Inyo’s short-term rentals hit a bump in the road

By Deb Murphy

Tuesday’s review of Inyo County’s short-term rental policy is a prime example of good intentions going awry.

The issue that rose to the surface of associate planner Tom Schaniel’s review of numbers and problems focused on non-hosted Airbnbs with unresolved complaints due in large part because the property owner was nowhere in sight.

Inyo’s ordinances allow for a non-hosted—with an owner or manager not under the same roof—as long as it is accompanied by a permitted hosted Airbnb. There was no requirement the hosted property had to be on or adjacent to the non-hosted property. Oops.

The good intention goes back two years when the Board of Supervisors went through the exhausting process of coming up with ordinances that would allow residents to rent out all or part of their property for less than 30 days without unwanted consequences like raucous party houses or a depletion of long-term rentals.

The Supervisors were leaning toward a requirement the rental was owner-occupied or at least on the same lot as the owner’s primary residence. A gentleman from Independence explained he owned two houses on separate but adjacent lots. He wanted to turn one into a short-term rental. The Supervisors’ solution was a requirement the owner needed a hosted permit before a non-hosted permit could be issued.

Fast forward to last Tuesday’s Board meeting. Schaniel reported there are 29 hosted and 14 non-hosted Airbnb’s scattered about in the County. Of those 29 hosted permits, 13 were pulled for the sole purpose of obtaining a non-hosted permit. The one Airbnb that resulted in a review by the Board last month was one of those non-hosted properties in an area where 20 of the 21 residents within 300-feet objected to during the Planning Commission’s Conditional Use Permit process.

Following public comment and Board discussion on the hosted/non-hosted conundrum as well as the process of neighbor notification and complaints, Schaniel said he’d come back in May with an array of options to deal with both.

Aside from those glitches, the process is working, according to Supervisor Matt Kingsley. Supervisor Dan Totheroh didn’t want the County “to throw the baby out with the bath water” in an attempt to resolve current issues. Jeff Griffiths seemed to prefer taking the non-hosted option off the table going forward.

One potential problem was the basic lack of housing in the County—would Airbnb’s take long-term rentals off the market. Schaniel’s survey indicated five permitted Airbnbs were converted from long-term rentals. Kingsley pointed out those five could not be considered low-income or affordable housing.

Chair Rick Pucci wanted to see an improved notification process that would include contact information so neighbors could log complaints or resolve minor issues before they became major issues.

Supervisor Mark Tillemans took a broader view. “This doesn’t solve the issue of people with no place to live,” he said. “Rents are going up as the inventory shrinks. There are a lot of factors in our housing issues, but we need solutions.”


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6 Responses to Inyo’s short-term rentals hit a bump in the road

  1. MonoPerson April 11, 2019 at 2:44 pm #

    Is this the government trying to tell you what you can and cannot do with your rental property? If the government is so concerned that there isn’t enough low income housing, why don’t you build it yourself and let the personal property owner rent how they want?

    Now, I’m not saying, that the owners shouldn’t go through the correct channels, and neighbors have every right to say “no”, if they don’t want a nightly rental next to them. But, I just don’t like the government coming in and saying, “No, you have to make your rental for affordable housing.” Which is exactly what that supervisor said?!

  2. sugarmags April 12, 2019 at 7:43 am #

    Mark Tillemans is absolutely correct. Letting property owners do short term of single family homes is going to have a huge impact on the cost of houses and the long term rental market. Yes, Inyo County won’t have as bad of impact as Mono County would from it, but still, it hurts the community. It’s is imperative to not allow ‘non-hosted’ short term rentals. Make it so it has to be on the same property, or adjacent property and don’t let it spread more than that!!! Keep the housing stock mostly available for residents!

  3. Magaman April 17, 2019 at 5:50 am #

    America is – or was- a free country.

    Property owners should be able to do whatever they want with their property, without the government and a bunch of uptight neighbors telling them what to do.

    Beware the Socialist!!!

    • Charles O. Jones April 17, 2019 at 9:20 am #

      I see you got the memo to use the new buzzword.

      But be careful, if you send your kids to public schools, if you ever call 911 for police, fire or paramedics, if you ever drive on public roads or highways, if you ever use municipal water or sewer systems, if you ever visit city, county, state or National Parks, (the list goes on and on) – then you too may be a SOCIALIST!!!

  4. Magaman April 19, 2019 at 4:54 am #

    You ignore my objection – government control of private property (the hallmark of socialism/communism) – entirely.

    Re-read my post, think a little harder, and try again.

    • Charles O. Jones April 19, 2019 at 6:47 pm #

      I ignore it because zoning laws and other government oversights regarding private properties have been in place in for well over 100 years in the USA, much longer than you’ve been around. But you’re certainly still free to object to it.


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