Council hopes to ‘act tactically’ but agrees vacation rental rules need change
Acknowledging that any talk of a moratorium might cause a rush of new applications for short-term vacation rental permits but that changes in rules governing them are needed, the Palm Springs City Council Tuesday evening directed city staff to move forward with community outreach and additional research that could take months. While that work is completed, permits will continue to be processed.
“I think we may need to beef up some of our restrictions on who can purchase a vacation rental in order to better protect individuals who have some stake in the community in terms of planning to live here,” said Mayor Lisa Middleton during a study session on the issue. …”We’ve got some broad directions, but we need more data before making specific policy recommendations.”
Of particular concern to Council members is the concentration of vacation rentals in neighborhoods traditionally comprised of middle-class families and the proliferation of permit holders who do not have roots, or plan to have them, in the city.
Mayor Pro Tem Grace Garner, who grew up in Palm Springs, recalled that Desert Park Estates was once home to most of her classmates’ families, but “It is full of vacation rentals now.” Data provided by city staff, and reviewed by Council members prior to the study session, shows 21% of the homes in the neighborhood off North Sunrise Way are currently licensed short-term vacation rentals.
“It is investors that come in,” Garner said. “It doesn’t seem to be a lot of individuals who are trying to have a small investment because they love Palm Springs and live in Palm Springs part of the time.”
A case in point, Garner said, is a home in Desert Highland Gateway Estates, which sold for $470,000 in 2019 and this month sold for more than $1 million — believed to be the first sale of that magnitude in a neighborhood where comparable homes sell for half that amount. Garner said the home had been used as a vacation rental and not a primary residence, and she suspects the new buyers will continue that use.
Garner threw her support behind imposing a moratorium on vacation rental permits until further studies could be done to determine just how many permits are held by corporations and not individuals who are either full-time or part-time members of the community. Other Council members supported asking for the data, and even exploring ways to prevent corporate ownership of city homes. They did not support a moratorium at this time.
“We need to be at least honest with ourselves that any reduction in vacation rentals means reduction in the availability of people to come to our city,” said Middleton, adding later, “I hope the public takes away from this that we’re trying to act tactically and act in a fashion that is balanced. We’re not trying to make radical change here in any direction.”
Change could be coming in the future, however. City Manager Justin Clifton was instructed to spend time working with stakeholders in real estate and other industries, as well as representatives of neighborhood organizations, to determine how the city might best encourage “real people” to purchase homes used occasionally as vacation rentals and eventually as primary residences. He was also tasked with drafting legislation that discourages homeowners from converting current long-term rental properties to short-term vacation rentals.
“We don’t want people buying lower-priced homes in city who are never going to use them,” said Councilmember Geoff Kors. Added Councilmember Christy Holstege: “If investors are coming in and making profits off a home and a tenant has nowhere to go, those are impacts we need to measure.”
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HIKER RESCUE: A hiker in medical distress was rescued via helicopter Tuesday in Palm Springs. According to the Palm Springs Fire Department, the man was on Museum Trail at around 3:30 p.m. when he began suffering an unknown medical emergency. He was able to call 911. Aid crews hiked up to the patient and treated him before preparing for him to be hoisted out by a California Highway Patrol helicopter. He was flown to O’Donnell Golf Club, where an ambulance transported him to a hospital for evaluation. Fire personnel hiked back down the hillside with the patient’s family.
KIDNAPPING REPORT: Palm Springs police arrested two adults and a juvenile Monday after receiving a suspected robbery and kidnapping call. Police said that at approximately 3:48 p.m., a witness reported seeing three males approach another male sitting in a vehicle in the 5200 block of East Ramon Road. All three were reportedly armed with handguns, forced the apparent victim out of the car at gunpoint, and assaulted him as they escorted him into another vehicle and left the scene. Officers located the suspect’s vehicle 30 minutes later, and a chase ensued. Although police initially lost sight of the car, it was eventually discovered in the 1200 Block of Montalvo Way. Following a search, the trio was arrested on charges ranging from probation violation to felony evading of an officer. The alleged victim was not present. Police ask any witnesses to call the Detective Bureau at 760-323-8144 or Valley Crime Stoppers at 760-341-7867.
MORE MODERNISM: Modernism Week announced recently that it would offer special programming in May, including exclusive tours of Modernism Week Showcase Home, Casa Tierra, a newly remodeled hillside estate in Palm Desert by Bobby Berk, design expert and Emmy-nominated host of Netflix’s Queer Eye. In addition to tours of Casa Tierra, participants may also purchase tickets to various historical walking tours in Palm Springs, craft cocktail mixology classes, dinner and live music experiences, and special “Top Ten” tour excursions highlighting Desert Modernist architecture in Palm Springs. Tickets for Modernism Week – May are now on sale at modernismweek.com.
? Today’s events
- Se lleva a cabo una hora de cuentos preescolares en español a las 10:30 a.m. en la Biblioteca Pública de Palm Springs.
- Teen gaming takes place at the main library starting at 3:30 p.m.
- PALS (Planning Ahead for LGBTQ Seniors) offers its online cafe today at 4 p.m.
For more events in Palm Springs, check the complete community calendar.
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? What to watch for
- The United Nations Association of the Coachella Valley presents Covid and Kids: A Mental Health Crisis on Thursday at 4 p.m. via Zoom.
- Palm Canyon Theatre is staging Cyrano de Bergerac from Thursday through Sunday.
- Desert Ensemble Theatre presents All This Intimacy from Friday through Sunday.
- Dezart Performs presents Every Brilliant Thing starting Friday and running through April 10.
- Salon Rouge returns to the Palm Springs International Dance Festival, presented by Nickerson-Rossi Dance, with Ballroom Bash! on Friday, starting at 6 p.m. at Desert Rose Playhouse.
- The fifth annual STEM Conference for families, presented by Palm Springs Unified School District, is Saturday April 2 at Raymond Cree Middle School, starting at 9 a.m.
- The Palm Springs Animal Shelter’s Faux Fur Ball is Saturday, April 2, at 6 p.m. at the Palm Springs Air Museum.
- The Palm Springs Historical Society presents a talk titled The Evolution of Human Rights in Palm Springs on Wednesday April 6 at the Palm Springs Cultural Center, starting at 5:30 p.m.
- The Havurah of the Desert is now accepting reservations for a 2nd-night community Seder, planned for Saturday, April 16. Reservations are $45 and can be made by going here.