Measure C, a proposition to phase out vacation rentals in single-family neighborhoods in Palm Springs over the next two years, was struck down with 69 percent of the vote against it.
On Tuesday, June 5, 2018, Palm Springs, California voters turned down Measure C, a proposition to phase out vacation rentals in single-family neighborhoods in the city over the next two years. The measure, brought forth by the Palm Springs Neighbors for Neighborhoods group, was struck down by a wide margin, with 6,764 of the votes (69 percent) against it.
Palm Springs is a part of the greater Coachella Valley in California, where tourists spent $5.5 billion and generated $592 million in state and local tax revenue in 2017, according to the Greater Palm Springs Conventions & Visitors Bureau.
Before Measure C, Palm Springs had been (and still is) one of the most strictly regulated vacation rental markets in the country. In the most recent version of Ordinance 1918, vacation rental owners must apply for and renew a vacation rental registration certificate annually for $923, as well as submit a transient occupancy tax permit application, pool compliance statement, and HOA letter (if applicable) to the city’s Vacation Rental Compliance Department before the home can be advertised or rented. Registrations are limited to one home per owner.
Additionally, the home’s city identification number is required in all advertising, safety inspections are required, and owners must provide a list of family and friends who may stay in the home at no cost and without the owner present. Guests of vacation rental homes must sign a city regulations form in person confirming their understanding of the area’s good neighbor policies on parking, noise, trash and pets – rules several locals in the vacation rental industry have said are so strict that they are making guests want to travel elsewhere.
Despite these existing regulations, the Palm Springs Neighbors for Neighborhoods group brought Measure C to the June ballot in an effort to ban vacation rentals entirely from residential areas. Local vacation homeowner, Bruce Hoban, co-founded Vacation Rental Owners and Neighbors of Palm Springs in April of 2017 to advocate for local vacation rental owners, and then the group formed the We Love Palm Springs campaign in opposition to Measure C.
According to Hoban, the campaign succeeded due to voter education. The group led focus groups, large field survey polls and tested its messaging. Successful messaging focused on the economic impact of tourism in the area and vacation rentals’ role in it. Hoban said he counted 11,000 total beds in the city available to tourists; 46 percent of those beds were in vacation rentals. “People could understand that stat,” he said. “That had a big impact.”
“The normal day-to-day citizen in Palm Springs sees the good that we in the vacation rental industry bring to the community from job opportunities, tax revenues, as well as how much we gave back,” said Ian Patterson, previously the executive general manager of Vacation Palm Springs, now president and CEO of Retreatia in Steamboat Springs, Colorado and Great Western Lodging in Breckenridge, CO.
Hoban also attributed the campaign’s success to organizing other local groups, including business associations, hotels and more than 700 individual donors.
“The campaign organization was the true star here,” said Greg Holcomb, government relations manager with the Vacation Rental Management Association. With property owners, management companies, suppliers, employees of the various impacted companies, community groups, real estate professionals and others, “this unity is how a clear message was able to win over voters,” he said.
“What happened in Palm Springs is a bellwether for rest of California and the US,” said Philip Minardi, director of policy communications at HomeAway. [The city] recognized the value of traditional vacation rentals to the community, and every citizen heard that message loud and clear, he said. “We as an industry should be banging pots and pans around the country about this vote.”
Following the vote, the Palm Springs Neighbors for Neighborhoods group website posted a message including the following statement: “Our work here is not over. And, the experience we have gained over the past year will be shared with other communities. We have already received requests from South Lake Tahoe, Truckee, and Pacific Grove and the other tourist cities across the country. This is a movement and it is growing.”
Minardi, Holcomb and other industry professionals acknowledge the spread of regulations. “This is something that every community in America is starting to face or will face,” Minardi said.
For those communities, “Work together and keep it local,” Patterson said. “Come together as a team and ensure you speak with one voice.”