While many hotels are open for business, an influx of travelers heading to the Coachella Valley is fueling an unexpected boost in summer demand for vacation rentals.
Cathedral City residents worried about loud, late night parties coming from nearby short-term vacation rental properties may be able to rest a little easier. The city’s task force to deal with the issue is expected to begin patrolling across all shifts Nov. 13.
Four, full-time short-term vacation rental compliance officers are in the process of being hired, Cathedral City Police Chief George Crum said during the city council meeting on Wednesday. Each officer will be assigned to a patrol team and supervised by a sergeant.
A fifth employee hired by the department will be assigned to the office and will work closely with an administrative analyst hired recently to coordinate with the police personnel.
The six employees were hired to address short-term vacation rental violations following many months of city council discussions and planning on the issue.
In June 2019, city leaders approved a temporary ban on new short-term rental applications amid noise concerns from residents. This past summer, the council directed city staff to move forward with a proposal to phase out short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods over two years, with exceptions for properties in homeowners’ associations and home-sharing rentals. And, last month, they voted unanimously to phase out short-term vacation rentals by 2023 despite concerns from homeowners who said it would cause them financial harm.
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Earlier this month, after a short-term rental advocacy group submitted thousands of signatures in hopes of repealing the decision, the council unanimously approved an urgency ordinance and two resolutions related to a moratorium on new short-term vacation rentals and fees, penalties and fines.
If enough petition signatures are verified, the city’s recently approved short-term rental ordinance will be suspended, City Attorney Eric Vail said previously.
The short-term rental phase-out ordinance has exemptions for properties located in homeowners associations, which may have their own specific short-term rental rules. “Home-sharing” arrangements, where a permanent resident is staying at the property, are allowed under the ordinance.
The ordinance put a maximum on how many people can stay at a property, set a minimum contract of three nights, and called for stricter enforcement.
“Everyone recognizes that resident frustration is driven by a lack of enforcement from the city,” said Karyn McQueen, spokesperson for the advocacy group Share Cathedral City, this month. “We are hopeful that the council will rescind their ordinance and work with the community to come up with a better alternative that addresses community concerns while allowing vacation rentals to continue welcoming visitors to Cathedral City.”
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Part of the city’s earlier ordinance included application and registration fees for new and renewing short-term vacation rental permits as well as fines for violations. Additionally, the city set fines for those making false reports to the complaint hotline.
The fees, according to city staff, would allow the city to cover the addition of the four non-sworn police personnel to provide 24/7 enforcement coverage as well as the two administrative staff.
These positions have been or are in the process of being filled, Crum said Wednesday, and training for the compliance officers should begin Monday. The officers will have uniforms similar to law enforcement officers and will share two white Ford Rangers emblazoned with the city logo.
The city’s vacation rental hotline — (760) 553-1031 — will still be used to receive complaints.
Once the compliance officers begin patrol, complaints made to the hotline will be passed on to police dispatchers who will then send a compliance officer to the scene, Crum said. The compliance officer will contact the complaining party, most likely, he added, after assessing the situation.
“If we witness a violation, I would expect that a citation is issued,” Crum said, noting that the decision is up to the responding officer.
This story includes prior reporting by Desert Sun staff Shane Newell, Melissa Daniels and Julie Makinen.
Maria Sestito covers aging and the senior population in Coachella Valley for The Desert Sun. She is also a Report for America corps member and new to the desert. Please say “hello” via [email protected] or @RiaSestito.
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