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Gimme Shelter! Now!

A Report on short term rental petition & proposal to Board Of Supes — Housing Action Team’s Short Term Rental Proposal Status report.

In an early June’22 Board of Supervisors meeting, The Housing Action Team submitted a petition with 600 Mendocino county resident signatures requesting that the Board develop and Implement a Short Term Ordinance for the county immediately, that the county needs to monitor the TOT (bed tax) payments BY STRs, AND That the Board OF Supes consider imposing a limit to the number STRS allowable along the coast to 2% of housing instead of the current roughly 4-5%, by imposing a moratorium until SHT below 2% on coast.

We at HAT had hopes of getting some response from the Supervisors, or at least from the Supes’ Ad Hoc STR committee. But in fact there has been no direct response. I have talked a couple of times with Supervisor Dan Gjerde who has been overall supportive of HAT’s proposals from the beginning. I’ve learned there is some planning for developing an ordinance and possibly some agreement on limiting STR growth in what is being considered a zone that includes from Ten Mile to Casper Creek.

The Coastal Commission is involved in anything and everything related to housing and land in the coastal zone and almost all housing and especially STRs, are in the coastal zone. So constraints on housing or expansion of new housing requires Coastal Commission approval. Apparently the County is applying for grant from the Coastal Commission to work on an STR Ordinance, as well as some other land use issues. The grants that are expected to be awarded over the next several months. The Coastal Commission takes time; it will be two to three years from the time of the grant beginning before a final decision would come from Coastal Commission.

HAT will continue to push for a having moratorium on new Short Term Rentals while the the Coastal Commission is reviewing the “County ordinance.”

The County is very very short staffed in most departments, and has been for some time. This means there is uncollected transiet occupancy tax (TOT) money that is not being collected which could even be close to $1 million. So HAT is also pushing for the County to use a service, there are several, to get payments from the many STR operators we know about and the many that exist who are not “listed” and do not pay TOT taxes to the County.

The County Treasurer’s report we have shows that over 100 short terms rental businesses did not pay any TOT tax and over 100 other short term rentals paid less than $1000 in taxes. While it could be that some of these later examples are STRs in a room in someone house and so maybe the $1000 is correct. The records don’t indicate what kind of STR the tax is for — which is another problem with County records. At the very least some person or service should be looking into those STRs with a lack of TOT payment as well as those with under payment.

The County does not have to wait to get its administration of Short Term Rentals in order, to collect unpaid taxes in order to begin to charge Short Term Rental Owners the Fees That Cover The Cost Of Administration.

It makes no sense for the County to essentially give up workforce house for nothing — no TOT income to the County. It looks like that is happening on a pretty big scale but unknown because there is not the staff to do the work needed.

There is help available through services whose business it is to assist city and county governments set up systems, run systems, collect past due money, verify correct payments, etc. The County is choosing not to use it and doesn’t have the staff to do the work needed.

Lastly for now, it is clear the TOT income to the county is in a very large part from the established inns on the coast. In a quick unofficial review, over two-thirds of the income comes from the inns. The houses portion of TOT payments is much lower while often these houses are regular housing people could live in. 

Clearly some housing is best used as Short Term Rentals, but the proportion of those is, in reality, quite small in comparison to regular housing for workforce that has been turned over to STRs.

Turning houses that people could live into a business contributing couple thousand dollars a year in TOT Tax is a foolish bargain. Regulating and collecting the taxes due is needed now, but also an actual analysis of the return on “housing turned into STR’ should be studied, I am betting the dollars favor keeping the work force housing. The cities and counties are responsible to house the workforce. Fort Bragg limits Short Term Rentals to 10 units in city limits and it has for over 20 years. It is time for the county to step up to save some housing for the workforce, and get income through the productive workforce, and still have visitor income.

This “Report” comes from me (Elizabeth Swenson), not HAT as a group. I felt I need to get some information out ASAP, partly because people expected there would be information status of HAT’s proposal on the KZYX show Wednesday and the discussion didn’t really go there.

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Beth Bosk:

Thank you, Elizabeth for keeping us posted. The adoption of a Class K owner/builder permit category (1981) by the Board of Supes was the result of the formation of a blanket, county-wide, demonsrative citizens' “organization” — United Stand. One of the reasons United Stand was so effective was that the leadership came from both sides of the coastal range: Anon Forest inland, Diana Wiedemann on the coast. And the recognition of their spokesperson-ship was universally respected.

Until Class K was devised, the issue of an owner-built housing ordinance was always in front of the Board, with frequent appearances of large groups of engaged, and affected county residents at Board meetings insisting on resolution. I personally think the same consistent (and sometimes disorderly) pressure has to be put on the Coastal Commission, which now favors visitor serving facilities counter to the needs of long-term residents that have lost access to housing, including young adults who were raised here. 

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Short Term Rentals

The argument for removing STR is absolutely wrong. What’s necessary in the county is social housing that must be the responsibility of the city of Fort Bragg, Mendocino county and the state of California. It has nothing to do with the the small STR that brings in more revenue to area with tourism. Especially as tourism brings in 65% of the economy on the coast - the largest sector. Without good tourist industry, the economy would crumble. The town of Mendocino would struggle to survive, shops, restaurants, galleries and other small businesses couldn’t afford to keep staff. This is the bare reality, social housing could deal with this issue quite easily, build a few hundred affordable homes in the area of Fort Bragg and problem solved. So who pays and that’s a question others can answer. But nevertheless at least it would be a goal, just put a creative committee together to find funds and some ideal spaces. That’s all it takes. But don’t blame the STR owner, as like a doctor or a nurse the STR owners have absolutely every right to make a living. And if this area wants to close the likes of Airbnb the council might find those owners move away. Possibly not selling their property and not letting them - just keeping it empty. When they cut the AirBnBs from 20 to 10 those property owners just shut their homes - and now they are empty and dark. Why should the onus be on properly owners to provide social housing? That is the job of local government. So who benefits? Just a thought from 

A grumpy old dude! 

Fort Bragg

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On Line Comment on STRs

There is basically a huge problem in Mendocino County, which is, elected, hired and appointed persons, with access to public funds, do not appear to be concerned with the proprieties of using public funds properly…

Some money is always being misdirected, into private hands.

Mendocino is not the only place this occurs, and, for example, I can think of another CEO of a Healthcare District, who took “a loan” against the “CARES Act” money that his District’s Hospital was given, of $30,000!

He recently died, and the question I had was “Did he pay back the money?”

Nobody has said a word, and six weeks after his death, no obituary has been published…

Crooked public officials are everywhere, and it seems to me that this might be the real pandemic…

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On-Line Response:

How glib. Where do you propose to get the water for “a few hundred affordable homes”? We'd have to start by developing a much larger water catchment and storage infrastructure. And dramatically expand the waste water plant on the headlands. Only then can we build your few hundred new homes. How long is all that going to take? And how do you propose to pay for it?

We can't build our way out of this housing crisis. Yes, we need to start that effort in force, with a plan that includes major investment in our utilities infrastructure. But we can increase our housing inventory in the much nearer future by limiting corporate, for-profit short term rentals. There are currently over 500 vacation homes for rent here on the coast. Our urgent need for teachers, law enforcement officers, health care professionals, and employees of all kinds is having a discernible, daily negative effect on our health, safety, and quality of life. Qualified applicants for those jobs want to move here with their families but cannot find a place to live. We need to do all we can as soon as we can to make affordable homes available.

One Comment

  1. izzy October 10, 2022

    All interesting points. It was only mentioned in passing, but a local economy that may be 65% tourist-based is already on shaky support. The AirBnB/STR phenomenon is one example of the result of rampant financialization that has hollowed out much of the US. And our big cannabis mess is another. Not a healthy trend.

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