A photo of Esther Petrella addressing the Riverside County Board of Supervisors on Nov. 28, 2003.
Esther Petrella, a resident of Wine Country, implores the board to adopt the new short-term rental ordinance and “stop catering to everyone else but the permanent residents.” (Alicia Ramirez/TN News)

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors Tuesday took the first step in approving a new short-term rental ordinance for the county with specific rules for the Idyllwild-Pine Cove and Wine Country communities.

“Obviously, this is not perfect, and there have been quite a bit of trade-offs,” Supervisor V. Manuel Perez said. “Hopefully after all this is said and done, and maybe we see some great results, things get better between neighbors up in the Idyllwild area.”

The ordinance includes regulations for unincorporated communities within the county with specific provisions for the Idyllwild-Pine Cove and Temecula Valley Wine Country areas. As approved, the ordinance is largely unchanged from the proposal presented at the Nov. 7 meeting, with the exception of the following key provisions:

— Those who currently have more than two short-term rental certificates in the Idyllwild-Pine Cove or Wine Country areas can keep them all as long as they remain in good standing. However, if a person currently has two in either area, they are not eligible to apply for any others in those communities. This restriction does not apply to the rest of the county.

— The Tier 1 group, which originally only included short-term rental operators without a certificate who had directly registered with the county to pay the required transient occupancy tax, has been expanded to include short-term rental operators who used Airbnb to rent out their property since Airbnb automatically pays the transient occupancy tax on their behalf.

— The same regulations that apply to the Wine Country – Residential District will also be separately applied to what is being referred to as the Wine Country Pocket — a residential neighborhood mostly north of Calle Contento and just east of the city of Temecula that is not currently included in the Temecula Valley Wine Country Policy Area.

— The short-term rental certificate cap for the Wine Country – Winery District will be increased from 114 to 129 — or 17% of all available units.

After a lengthy discussion, the board also agreed to allow certificates to be transferred to a qualifying family member who takes over the ownership of an existing short-term rental property in the Wine Country – Winery District and Wine Country – Equestrian District. 

In the Idyllwild-Pine Cove, Wine Country – Residential District and the Wine Country Pocket areas, certificate transfers of this type would only be allowed if the property is in compliance with separation and density requirements set forth by the ordinance. 

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“I’m not sure there’s an objective in maintaining peace and tranquility in a residential area by destroying wealth within a family,” Supervisor Kevin Jeffries said. “So I’m not supportive of that, but I do respect the idea that it needs to be dropped down as to the number of [short-term rentals] impacting residents.”

This certificate transfer provision does not apply anywhere else in the county where there is not a cap on the number of short-term rental certificates.

Ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, the county received a letter from Tinnelly Law Group on behalf of a “growing group of licensed operators of short-term rentals within Riverside County,” stating that if the ordinance goes into effect, the group was “prepared to defend our rights in court to the fullest extent allowed by law.”

According to the letter, obtained by The Record, the group claims the ordinance will infringe on the constitutional rights of short-term rental operators by putting a cap on the number of certificates and implementing density and occupancy restrictions in Wine Country.

Before going into effect, the ordinance will have to come back to the board for final adoption. Following adoption, the ordinance will go into effect after 30 days, at which time the moratorium on new short-term rental certificates will be lifted.

Once the ordinance becomes effective, Planning Director John Hildebrand said the application period for Tier 1 short-term rental operators in the Idyllwild-Pine Cove and Wine Country areas will open for 90 days.

“In Idyllwild, and each of the districts in the Wine Country area, if there’s less than 10, we would allow them to go in automatically,” he said. “If there are more than 10, we would create a lottery for that group of people specifically.”

After that process is completed, lotteries will then be held twice per year for the Idyllwild-Pine Cove area and Wine Country districts if the number of certificates is below the approved caps. The timing of these lotteries will be determined by the planning department and included in the final ordinance.

A copy of the ordinance as introduced will be posted here on the Riverside County Planning Department’s website once the board-approved changes have been added.

A video of the meeting can be found here on the county’s website.

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Alicia Ramirez is the publisher of TN News and the founder and CEO of its parent company TN News.