The decision to halt short-term rental permits in the registration process does not take all Palm Springs stakeholders into consideration
On Monday, October 17, the Mayor and Councilmembers of Palm Springs halted applications to obtain short-term vacation rental permits. This moratorium is temporary – the city will resume processing short-term rental applications after November 30. CEO Brad Greiner and the Open Air Homes team have hope that Palm Springs Mayor Lisa Middleton & City Council will continue the permitting process for completed applications.
Dear Mayor Lisa Middelton and Councilmembers Grace Elena Garner, Geoff Kors, and Dennis Woods:
We’d like to commend you all for working toward balance and regulation in the short-term rental industry. This is undoubtedly a daunting task, and city officials appear to have their work cut out for them. However, we’re concerned that those unable to attend every city council meeting get the shorter end of the stick. This letter’s intent is to offer the perspective of a small business that cares deeply about the beautiful city of Palm Springs.
As experienced hosts, we’re well aware of the industry’s issues and do not turn a blind eye to them. We understand that a variety of stakeholders must be taken into consideration, including long-term tenants, homeowners, local businesses, and short-term guests.
We at Open Air Homes are confident that the Councilmembers of the City of Palm Springs will establish sensible regulations. However, we feel that putting a stop to the permitting process is a haphazard response that we cannot support.
In 2015, we almost shut down Open Air Homes due to neighborhood issues. We recognize our industry has work to do.
Open Air Homes started in 2013, at a time when whole-home rental platforms were gaining traction. Facing many of the issues that are still present today, I considered shutting down Open Air Homes. I didn’t see a path forward that equitably balanced community needs with those of hosts looking to provide an alternative to branded hospitality options.
I spoke with my mentor, who suggested that instead of shutting down Open Air Homes altogether, I work toward embodying the changes I’d hoped to see in the industry.
Following that decision, I invested in a variety of leading-edge practices to establish Open Air Homes as a great neighbor and community member:
Open Air Homes’ actionable steps taken to operate responsibly
- Disabling “instant book” features
- Strong vetting practices (while remaining FHAA fair-housing compliant)
- Providing neighbors with our 24/7 texting service and contact information to foster transparency and open communication
- Strictly enforcing a Good Neighbor Pledge rivaling that of the city of Palm Springs
- Installing Minut audio sensors in homes that alerts guests the second the noise level reaches a certain decibel
- Partnering solely with homeowners who share our vision of an equitable and respectful short-term rental industry
- Focusing on longer-term vacation rentals (called Month+) that reduces turning of homes and community impact
Our entire portfolio’s average stay length is currently 14.4 nights. Open Air focuses on designing family-friendly homes and believes that marketing to the right guests starts in the design process. We market to multi-generational families and are very vocal about our zero-tolerance policies for parties and loud gatherings in our homes.
We recently opened our flagship desert office on Indian Canyon Drive, and it’s been an exhilarating and challenging venture. As a local agency, we proudly represent a number of homeowners in the city limits in addition to properties in adjacent communities like Rancho Mirage and La Quinta. Many homes are only available for Month+ stays, and we communicate the importance of respecting the community and behaving like long-term residents to all of our guests.
The world has voted: They love vacationing in homes for longer periods of time.
Despite the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, the short-term rental industry has boomed. Demand increased by 10% from pre-pandemic figures, and rental revenues grew by 40% (source). Truly vibrant, forward-thinking cities are beginning to see vacation home rentals as a key element to ensure small businesses and their respective cities flourish.
While rules and regulations are necessary, we believe the moratorium may hurt more than it helps. We feel it suggests municipal leadership is willing to indirectly punish homeowners looking to offset the expense of homeownership while contributing to the local economy.
We second the city’s desire to reimagine STVR regulations but feel that disrupting expected permit delivery dates shows a sense of instability at the city council level that is apparent to voters.
To pose a simple question:
Why can’t the city of Palm Springs reimagine short-term rental regulations while simultaneously continuing to review permit applications that are already in progress?
As the recession commences, now is the time to take Palm Springs’ small businesses into consideration.
As we enter a recession, small businesses will suffer more than large corporations. Palm Springs’ quirky, one-of-a-kind local businesses are a huge draw for visitors. These establishments rely on tourism to survive, and we feel that pausing the permitting process for applicants who are heavily invested in the local economy limits their ability to make a living during these tough times.
Maintenance technicians, electricians, and countless vendors rely on these homes to contribute significantly to Palm Springs’ thriving economy. We feel that putting hundreds of homes in limbo puts hard workers’ livelihoods in jeopardy at the worst possible time.
At Open Air Homes, we regularly recommend our favorite small businesses to guests. Very often these are businesses with LGBTQ+ owners. We tell them they must try boundary-pushing Vietnamese fusion at Rooster and the Pig, local brews from Koffi, and huge portions at Sherman’s Deli. Drag night at Toucans Tiki Lounge (while tipping performers generously) and shopping at the Mojave Flea Trading Post are quintessential to Palm Springs. We recommend these businesses because they are unique experiences found only in this vibrant desert community.
We are perturbed by any actions that limit the economic contribution of local business owners who’ve worked hard to follow the rules and are deep in the permitting process. Blocking those who’ve submitted all paperwork and fees will not necessarily rectify issues in a significant way – it would simply limit the number of tourists to Palm Springs and harm small businesses.
“According to an Airbnb survey of hosts and guests, 94 percent of hosts said they recommend local shops, cafes, restaurants and other points of interest to guests. Of the hosts surveyed:
–87% said they make recommendations in the neighborhood of their Airbnb listing or Experience.
–82% said they recommend businesses that are locally owned.
–56% of hosts said they recommend that their guests visit areas not well-known among tourists.
–In addition, 55 percent of guests said that saving money by staying at an Airbnb allowed them to spend more on other goods or services in their destination. On average, guests said 43 percent of their spending occurred in the neighborhood of their Airbnb listing.
–By bringing visitors to neighborhoods, including those that have not traditionally benefited from the tourism industry, Airbnb is creating economic opportunity for families and bringing new customers to small businesses around the world.”source
Open Air Homes hopes that City Council will consider homeowners with permits in process, who have home maintenance expenses and mortgages to pay:
With rising housing costs, homeowners are purchasing homes not with the intention of huge profits, but because they too love this city. We encourage our homeowners to use their homes so they feel real, and not like a sterile, generic Airbnb. It’s crucial that we work with individuals who actually live in their homes, and also love sharing them. We send them each and every 5-star review, and with a 4.96 average over nine years of business, there are a lot of happy guests.
Our homeowners love hearing about how great of a time guests had in their homes. They monetize their homes to offset their ownership costs, not as a line item on a balance sheet for a private equity company looking to turn a profit.
We commend the city of Palm Springs for allowing a person to only purchase one vacation home, as this helps prevent private equity firms from purchasing large swaths of real estate. However, we think it’s important to point out that our homeowners are no different than the full-time residents of this city: they love this city, share their homes, and contribute to the local economy.
Open Air Homes’ hopes for Mayor Middleton and council members
We are not asking the city to consider new applications after October 17th. We are simply asking for the completion of a process that, for Open Air Homes, began in July. We’ve paid our fees and complied with all requests and requirements. Your consideration of our request to allow approval of our completed application can mitigate the impact of the moratorium for many, while still honoring the city’s wish to pause new applications.
Mayor Middleton, we urge you and your fellow council members to reconsider halting permit applications of homeowners and agencies who have already fulfilled all the paperwork required by the Department of Special Program Compliance.
We look forward to open and honest dialogue with the city of Palm Springs, so we can work to create a model for short-term rentals that can be replicated in other cities. We believe that now is the time for Palm Springs to lead this space, and we urge the city council to fulfill its obligations to owners who have already paid the permitting fee and are ready to begin offsetting the cost of home ownership.
Thank you so much for your time.
The Open Air Homes Team & Brad Greiner, Founder & CEO of Open Air Homes