Pacific Grove’s short-term rental ordinance has a long list of fans—outside of the city. 

At the May 10 Monterey County Planning Commission meeting, the P.G. ordinance was held up by pro-STR speakers from around the county as something to aspire to, as the county grapples with creating its own ordinance.

Annee Martin, a board member of the Monterey County Vacation Rental Alliance, and an owner of Sanctuary Vacation Rentals in Monterey, told commissioners that P.G.’s ordinance has had it’s challenges, “but it’s working.”

Two days after last week’s Monterey County Planning Commission meeting, Josh Ohanian, general manager of Sanctuary Vacation Rentals started a change.org petition, “Support Pacific Grove’s Short-Term Rentals!” In just five days it has gathered more than 735 signatures—the vast majority of which are from people from other parts of the county, state and even other countries.

However, more than 250 signers on a change.org petition begun in March by residents—signed by almost all residents or former residents—say it’s not working for them.

To Ted Parrott, who signed the petition a few days ago, STRs are “having an adverse effect on those living here full time and those hoping to/needing to live here full time. Pacific Grove was once known as a City of Homes, it is a residential city NOT a giant B and B.”

The Pacific Grove City Council will get an earful in person from both sides during its 6pm, Wednesday, May 17 meeting, as council members consider changing the ordinance or ending the program altogether.

Ending the program would mean the city saying goodbye to more than $1.1 million annually in transient occupancy taxes and fees flowing into its coffers, according to a staff report. The report projects the city will collect more than $1.4 million from the program in 2017-18.

With a 2016 study projecting that the city is facing future budget shortfalls of $1.5 million per year, it’s more likely the council will opt for changes instead.

After embracing STRs in 2011 with an initial ordinance that was revamped in 2015 and 2016, the city’s current ordinance took effect May 6, 2016. It allows up to 250 “Type A” STRs, or entire house rentals for 90 days or more per year. Not capped are “Type B” rentals, entire-home rentals for 90 days or less per year, and “Home Sharing Licenses,” where homeowners rent out rooms while they’re still living in the house.

Advocates of P.G.’s STR ordinance say it’s a fairly straightforward and uncomplicated way to support a real need for both travelers looking for affordable, alternative lodging, and homeowners looking to help with costs.

Residents complain that the ordinance has done little to protect them from a steady stream of tourists with the accompanying noise and other disturbances on some residential blocks, and say that STRs—especially those where the owner does not live in the home—are pushing out long-term renters.

Some of the amendments proposed by staff to address residents’ concerns include:

  • Limiting all STR licenses to 300 in the city, with 200 Type A, 60 Type B, and 40 Home Sharing Licenses;
  • Limiting the number of rental days to 240 days per year for all Type As, and 90 days for Type Bs;
  • Adopting a 20 percent block density rule, meaning no more than 20 percent of the houses on the block can be STRs. Included is a proposal for phasing out over three years any impacted blocks that cannot provide off-street parking;
  • Limiting the number of bedrooms to three for licensing, and requiring homes with more bedrooms to apply for a minor use permit;
  • Requiring property managers for all Type As and Type Bs if owners live more than 20 miles away.

Jenny McAdams, who sponsored the P.G. residents’ petition and who ran unsuccessfully for City Council last year, says she likes that the proposed changes address some of the issues bothering residents, like those on blocks with multiple rentals with a steady stream of visitors.

“My only concern is [that] amending the regulations would further complicate an already complicated program, which in the present time, the City is having difficulties to manage,” she says in an email.

Melanie Meharchand of pgSTRONG, a group of STR owners, says while the proposed changes are well-intentioned, they fall short of solving the actual problems that residents complain about, like noise, for example.

“Let’s not stop hundreds of hosts from being able to rent across the city when it’s really only one or two hosts that need to be dealt with,” she says.

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