part due to lack of legal access.
To receive a building permit, a parcel must have physical access (ie a vehicle can get to the lot) and legal access, which is:
A dedicated right of way;
An easement for public road, highway and public utility purposes of a width outlined by the Circulation Element of the City’s General Plan;
An existing road or track that is substantially in compliance with City road standards, established for the public use by court decree.
Private road easement.
The redlined changes in the agenda include:
“When all feasible efforts to establish legal access in accordance with subsection A2b of this section have been exhausted, the lot is an existing legally created parcel, and the property owner has physical access, the Director may waive the requirement for legal access on the condition that the property owner enters into an agreement in the form required by the City.”
3 DCA23-000001- Development Impact Fees. In January 2022, new State regulations led to the City conducting an updated study on Transportation Impact Fees for road improvements. The study proposed these restructured fees:
Single Family residential dwelling units: $2.94 / square foot
Multifamily residential dwelling units: $3.16 / square foot
Commercial development: $8.52 / square foot
Office development: $8.94 / square foot
Industrial development: $5.17 / square foot
The proposed fees collected are to be allocated for improvements on Adobe Road, Lear Avenue, Encelia Avenue, Mesquite Springs Road, Amboy Road, Two Mile Road, Hatch Road, Sullivan Road, and Twentynine Palms Highway.
4 DCA23-000007 - Vacation Home Rentals.1 The Planning Commission last discussed changes to short term rental regulations at study sessions held on April 18, 2023, and May 2, 2023. Since then, the membership of the Commission has undergone substantial changes. STR owners Jim Krushat and Eileen Leslie both participated in the April 18 session. Krushat and Leslie were then advised to recuse on future STR discussions. Leslie was absent for the the May 2 session and Krushat recused from that meeting’s STR discussion.
At the May 16 session both Leslie and Jason Dickson resigned. Dickson generally supported Krushat’s pro property rights and less regulation position. So the question is, with two new members –– Alex Garcia and Jessica Cure –– and Krushat having to recuse…will there be changes to what was agreed upon?
Commissioners Walker, Paahana, and Dickson agreed to the following recommendations with little variation from what was recommended prior to Krushat’s recusal:
Leave the number of VHRs per permit holder at five.
Reduce the insurance requirement for VHRs (Note: the insurance requirement was removed by Council at their May 23 meeting).
Single-family residences built as VHRs can immediately apply for VHR after final inspection.
Protecting the National Park buffer zone does not apply to VHRs.
Density per neighborhood is difficult or impossible to implement and no action should be taken.
Staff has added language limiting the number of permits per parcel to one.
No change has been made to response time for nuisance complaints.
RVs can be stored on the property of an STR but cannot be used.
STRs may apply for Temporary Use Permits and Film Permits.
STR applicants must take a Good Neighbor class every year.
At the May 2 hearing, Planning Commissioners directed the Community Development Director to look at solutions for density. At the time, they mentioned that since Council had directed density be looked at, Planning should do its “due diligence” and request that staff study implementation of a density ordinance. It appears that since then, staff has determined that density is “Difficult / impossible to implement / no action required” despite the prior Community Development Director Travis Clark indicating that adjacency was a feasible method for limiting density.2
Other redlined changes indicate that conditions for approval of an STR permit may change significantly:
The size and number of parking spaces per the number of bedrooms has been eliminated.
The STR must have a house number visible from the street day and night.
All advertising must include the City-issued license number.
The maximum overnight occupancy of the vacation home rental shall be limited to two persons per bedroom, plus two additional persons, excluding persons 5 years of age or younger.
No on-site exterior signs are to be posted advertising a vacation home rental, except that a single sign no smaller than 1 square foot in size and no larger than 2 square feet in size shall be displayed in a location clearly visible from the adjacent street. The sign shall only contain a 24-hour contact number for the owner or agent, and the license number.
The Planning Commission shall have the authority to impose additional conditions on any license in the event of any violation of the conditions to the license.
A vacation home rental that is inactive for twelve months or longer shall be withdrawn from the City’s list of permitted vacation home rentals and not counted toward the City-wide limit. An active vacation home rental shall be rented for at least one day in a year from beginning with license issuance or renewal date anniversary.
There’s been little discussion of STRs since the shake up in Planning Commission membership. Will these recommendations stand given the changes? Are these reasonable conditions for STR owners and for the residents who live near the more than 400 houses and purpose-built short term rentals within Twentynine Palms?
Kat Talley-Jones is a member of the Public Arts Advisory Committee, which is a part of the City of Twentynine Palms.
Cindy Bernard was a member of the Vacation Home Rental Advisory Committee which drafted the first revision of the 2015 STR ordinance.
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Standard terminology is STR or short-term rental. In its ordinance the City of Twentynine Palms instead uses the term VHR or vacation home rental. In practice the two terms and abbreviations are interchangeable.
Per STR Advisory Committee member Cindy Bernard’s conversation with Travis Clark, January 12, 2022.