Riverside County supervisors start process of hardening short-term rental regulations

Diane Sieker photo

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors directed the county Transportation and Land Management Agency to draft stiffer regulations for the short-term rental market in unincorporated communities Feb. 25, citing growing concerns about how some rental activity is impacting neighborhoods.

“There is a problem with communities being overwhelmed,” Supervisor Kevin Jeffries said. “You have 200 to 300 people showing up for parties and other events. Houses are being used for 20, 30, 40 occupants spending the night. Buses are coming and going from communities where there’s one paved road. We need to start diving further and seeing where we can make changes to protect property rights on both sides of the fence.”

Jeffries joined Supervisor Chuck Washington in proposing additions and revisions to Ordinance No. 927, which provides a regulatory framework to which landlords are expected to adhere.

The last changes to the ordinance were made in early 2016.

“This is an issue that has exploded on us and created a number of disruptions to the quality of life in communities,” Washington said. “It’s high time we address this and amend the ordinance to create a level of accountability and responsibility. The existing ordinance needs more teeth.”

Ordinance No. 927 takes aim at short-term rentals, which the county defines as units where individuals are paying for overnight stays that last 30 days or less.

The measure requires landlords to register their properties with the county and specifies that rentals be subject to “quiet time” enforcement, with no noise between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. It further prohibits parking that creates street hazards and requires owners to pay a 10% transient occupancy tax, similar to what hotels and motels owe the county for doing business.

“Residential communities were designed to be residential, not commercial,” Jeffries said. “I view renting to 20 people in the same house commercial. But I know in drawing a line, we need to be fair.”

La Cresta resident Deborah Palmer told the board that short-term rentals were ruining the character of her neighborhood along the Santa Rosa Plateau, west of Temecula.

“You have one viable egress road,” she said, pointing to obvious risks should a wildfire erupt and dozens of renters begin fleeing on the same clogged, hilly two-lane artery. “There is significant liability.”

Palmer also complained that short-term rental properties were the source of “gunshots, substantial fireworks and commercial-size weddings.”

Supervisor Jeff Hewitt cast the lone vote against moving ahead with changes to the ordinance, arguing “we don’t need to be involved in every little transaction that goes on.”

“Any restrictions should be the right ones,” Hewitt said. “We don’t want to infringe on the rights of others.”

The regulatory modifications sought by Jeffries and Washington include enhanced tracking of rental properties, clear identification of the individual responsible for hosting events, tighter parking restrictions at rental properties, a ceiling on occupancy and unspecified “special requirements” for large-scale assemblies.

There was no timetable established for TLMA to return with a list of modifications, though any proposal would be subject to several public hearings.

The cities of Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage have similar regulatory apparatuses in place.