Stiffer fines and penalties, including a two-strikes rule, plus a required workshop for prospective vacation rental owners are among recommendations for changes to the city’s ordinance an ad-hoc committee is proposing to help address some short-term vacation rental problems in La Quinta.
City officials are studying ways to address and reduce complaints that have led to a moratorium on all new permits in La Quinta.
The city currently has 1,290 permitted short-term vacation rentals. The moratorium is in effect until Feb. 2 but could be lifted earlier if an amended ordinance is adopted.
“We’ve had short-term rentals since 2008,” Mayor Pro Tem John Peña said, and when problems have come up, the city has addressed them by amending the ordinance.
But COVID-19 brought an increase in short-term vacation rentals when hotels and resorts were closed and people found them to be a safe way to get away amid the pandemic.
“This is the first year we’ve had the kinds of problems that we’ve had and it’s because of the pandemic. People are working from home, kids … can go to school from wherever they’re located as long as they have internet,” Pena said.
In August, the city issued a 90-day moratorium on all new permits after seeing a 267% increase in noise and other complaints over a three-month period, to give its ad-hoc committee time to zero in on the problems and recommend solutions. The council extended the moratorium to Feb. 2 earlier this month, with the hope it can be lifted sooner.
“We are trying to get to the core issue … and solve it,” Councilmember Robert Radi said.
La Quinta is not the only city in the Coachella Valley trying to address increased numbers of short-term vacation rentals and complaints since COVID-19 hit.
Cathedral City wants to phase them out all together by 2023.
Palm Desert, which already has a ban on short-term vacation rentals in single-family residential neighborhoods zoned R-1 and R-2 recently issued a moratorium on permits in areas zoned planned residential, except where allowed by the HOAs.
Rancho Mirage is in the process of eliminating short-term vacation rentals in all but private neighborhoods where they are allowed by the homeowners’ associations.
Palm Springs has also seen an uptick in complaints and citations issued, but currently has no plans to change its ordinance.
More applications, more complaints
La Quinta has received 93 new short-term vacation rental permits from April through June, with 16 more filed and waiting to be processed the day the moratorium was issued, officials said.
The city’s code compliance team reported 310 new cases of possible violations were opened as well, from April through June – a 267% increase over the 67 filed from January through March – all stemming from calls to a city hotline, staff said.
Nine permits were suspended in response to the complaints, officials said.
More than 90% of the complaints were