Letters (Nov. 22, 2017)
by AVA News Service, November 22, 2017
NOT OUR FAULT
Re: Minor Use permit for Short-Term/Vacation Home Rentals.
I have recently moved back to the Mendocino Coast, where I grew up, to raise my young child. We would like to stay but as you know it is challenging to make a legal living here, which is why we thought that renting out our private apartment attached to our house on air b and b would be a good steady source of income. Having a business license and paying the 11% county tax seems reasonable to me, so I sent in my application and back taxes (like $200). Then after the county cashes my $130 application fee I get a letter saying that my application is “incomplete” because I NOW need a use permit (10 page application) and to come up with $2,800 to $3,300. So now I am already out $130 on the initial application (had I known that there was going to be an additional fee and application I wouldn’t have applied and paid!) and the use permit is ridiculously expensive – costing more than what I make a year with AirBnB! We are on Philo Greenwood Road, so off the beaten track, and half the year we rent it out to more long term renters and/or use it as a guest room for friends and family – so we don’t make much on it. Since we use it as a short term rental only about half the year, the price of the use permit is out of reach and out of the question for us.
I can see the need to regulate short-term rentals on the coast but we are inland and small potatoes comparatively – using an outdated law that takes no account of where the rentals are and how often they are rented makes no sense and is frankly unfair! As I understand this use permit only applies to new rentals, not existing ones – also unfair! Also, are these use permits required for, say, wineries or other business that have much greater traffic and environmental impact on private roads? In addition, if you are worried about impacts on private roads (which are often in better shape than county roads) – have you driven Philo Greenwood Rd lately? And you are trying to pressure us to make our short term rentals long term – seems to me that longer term renters will have a greater impact on the roads than short term renters, who use the road like 4 times during a weekend visit and not several times daily over months…
I realize that there is a shortage of affordable housing in this county but blaming us for this and trying to force us to make our rentals long term is absurd and unfair. In our case, we don’t want someone in our rental long term as we need to space for our growing family and want to limit the impact on our resources. Also, do you think that current short term rentals on the coast for example will even be affordable for the average Mendocino County resident? This is crazy – I saw a cabin in Navarro renting for $900 a month – what, who can afford that? There has to be another way – like building affordable housing!? Or a trailer park? But then I guess you get the NIMBY’s…
Punishing us for trying to make a legal living in this county is counterproductive and unfair! And it seems that the county is shooting itself in the foot – as many people are not going to get these permits and will either stop renting their places out at all and/or just stop paying their county taxes – so that is less income for the county! This makes no sense – I hope that you can come up with a policy that is fair and takes into account short term rental properties on a case by case basis (i.e. rental locations and frequency of use) and not this unfair blanket approach that you are currently using.
Thank you for your time and fair consideration on this matter.
PACE YOURSELF, WALTER
As a long-time reader of your fine publication I have never had the desire to write a letter offering my opinion because I'm an inmate whose opinion means very little. But I can no longer resist. So please allow me the following:
I read the events surrounding Walter Miller and Chris Skaggs arrest in 2013 and have read the many letters Miller wrote to the AVA, including his most recent one published in the November 1 edition where predictably he writes a passive aggressive letter directed at Chris Skaggs by claiming to correspond with Sherri Skaggs.
This is of course sad. Miller obviously still has much hate towards and places blame on Chris Skaggs. Miller's brief visits to the free world were spent stealing from the homes of families who work and play by the rules: preying on the weak and tweaking.
I doubt very seriously that Chris Skaggs altered the destiny of Walter Miller. Miller is where he belongs. My advice to Miller is: pace yourself. You have a very long time to serve. So focus on what matters and stop embarrassing yourself with the letters you write to the AVA. Trust me when I tell you that no one cares.
PAST TIME TO UNDERGROUND
History should now fuel the hindsight needed to correct our habitual ways. I refer to the consequences of exposed electrical wires (fire and weather damage) and ongoing maintenance required due to fire, weathering and weather phenomena.
The system of cabling and wiring hasn’t changed in more than a century in most of the U.S., thanks to a powerful manufacturer lobby. Thus we understand why weather-resistant, fireproof and aesthetic use of underground wiring isn’t brought to the planning or repair table.
Some of our neighborhoods look positively antiquated with the drapery of cables and wires, leaning poles and pigtails through hollowed out branches of trees lining and crossing streets.
Since the swathes of land required to install underground wiring are much narrower and high towers silhouetting our hilltops can be eliminated, underground is a less costly and damaging method of electrification.
To reduce our fire threat and increase the attractiveness of this region for fire insurance, it is apparent that residents and small businesses should be creating our own lobby for underground wiring of electricity and telephone systems.
Re: Last Week’s Flynn Washburne’s “Real Men Of Fort Bragg”:
I too worked in the woods, though for just a season when first arriving in Mendocino County. It was the best paid job I had ever had. However, my life wasn’t worth ten cents. Maybe this perilous condition is what lies behind the somewhat inverted, corporately glorified, cliche of the intrepid woodchoppers in the glade. Everybody knew the terms. There was a perfunctory rule about wearing a plastic helmet and practicing “safety”. The fatality rate for loggers when I worked was exceeded only by workers in the coal mines, another occupation surrounded with faux-mythic glory. To get to the job, my wife woke me at three, I drove to Potter Valley at four, took a crummy or a cat to the site by seven, worked twelve hours, got home about 9:30, took a bath, ate, and fell asleep to wake again in the middle of the night. Fortunately I was the greenest of the gang, was laid off around Thanksgiving, and thus did not suffer the inconvenience of getting myself killed. I came close when the cat driver pushed some teepeed redwoods in a clearing, now Third Gate in Willits, while I was still putting the choker cable around one of them at the stump, The tree rolled on the stump up my arm at that moment and upon consideration I decided to back up for reasons related to matters of health and well being. I very well understand the writer’s remark about some loggers being “hung over or still drunk from the night before,” There was a lot of violence and heartache following from the, in some ways, heroic woodman’s craft. It took skill and guts. Exploitation of both land and workers was of course inextricably joined, and the higher Hidden Hand residing elsewhere deposited the profits at the bank. It couldn’t care less about damages done down the line. Although I turned in log decks twice as high as my co-workers, it didn’t particularly mean anything. It is a blessing to me now when Einar Erickson fired me with the first snows. (There were Autumn snows then.) Erickson was born in the woods near Albion. It was magnificent work in one sense, comparable to chasing Moby Dick across the ocean and bringing down the prodigious beast. But the temperate rain forest is gone, along with the hardworking temporary help.