Event industry hopes to be heard as City Council debates changes to vacation rental regulations

Prior to discussion of proposed changes to city rules regulating vacation rentals, the event planning community wants elected leaders to see the homes they manage in a different light .
The Sinatra House off East Via Colusa is often used by events planners for charitable and corporate functions. Some of those planners worry the city may try to limit the use of such homes under proposed changes to short-term vacation rental regulations. (Photo courtesy Modernism Week)

Members of one sector of the hospitality industry hope the Palm Springs City Council finds some wiggle room in proposed changes to the city’s short-term vacation rental (STVR) ordinances. They could learn Thursday evening if that happens.

Driving the news: Last month, councilmembers asked city staff to focus on eight issues when recommending ordinance changes. One of those areas is the “Interplay of Vacation Rentals and Event Houses.” However, those who manage the event houses were surprised to see language in the proposed updates stating that licensed vacation rentals “cannot be used as an Event House.”

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What they’re saying: “I don’t know why they didn’t approach anyone about this,” said Ron Willison, group sales manager for Natural Retreats, which lists 45 homes available in the city. “This all came in at the last minute of a Council meeting. That set off a lot of people in the industry.”

At issue: If the Council does elect to effectively ban events in properties that also hold a vacation rental permit during its meeting Thursday night, Willison predicts the death of what might be a significant industry in Palm Springs.

  • “By doing this, you’re eliminating a $15 million to $20 million wedding and event industry here in the valley without so much as a phone call,” Willison said by phone.

Step back: Willison said the event planning community wants elected leaders to see the homes they manage in a different light than what you might think of when you think of vacation rentals. He said that restaurants, flowers shops, and other businesses benefit from events they host, and event houses are often offered up for free to help raise millions for local charities.

  • Additionally, Willison said that even though their events are often smaller than something like Splash House, they are regulated and permitted similarly. “It’s a lot more complicated than your Aunt Milly’s wedding for her daughter,” he offered.

Yes, but: Councilmember Geoff Kors addressed concerns with event houses at an Oct. 17 meeting and has been engaged with Willison and others ever since. He said Wednesday the issue isn’t cut and dry and centers around “events for compensation” and not those raising money for charity.

  • “The issue is that if a house is being rented 36 times, that means it likely has short-term renters 180 days and 70% or more of the weekends,” he said. “If the same home has 20 events with amplified music and speeches, plus film and photo shoots, that is a significant impact on neighbors and the neighborhood.”

More information: The City Council meets at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. You can find call-in, commenting, and viewing instructions here.


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