After more than three hours of public comment, the Riverside Board of Supervisors earlier this month postponed making a final decision on approving a new short-term rental ordinance for the communities of Idyllwild-Pine Cove and Wine Country.

“We have concluded the public hearing, and now it is time for the board to provide direction to staff,” Supervisor Kevin Jeffries said after resuming the meeting following a brief break for a ceremony honoring veterans. “It is therefore very likely that we will be continuing this item to Tuesday, November 28, if staff can prepare the responses in time.”

The ordinance, as proposed, would create three sets of rules: one for the Idyllwild-Pine Cove area, one for Wine Country and one for the entire county.

“The purpose of these changes really are, again, to address the short-term rental densities in both communities of Idyllwild and Wine Country, to address the clustering proximity of those STRs to each other, address the impacts that those have on the communities and further enhance enforcement,” John Hildebrand, planning director, said.

For Idyllwild-Pine Cove, the planning department proposed a cap of 500 short-term rental units — roughly 14% of all dwelling units in the area — with a maximum of two short-term rental certificates per individual. Additionally, new short-term rentals in the area would have to be a minimum of 150 feet away from any existing rental.

In Wine Country, the planning department proposed a variety of caps for the different areas that make up the region. In the Winery District, a cap of 114 short-term rental units was proposed. In the Equestrian District, a cap of eight short-term rental units was proposed. And in the Residential District, a cap of 105 short-term rentals was proposed. For all areas, new short-term rentals would have to be a minimum of 500 feet away from any existing rental and owners would only be allowed a maximum of two short-term rental certificates.

Wine Country also had an additional provision for occupancy limiting the number of guests in a short-term rental in the Residential and Equestrian districts to a maximum of 10 people. In the Winery District, certain homes could be allowed to have up to 20 guests based on eligibility requirements.

In these two regions, the planning department also proposed using a lottery system in the event the number of short-term rental certificates was below the cap after giving priority to Tier 1 short-term rental operators who were registered with the county and had been paying transient occupancy tax for a minimum of one year before the moratorium was put in place. For owners with more than two short-term rental certificates, the planning department proposed allowing them to renew three times before having to give up any additional certificates beyond the two allowed.

Countywide, the planning department proposed setting a minimum age requirement of 21 for renters, with the exception of Wine Country which would have a minimum age requirement of 25. The planning department also proposed changing the language to include the property owner, operator and guest in any fines assessed and proposed changes to the number of verified violations a short-term rental operator could receive before their certificate was revoked to three in the span of one year or seven total, with the caveat that only one notice of violation and one administrative citation can be issued within a 24-hour period.

The planning department also proposed that all short-term rental operators be required to execute an indemnification agreement with the county, take a self-certification test stating that they understand the ordinance and agree to comply with it, place a sign on the property that states it’s a short-term rental in a location visible to the public and have all of their guests sign a copy of the county’s Good Neighbor brochure and watch the video prior to their stay.

Hildebrand said the goal of the proposed changes were to protect the rights of property owners who reside in their homes as well as those for property owners who use their homes as short-term rentals.

“This was designed to strike a fair and equitable balance for both sides,” Hildebrand said.

During the public hearing, supervisors heard from people both in favor of and against the proposed ordinance. Those in favor of the ordinance, like Patrick Vernier, said the ordinance would negatively impact the county economically and make it harder for people trying to find affordable places to stay.

“Short-term rentals are incredibly beneficial to the community and local economy by means of bringing in increased outside traffic and spending as well as providing housing for those who have lost their homes due to fires and flooding among other tragedies,” Vernier said. “Since I’ve opened my Airbnb, I’ve had the great pleasure of hosting dozens of groups and families, whether it be for vacation, business travel, or friendly or family gatherings, but most importantly, I’ve hosted five different families who were in desperate need of an affordable and suitable place to stay while they were finding a new home due to severe damages or waiting for repairs.”

Those against the ordinance, like Joel Feingold, said the ordinance as proposed would mitigate the impacts on Idyllwild-Pine Cove and Wine Country residents and allow the communities to retain their identities.

“We believe this ordinance is necessary to ensure neighborhood compatibility and reduce conflicts within the surrounding residential neighborhood,” Feingold said. “The over concentration and density of STRs in Idyllwild and Wine Country reduces the long term housing stock and contributes to increased costs for both renters and buyers as it has additional adverse impacts on residential character, neighborhood stability, public safety and quality of life.”

There were also people who spoke in favor of the ordinance and further asked that it be applied to a residential community just outside the boundaries of the Temecula Valley Wine Country Policy Area.

“Even though we live across the street from six wineries, we are not included in the Wine Country Community Plan,” Tom Hernandez said. “Please allow my neighborhood, that is in Wine Country, to become part of it and actually benefit from all the hard work that has gone into [the proposed ordinance].”

After hearing from the public, the supervisors directed staff to look into the possibility of including the neighborhood to the north of the Temecula Valley Wine Country Policy Area, allowing the transfer of short-term rental certificates to family members in specific circumstances, including unregistered short-term rentals that have been paying transient occupancy taxes to the county into Tier 1, increasing the short-term rental certificate cap within the Wine Country area, maintaining the same minimum rental age across both regions and allowing those who currently have more than two existing short-term rental certificates to keep them all.

“I’m not interested in penalizing those owners,” Jeffries said. “If they’ve been there, they’ve been a part of the community, they’ve invested in the community, and they’re not causing the problem, why do we need to pick a fight with them?

“If they’re good, and they’re doing right by their neighbors, then what do we care if they own four, if they own five,” he continued. “It shouldn’t matter to us as long as they’re conducting themselves properly.”

The supervisors also asked for clarity from the planning department regarding whether or not they could restrict residential properties on unpaved roads from being eligible for a short-term rental certificate, the reasoning behind using a lottery system instead of a wait list, whether there was a single point of contact within the county for questions about short-term rentals and how people can report short-term rental properties that have become nuisances.

“I’m trying to find a balance,” Supervisor Chuck Washington said. “It’s my job as an elected [official] to try to find balance and look out for everyone, but I have to say my first priority, at least in the residential area of Wine Country, has to be with the residents. They have to be able to enjoy peace and quiet in their neighborhoods, and I think many of them have lost that.”

The board is expected to resume discussion on the proposed ordinance at the Nov. 28 meeting. A full agenda for that meeting can be found here.

In other board action: The developer of a proposed project in the Highgrove Community Policy Area, which originally included both residential and commercial development, has asked that the project be continued off calendar so it can be brought back before the board with only the residential development component, much to the relief of many who spoke during the public hearing.

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

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