Council votes to pause issuing new vacation rental permits, allowing time to draft ordinance changes

Despite both hopes and fears from members of the audience that the city was moving to interfere with the vacation rental industry, that was never on the table Monday evening.
City voters rejected a ban on short-term vacation rentals in 2018, but the issue remains contentious in the community.

Elected officials hoping to buy time for city staff to rework existing regulations on short-term vacation rentals got their wish Monday night, but it wasn’t easy. 

Driving the news: The Palm Springs City Council voted 4-0 to halt processing new permits for the rentals until Nov. 30. By instituting the pause, they hope to be able to fine-tune existing regulations in response to issues that have bubbled up since they went into effect in 2017.

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  • The vote followed two and a half hours of public testimony and discussion among members of the Council and city staff. Councilmember Christy Holstege recused herself from the proceedings due to her husband’s involvement in the real estate industry.

At issue: Despite both hopes and fears from audience members that the city was moving to disrupt the vacation rental industry here, that was never on the table. A limit on the number of permits the city will issue is not being proposed. Instead, the Council wants to focus on who qualifies for a permit.

  • Ultimately, the goal is to prevent those who purchase homes in the city from using them solely as an investment with no intention of ever living here and establishing roots in the community. 

What they’re saying: “This is extremely temporary, and it’s for the benefit of the staff, for the benefit of the Council, and the benefit of the public. It’s not as dire as some people may think.” — Mayor Pro Tem Grace Garner

Zoom in: After months of discussion, reams and hours of written and oral comments, and efforts made by an 11-member citizen workgroup this summer, the most challenging work may lie ahead. Councilmembers outlined multiple new measures they want folded into updates to existing city laws.

  • Among changes that may be codified are annual limits to the number of times any home can be rented, requirements that owners of the rentals occupy them for a specific amount of time each year, and the addition of a “junior permit” that allows residents to rent their homes out only a handful of times each year — perhaps during music festival weekends.

Next steps: With a six-week pause in processing new permit applications, staff from the Special Programs Department will now be able to focus on gathering data and doing other work necessary to help city attorneys draft changes for the Council to consider at November meetings.

  • “This moratorium would help tremendously,” said Veronica Goedhart, the department’s director. “… If we rush it, it won’t be done right.”

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