Arcata delays regs for vacation rentals

Steve Robles
Mad River Union

ARCATA – Citing a lack of stakeholder notice, Arcata’s City Council delayed a decision to cap the city’s short-term rentals at 125 and add more regulations and fees on operating those units.

City staff admitted the owners of those properties had not been properly notified of the pending decision, and so the matter will not be heard again until the Nov. 20 meeting.

According to Mayor Brett Watson, the origin of this consideration of stricter rules on short-term rentals, many of whom are part of the AirBnb network, began in early 2018 when local groups demonstrated concern over lower-income residents being displaces by landlords in favor of short-term rental profits.

Brett Watson

With the city bending over backwards to provide affordable housing to its residents, “simple, but effective” rules governing short-term rentals was inevitable.

Short-term rentals and their presence in Arcata is easily demonstrated by the inventory  seen on the app. 

Open it up, and there is no shortage of units. The ubiquity of short-term rentals can also be seen by the fact two of the council’s five members had to recuse themselves from the conversation around new regulations, being owners of AirBnB properties.

The cap on 125 would only be on properties where the entire property is being used as a short-term rental. Despite landlords voicing opposition during the council meeting, the council pointed out that the landlords who spoke would not be affected by the cap, based on their individual cases.

Landlords also spoke out against an additional use permit fee, as well as proposals to add signage advertising the landlord contact number and zone restrictions. The signage would address the problem of these short-term rentals being used for loud parties, the council said.

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“The idea is to let neighbors have an option for addressing these problems that doesn’t involve city staff,” said City Manager Karen Diemer.

But landlords have not wanted to be any part in the stakeholder conversations the city held, according Community Development Director David Loya.

Councilmember Susan Ornelas also said that, when discussing the draft ordinance with members of the Chamber of Commerce, the result was a collective groan.

“They all said they thought it was a horrible idea,” she said.

When confronted with the idea that such restrictions were a handout to the corporate hotels “up in Giuntoli Lane,” Watson resisted.

“The last time I checked, AirBnB is a corporation,” he said.



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