By Deb Murphy
The Bishop City Council’s concerns that short-term-rentals, commonly referred to as Airbnb’s, could impact the city’s housing shortage, take business away from area motels and hotels and turn peaceful neighborhoods into party central seemed to be assuaged following a presentation by planning staff at Monday’s meeting.
After hearing additional research on how other rural communities regulate Airbnbs by planning associate Elaine Kabala and public comments from Owens Valley residents currently renting bedrooms in their homes to visitors, the Council directed staff to come up with an ordinance for the May 22 meeting.
A few things became clear following public comment: Airbnb users are looking for an experience they would not necessarily get staying in a motel; they also tend to spend more time and more money at their destinations and rental properties and renters are meticulously reviewed. No real negative comments were expressed, just the need for some regulation, a specific permitting process and the payment of Transient Occupancy Taxes.
Kabala’s research turned up a recurring theme from Big Bear, Moab, Utah and Bend, Oregon: Different regulations depending on R-1 residential or mixed-use/commercial zones; business licenses, special permits and TOT payments are all required; exterior and interior signage with owner contact information, occupancy caps and concentration limits in residential zones. Those elements constitute a smorgasbord of possible ordinance elements for Bishop.
The only real debate was the concept of owner-occupied in R-1 zones that would basically limit rentals to bedrooms in the owner’s residence as opposed to a detached guest house on the same lot.
The potential ordinance still has a way to go. Mayor Joe Pecsi felt the city needed more public input. The ordinance would go to the Planning Commission following the May 22 meeting.