Last week I spoke with a staff member of the the “vacation rental” department of the PRMD (Planning and Resource Management Department).  I was told that as of November 22, 2019, according to the PRMD of Santa Rosa, the “board of supervisors” decided to extend the ban on the building or permits issued for any vacation or short term rentals in the fire zones from the 2017 Tubbs fire in Santa Rosa.  

What is Allowed by the PRMD

It spells out like this.  There will be no allowance for permits issued for any short term rentals on any lots that are located within the fire zone parameters, meaning a second unit on the property being used as such.  If you do purchase a lot with the plan pf building a second unit, they will not issue the permit for that 2nd unit. The only thing they will allow for would be a granny unit, which would have to be 640 square feet or under and could not have a kitchen.  Basically an in-law unit so no one stays too long.  The only other allowance for any 2nd unit would be one that was grandfathered in, meaning it was there prior to the fires.

Room Rentals Good – If you Want To Rent a Room

They did go on to say that a resident could rent out a portion of the home that they reside in, i.e. a room or two.  So if you want to rent out part of your home to short term renters, go for it. But there will be no permits issued for building a short term or vacation rental at this time, until December 2021, at which time the subject will be revisited by the board of supervisors.

Testing The Waters or the City…

A question was posed to me about “How would the city know if you built a second unit?”.  Actually they wouldn’t know, unless they got curious and inspected your property.  But, if you decide to sell and the 2nd unit was built without permits, there will be no value given to that unit via the appraisal.  That may not mean much to a homeowner that wants to roll the dice, but it will make a difference to the buyer taking on a property with a structure that was built without permits and has no value, as that gets passed down from one owner to the next.  The income potential may be there, but it could also lead to a headache for anyone looking to purchase.  Permits don’t get issued on properties or additions that were previously built.

The Why or Potential Reasoning

Don’t get me wrong, I’m always for pushing the envelope.  I love doing that and I believe change does happen when you do.  But I have to believe that the Board of Supervisors has a good reason for the extension of the ban.  Santa Rosa has seen enough destruction for a while and the Kincaid fire only brought all the memories of the Tubbs fire come back to the surface.

I have to believe they are coming from a protective stance and not trying to curb individual’s income potential or kill dreams. We also have a slight housing crisis here, which could also be part of the reason.  Every city and county has that problem in its realm of decision making.  I couldn’t imagine trying to run a city, let alone try to please and protect everyone.  Santa Rosa already has its share of issues that are in its face, some of which are much bigger than “short term rentals’.

The San Francisco Challenge

It was recently brought to my attention from a friend, that rental companies, such as Sonder are basically using the term “corporate rentals” to get around the term, “vacation rental or short term rental” in San Francisco. Their “2100 Market Street” property is marketed as a “boutique living service”.  In the article in Curbed by Adam Brinklow, San Francisco supervisor, Rafael Mandelman, whose district includes 2100 Market Street, calls Sonder’s move the “bait and switch”.  If you think about it though, Sonder is quite ingenious. The article is worth the read.

There is nothing inherently wrong with short term or corporate rentals or something quite appealingly being called “boutique living service”.  We all need them or have used them.  My thoughts are that when rules are applied along with a huge housing crisis in California, battle lines get drawn and solutions start disappearing way off in the distance.

My Summation

First, I really don’t have the answers.  I have my thoughts.  I do agree that there is a housing crisis in major parts of California.  But if you look at it, they are usually in the more desirable areas, big cities or areas that generate jobs with good income.  The larger the desire, the more it costs, plain and simple.  Los Angeles has its crisis too. You have groups fighting for more housing options for people, rightfully so, and individuals and companies that are growing ideas and wanting to make money.  It’s and age old debate or disagreement.  The players have just changed.

I don’t complain about things because it serves no purposes.   But I do like understanding topics and I like the truth and try to research the facts, which aren’t always easy to find.  All of this housing struggle fascinates me as it will inevitably births new ideas, set new rules and create change. The one thing that is always constant throughout our lives is CHANGE.  Hot topics like the housing crisis will do that as well. But in the end, complaining doesn’t fix things….solutions do.

My last note, keep in mind that there may have been over 690,000 people that moved from California this past year, but there were over 500,000 many that moved in.  So California is still highly desirable, despite the news reported.  People leave for various reasons, many being the cost of living here. But that is California. It’s called the Golden State for a reason.

California is changing as are the people who live here. The term “Boutique Living Service” is appealing to many, which is why companies like Sonder are growing.  Could become a new trend throughout California.