Is Enforcement of the Palm Springs Vacation Rental Ordinance “Working”? If so, How?

Part 4 in a Series on Vacation Rentals in Palm Springs

[Updated March 23, 2018 with a note about how Palm Springs Measure C puts enforcement of the ordinance at risk. Updated February 16, 2018 with new information about VRCD’s latest analysis of Hotline calls, and other updates from the department.]

In the previous article in this series, I took a historical look at how the current approach to addressing nuisance complaints about vacation rentals took shape. I also assessed how enforcement of the previous rules was working, so that we’d have a baseline for understanding how things have changed after more than 8 months of enforcement of the new rules.

Now let’s look at what has happened since enforcement of Ordinance №1918 began.

Aside: This article is long. In case it puts you in a “too long; didn’t read” mood, let me just summarize it by saying: The new ordinance is working. Citations for violations are being issued at a much higher rate. More properties that have been the subject of complaints are being suspended. Unregistered properties are being identified and cited. The ordinance has also played a role in slowing — and even reversing — growth in the total number of vacation rentals.

Major Changes in On-property Enforcement

Ordinance 1918 represents a significant change in how complaints are handled and how citations are issued. It might best be described this way:

  • Vacation Rental Compliance department staff now respond first to Vacation Rental Hotline complaint calls. Property managers are not given an opportunity to resolve the call first. There are no “warnings” prior to issuance of a citation. We also see that City responders only call upon managers to respond in cases where the manager’s presence or assistance is absolutely required. (And these situations are fairly rare.)
  • Response to complaint calls now has a very different focus: Unlike under the previous ordinance, nuisance resolution is now simultaneous with citation issuance. VRCD responders are of course tasked with remediating any nuisance or disturbance, but they also issue citations when they find a violation of the ordinance.

For example, if enforcement officials arrive and hear outdoor amplified music or establish that music can be heard at the adjacent property line, they advise guests of the violation and write them a citation for music.

If the complaint is about (non-musical) noise, they will take a sound level measurement and, if noise exceeds the levels specified in the City’s general noise ordinance, they will issue a citation for noise.

In the case of parking complaints, they identify guest vehicles and will issue a citation if the number of guest vehicles exceeds the permitted number.

Citations and “Strikes”

In the case of music, noise, and vehicles overlimit violations, the citation is usually issued to the responsible guest. However, that citation also counts as a “strike” against the property. (And, as a reminder, three “strikes” in a 12 month period can result in the property’s vacation rental permit being suspended for 2 years.)

In cases where the guests are uncooperative or unresponsive, the citation may be issued to the property owner/manager. Again, this also counts as a “strike” against the property.

Other types of citations, such as those for trash in public view, are typically issued to the property owner/manager.

Aside: The fines for various types of infractions are much higher under Ordinance №1918 than in the past.

On-property citations for noise/music/trash are $500 for a first citation and $1000 for any following citations. For a short summary of fine schedules, see this Vacation Rental Compliance Department document, “Courtesy Reminder — Violations, Fines and Penalties.”

What Effects has this Change in Enforcement Had?

Now that we’ve had many months of this new approach to enforcement, we can see some clear differences in the time before Ordinance 1918 and the time since. These differences are described below.

Is the ordinance working? In short: If our goal is an increased number of citations and an increased number of permit suspensions, the answer is yes.

February 16 2018 Update from the Vacation Rental Compliance Department

As part of the City’s impact report on the effects that a vacation rental ban would have on Palm Springs, the VRCD provided an update on enforcement activities since the introduction of the new ordinance through December 31, 2017. They report the following (and I’ll note that my own research confirms most of these facts):

  • There has been a 50% increase in administrative citations issued.
  • Issued over 165 citations for illegally operating vacation rentals or homeshares.
  • 8 Vacation Rental Certificate suspensions and 2 Vacation Rental Certificate revocations.
  • Owners of 55 properties deemed permanently ineligible to operate a vacation rental (due to being cited for “Failure to Register”).
  • Fines associated with citations total $585,000.
  • A 39% decrease in complaints reported via the Vacation Rental Hotline.
  • Average response to resolution time has improved to 23 minutes for complaints via Vacation Rental Hotline, during peak days (Thursday-Sunday).
  • Increased positive feedback from residents, stakeholders, vacation rental owners, and vacation rental agents.
  • Police Department involvement in vacation rental matters has decreased by 90%.

Objective, Impartial Assessment of Nuisance Complaints

Nuisance complaints are assessed in a more objective manner and the findings of City responders (and the actions they take) are documented in Hotline call summary reports. We no longer have to take the word of local property managers about what was happening at the property.

When citations are issued, we see the reason for the citation. For example: In cases of non-musical noise, responders report a decibel reading for the noise and issue citations only when the level is over proscribed limits.

(It is frustrating that, when music citations are issued, we typically do not know the loudness of the music — there’s no requirement that music exceed any particular volune level. Reports may sometimes say something about the music being “loud” or they may simply say that music was “heard.” Was it barely audible? Below the ambient noise level? Above limits proscribed in the noise ordinance? We don’t know. It would be interesting and useful to understand what number of music citations would not have been citations had the same observation been made at a non-vacation rental home.)

Weekly Hotline Reports, which summarize all calls to the Hotline, can be found on the VRCD’s Weekly Hotline Reports page. (I also maintain my own database of these reports, which power my own mapping and analysis of this data. The latest findings can always be found on my Palm Springs Vacation Rental Hotline Map project page.)

Nuisance Complaints are Declining, According to VRCD

[Added Feb. 15, 2018] In its January 2018 analysis of Hotline calls and other enforcement activity from August through December 2017, the Vacation Rental Compliance Department notes that, compared to the same period in 2016, the number of qualified calls about registered vacation rentals decreased by 39%.

This remarkable decrease (from 526 to 307 calls) happened even though the total number of registered vacation rentals increased slightly (from 1967 in Dec 2016 to 1986 in Dec 2017 — an increase of slightly less than 1%).

It’s unclear what might explain this substantial reduction in complaints, but likely contributing factors include:

  1. the hosted check-in/”meet and greet” provisions of Ordinance 1918 may be better educating guests about noise and other issues,
  2. more reliable and prompt City-first response may be reducing the need for repeated calls about the same incidents,
  3. the number of spurious or knowingly false calls (which are a citeable offense under the new ordinance) may have fallen,
  4. other provisions of Ordinance 1918 — such as reduced guest occupancy and vehicle limits, and limits on the number of contracts per year — may have reduced the number of nuisance situations.

It would seem that fewer residents are feeling the need to contact the Vacation Rental Hotline, that neighbors are contacting the Hotline less frequently, and that registered short-term rentals are causing substantially fewer issues (both real and perceived) under the new ordinance.

Citation Rates have Risen by about 50%

As we might expect: With new opportunities for citation issuance and with local property managers relieved of the responsibility to address complaints in advance of City enforcement officials, the number and frequency of citations has risen.

Since 4/16 (when enforcement of Ordinance №1918 began), the citation rate has steadily risen as enforcement of various provisions of 1918 were rolled out and as new VRCD staff has been hired and trained.

Today, nuisance calls about permitted vacation rental properties result in a citation roughly 20% of the time (at present, the exact value is over 18% and varies somewhat, depending upon the time period one looks at). In the period before 4/16, the citation rate was under 14%, at best (as described in my previous article in this series). That is, the citation rate is roughly 50% higher today than it was under Ordinance №1848.

There are some who might feel that this increase isn’t particularly dramatic. And there are some in our community who claim this illustrates that enforcement is still a “failure.” I don’t think one can seriously make that claim anymore.

I think what this illustrates instead is our failure to understand the nature of nuisance and disturbance complaints in general, and against vacation rentals in particular. More on this in a minute.

More Properties are Facing Permit Suspension

The increase in the rate of citation issuance, combined with the “three strikes” rule, is resulting in the suspension of an increasing number of permits. At the time of this writing (12/19/2017), there are 8 properties on the VRCD’s suspension list. (The list of suspended properties can be found on the VRCD’s reports page.)

The suspension list includes both properties that have long been the subject of regular and ongoing nuisance complaints, as well as properties that have only recently been the subject of complaints and citations. (I’ll dive deeper into the issue of homes with a high number of complaint calls in a future article.)

At present, suspension is enforced as follows: The Vacation Rental Compliance Department is suspending permits more-or-less immediately upon the issuance of a “third strike” against the property. While on suspension, which lasts for 24 months, the property is prohibited from being rented short-term.

The immediate suspension of properties upon a third strike has raised some concerns around due process. For example, some have argued that, since a citation can be appealed, suspension should not occur until any appeal of the third (or even previous) citations has been resolved.

It should be noted that several suspensions have been appealed and all of those suspensions have been upheld on appeal. (The suspension appeals process involves a hearing by the citizen-staffed Palm Springs Administrative Appeals Board. More information on the citation and appeal process can be found on this VRCD page. Meetings and minutes of the Administrative Appeals Board are found here.)

I understand that some suspension cases are being appealed in Riverside County Court. Not every suspension has been appealed to the Administrative Appeals Board and there may be cases where permit holders are taking their suspension appeal directly to County Court.

A Closer Look at Nuisance Citation Rates

At present, about 18% of actionable Hotline calls about permitted vacation rentals result in a citation, while more than 80% do not. Some might feel that this citation rate is surprisingly low. What explains the fact that such a large percentage of calls don’t result in a citation?

City-first response to Hotline complaints has shown us something quite clearly:

It has shown us, objectively, that nuisance complaints are simply less reliable than we might expect. This seems to be the nature of nuisance complaints in general — they are very subjective and callers are not always correct about the source of a reported nuisance.

Additionally, we might say that a nuisance report, in and of itself, doesn’t always reflect the severity of the situation. A large number of reported nuisances simply do not rise to the level of a citation-worthy offense.

For example: That a caller heard sounds is likely true. That those sounds were above proscribed noise limits is not always the case. (Similarly, it isn’t unusual for responders to find that the source of a particular noise is actually coming from somewhere other than the reported address.) That a caller observed cars or parking issues is likely true. That those issues are due to short-term rental guest vehicles in excess of proscribed limits is not always the case.

Further, nearly 9% of calls about permitted short-term rentals result in responders finding that the home is occupied by its owner. When owner occupied, the home is not subject to the more stringent rules that apply to short-term residents.

These are but a few examples of why complaint calls do not result in citations at anywhere near a one-to-one ratio.

Some Interesting Variations in Citation Rates

When we examine calls and responder findings in more detail, we actually see some very interesting variations in citation rates. While overall, calls about VRs generate citations in about 18% of cases, the citation rate for certain types of calls can be higher or lower.

Here are some interesting examples:

Complaints about music: Vacation rental guests are not allowed to enjoy outdoor amplified music at any volume (and amplified sound or music from indoors must not be audible at the adjacent property line). Does this “zero tolerance” type of regulation increase citation rates? Yes it does:

  • Between 4/16 and 12/10 there are 351 Hotline call reports about permitted VR properties where the caller mentions “music”. 97 of them resulted in a citation. That’s a citation rate of more than 27%, significantly higher than the overall average.

It should be noted that, during the same period, there were an additional 47 calls about “music” at properties that were not registered as vacation rentals. 22 of those calls were about addresses that VRCD has determined are not being operated as unregistered vacation rentals. 21 of those calls were about addresses where the property could possibly be an unregistered vacation rental, but the results of the VRCD’s investigation is currently unknown to me. 4 of those calls were about properties (two of them) that VRCD determined were unregistered vacation rentals (and both have been issued citations for “Failure to Register”).

  • Even if we include those 47 calls, we would still find the citation rate is higher than average for complaints specifically about music — roughly 24%.

Homes with a low number of calls: Between 4/16 and 12/10, there were 227 registered VRs that were the subject of just one call. Such calls represented about 29% of actionable call volume during the period.

  • 47 of those calls resulted in a citation. That’s a citation rate of about 21% — again, somewhat higher than the overall average.

Homes with a high number of calls: Between 4/16 and 12/10, there were 35 registered VRs that were the subject of five or more calls. Though these addresses represent only about 1.6% of all registered VRs, they account for about 30% of actionable call volume during the period (slightly more calls than homes with just one call received):

  • 33 out of 250 calls resulted in a citation. That’s a citation rate of about 13% — much lower than the overall average and much lower than the citation rate for homes that appear infrequently.
  • These types of calls contribute significantly to bringing down the overall citation rate and could be said to mask the effectiveness of current enforcement efforts.

“Call Quality”

Based on the observations above, I’ve started to think about citation rate not just as a measure of enforcement activity, but also as a measure of what we might describe as “call quality”.

Calls about “music” could be said to have a higher-than-average call quality. Calls about homes that appear infrequently in Hotline reports have a slightly higher-than-average call quality. Calls about homes that appear frequently in Hotline reports have a dramatically lower call quality.

The common assumption about vacation rentals that are frequently the subject of complaints is that they must be “bad actors” — mismanaged, poorly adhering to rules, a “Party House”, etc. While there may be examples of such properties among this group of homes, it would seem that as a group, they are actually less likely to be found causing a citeable nuisance in response to any given call.

Call Quality and Homes with a High Number of Calls

What explains the fact that — as a category — homes that are more frequently the subject of Hotline calls are the subject of low-quality calls? Though such homes are small in number, this observation isn’t a statistical fluke. I’ve observed this inverse relationship between call frequency and call quality under the prior ordinance as well as under the new ordinance.

Additionally, some of the homes in this category have been the subject of calls from 2016 and earlier (before the time that Hotline reports were published weekly).

I’ve wondered about this and have investigated this issue in more detail, which I’ll describe in a future article. In the meantime, several possible (and not mutually-exclusive) explanations come to mind:

  • Do these homes have a neighbor (or neighbors) who is hyper-sensitive to noise or other nuisances? (i.e., do they complain about things that the average neighbor would not consider an issue? Are they more likely to complain about disturbances that do not represent violations?)
  • Alternatively, could it be that neighbors of homes that generate a large number of complaints eventually become sensitized to noise and other nuisances and, over time, become more likely to call about issues that do not rise to the level of a citeable offense?
  • Are some portion of these calls motivated not so much by the actual disturbance itself, but by “activism”? This is not to imply that such calls are knowingly false. However, might some of them be made in an effort to “police” various aspects of the vacation rental ordinance? (e.g., “There seem to be a lot of cars around, is a rental near me responsible for this? I’d better make sure.”)
  • A related possibility: Are some portion of these calls (while not knowingly false) made, in part, with a goal of making enforcement look lax or ineffective (or in an effort to inflate complaint statistics)? (e.g., “There is noise from next door, it’s not music and it’s not at a level that would generate a citation. But I’m going to register a complaint anyway.”)
  • Is it possible that some portion of these calls are examples of knowingly false reports or evidence of harassment? (Ordinance №1918 makes knowingly false reports a citeable offense, but this is very difficult — if not impossible — to enforce.)
  • Is it possible that certain homes are targeted or appear targeted for other (“non-activist”) reasons? (e.g., “Ugh, kids in the pool again. I hate the sound of kids in the pool.”)

I’ll share more about what we know about high-call volume homes in a future article.

What About Administrative Citations?

Previously, I’ve been discussing nuisance complaints and “on-property” violations of the vacation rental ordinance. But these are just one type of citation that might be issued to a vacation rental permit holder.

The VRCD has been very active in enforcing the various administrative components of the ordinance, and the following are examples of how those regulations are currently being enforced.

“Failure to Post Permit” Citations

For example, there are rules around advertising a vacation rental. All registered VRs are required to display their “City ID number” in advertising. (The original purpose of this was to assist VRCD in identifying unregistered short-term rentals.) Citations for “Failure to Post Permit” are issued when the VRCD finds vacation rental listings and other types of advertising where the owner or manager neglected to post this information.

The VRCD expended a great deal of effort in the early part of 2017 to ensure compliance with this requirement while also working to identify any unregistered vacation rentals. They reviewed more than 1800 listings and identified several (fewer than 20) unregistered vacation rentals and homeshares. At the same time, they found a greater number of registered properties that had neglected to properly post their permit numbers.

VRCD reports that from 4/16/17 to 12/31/17, they issued more than 165 citations for “Failure to Register” a vacation rental or homeshare. Of these, it would seem that about 55 were for operating a vacation rental without a permit and the rest for unregistered homeshares.

A New Type of Advertising Citation

With increased staffing and resources, VRCD has seemingly been not just maintaining, but increasing their reviews of vacation rental advertising. Evidence for this includes the appearance of a never-before-seen type of advertising violation:

Citations have been issued to permit holders for improperly advertising their maximum occupancy. For example, a home with 3 bedrooms can host a maximum of 6 adult guests overnight. Additionally, the rules allow for 2 children, ages 12 and younger.

Is the home’s maximum occupancy 6 or 8? And how is an owner or manager to express this on a vacation rental listing site? (Every site has a slightly different interface for such things. Not all of them differentiate between number of adults versus number of children.) If an owner/manager wants to maximize the chances of getting an inquiry, they might set such a value to 8, rather than 6, even if they must at times turn away guests with 7 or 8 adults.

It would seem that some advertisers, on some listing sites, had done just that.

Though there is no explicit requirement or guidance in Ordinance №1918 around advertisement of maximum occupancy (nor any explicit prohibition on what we might call “soliciting for over-occupancy”), citations have been issued to properties that the VRCD deems to be advertising an incorrect maximum occupancy.

There was no administrative regulation issued in advance, nor any advance guidance from VRCD about this issue. This is somewhat unusual, as the City and VRCD staff has previously been fairly diligent in communicating about changes in interpretations of the Vacation Rental Ordinance and administrative rules changes (see, for example, the various clarifications posted on VRCD’s Governance & Communications page).

At least one citation of this type has been appealed (via arbitration) and the citation was upheld. It may be the subject of further appeals. At any rate, compliance staff continue to actively enforce all parts of Ordinance №1918, even to the point of getting a bit creative with some of its provisions.

“Failure to Register” Citations

All of the preceding discussion was about rules and regulations that apply to registered vacation rentals and vacation rental permit holders. While compliance with registration requirements is actually very high, there are some number of homes that are operated as short-term rentals without the required permit. (I’ve written at length on the issue of how many unregistered vacation rentals there might be in Palm Springs and will soon update that article based on findings published in the VRCD’s next quarterly report.)

Under Ordinance №1918, “Failure to Register” is a very serious offense that can result in (1) a citation and $5000 fine and (2) make the owner permanently ineligible to ever be issued a short-term rental permit.

These provisions of the ordinance are being very actively enforced by VRCD staff. We do not yet have information from VRCD on how many “Failure to Register” citations have been issued in recent months, but there have been at least 21 appeals of such citations (and the owners’ permanent ineligibility to receive a permit) since Ordinance №1918 went into effect:

  • In the vast majority of those appeals, the citation and ineligibility were upheld.
  • In about 5 of those cases, the citation was upheld, but the owners avoided permanent ineligibility for a permit by adhering to a corrective action plan and coming into compliance with registration requirements. (And some of these cases involved homesharing, rather than owner-absent vacation rentals.)
  • In just one case, the citation and ineligibility were entirely dismissed because the owner established that it was their long-term rental tenants who had (unbeknownst to the owner) been subletting the home as an unregistered short-term rental.

Prior to Ordinance №1918, VRCD was focused on bringing unregistered rentals into compliance with registration requirements. While owners were cited and fined, they were allowed to take corrective action — including paying previously unremitted Transient Occupancy Tax — to obtain a permit and come into compliance with all requirements of the Vacation Rental Ordinance.

In the early months of 1918 enforcement, the acceptance of corrective action plans seems to have continued. However, I am told that VRCD is no longer entertaining corrective action plans, in the case of traditional (owner-absent) vacation rentals. (The situation with homesharing seems to be different. As registration requirements for homeshares are new, VRCD is focused on bringing homesharing hosts into compliance with registration, rather than making them ineligible to obtain a permit.)

As I mentioned in the second article in this series, VRCD primarily identifies unregistered vacation rentals and homeshares by reviewing listings on the various vacation rental websites. Less frequently, unregistered rentals are identified by Hotline calls or “Requests for Review” submitted to the department.

VRCD staff are looking not just for obvious cases of unregistered vacation rental activity. They are also examining properties that advertise themselves as monthly or seasonal rentals.

Such long-term rentals are, of course, not subject to the vacation rental ordinance. However, if a monthly or seasonal rental property is advertised in such a way as to imply that the owner might consider a shorter-duration stay, such properties may be cited.

I’ve aware of a couple of examples of this so far:

  • In one of the Failure to Register appeals cases, the owner of a monthly rental property claimed that he had simply been testing the market for short-term rentals (by making his availability calendar settings less than 28 days) to see if his home might be viable as a short-term rental. He claimed he had never actually rented the home for durations of less than 28 days. The citation and ineligibility for a permit was upheld.
  • I was contacted by another owner of a condominium unit located in a complex that does not allow short-term rentals, who had been cited for Failure to Register. That owner explained to me that they do not make that particular property available for rentals of less than 28 days. However, they had set their calendar to allow inquiries for a short as 7 days. I was told that when they received short-term inquiries, they would refer those renters to the management of several timeshare properties the owner has an interest in.

Situations such as these prompted the City to issue an administrative regulation that clarifies what “Operation of a Vacation Rental” means. That regulation reiterates that the act of advertising the short-term availability of a property without a permit is prohibited and is the same thing as operating a vacation rental. (It also specifically mentions activities such as “testing the market” for short-term rental viability.)

New Data on Failure to Register Citations

[Updated Feb. 15, 2018] In its January 2018 report on Hotline call activity, the VRCD reports that they received 164 calls from August through December 2017 that they marked as “VRCD to Investigate.” These are situations where Hotline callers have reported issues at an address that is not on the VRCD’s list of registered rentals. This number also seems to include properties that were submitted for review via the “Request for Investigation” page on the VRCD’s website.

Not all of these calls discover unregistered short-term rentals, of course. It seems that sometimes Hotline callers mistakenly use the service as a general noise or code complaint line. (For example, the Hotline received several calls about the “Robolights” holiday display/event house in December. VRCD officers who were on patrol at the time followed up since they were in the area.)

But some percentage of such calls do sometimes discover properties that are being rented short-term without the required permit. Here’s what VRCD found as a result of its investigations:

  • 67 calls (41%) were about properties that VRCD confirmed are not operating as VRs (either registered or not).
  • 16 calls (10%) that had been marked for investigation were confirmed to be about registered VRs
  • 40 calls (24%) were about properties that have been confirmed to be operating without a permit. VRCD issued 14 “Failure to Register” citations as a result.
  • 41 calls (25%) were about properties that were still under investigation by VRCD at the time they issued their report in January 2018.

How has Permit Issuance Changed?

There’s one final way in which the new ordinance is having what many would consider to be a positive effect: It seems to be playing a role in reducing the number of net new vacation rental permits being issued.

Over the past several years, the growth in the number of vacation rental permits had been a source of concern for many in Palm Springs. As council members Kors and Roberts put it in November 2016, “The concern is that the rapidly growing vacation rental industry — STRs have doubled to 2,000 since 2009 — is changing the very fabric of our neighborhoods.”

While one could argue whether that apparent “growth” rate is accurate — consider that vacation rental registration requirements went into effect in 2008 and by 2009 it’s extremely unlikely that compliance with registration was anywhere near 100% yet —such concerns are valid. Surely we wouldn’t desire for short-term rentals to displace all available rental properties, for example.

Ordinance №1918 does not really address the issue of permit growth directly. For example: It places no cap on the total number of permits (theoretically, nearly every Palm Springs residential property owner could hold one), nor does it place limits on the density or proximity of permitted properties. (Such provisions were discussed but not adopted for various reasons, not the least of which was a lack of data about what impact such changes might have.)

However, the ordinance does address the issue indirectly and changing the rate of permit issuance is clearly one of the intents of the ordinance. This seems to be having the intended effect:

  • As of November 2016, there were 1,974 registered vacation rentals. As of November 2017, the number stands at 1,985. (That’s a growth rate of just 0.55% in the past year, far less than we’ve seen in the past.)
  • Further, the number of registered properties peaked in April 2017 (when the ordinance went into effect) at 2,135. Since that time, there has been a net 7% decline in permits (a decline of 150 permits, to a total of 1,985).
  • In the 7 months of May through November 2017, the net number of permits declined in all but one month. (The number of permits grew by just 1 — one single permit, not 1% mind you— in October 2017.)

What Components of Ordinance 1918 are Affecting Permit Growth?

Ordinance №1918 indirectly limits permit growth in a variety ways, including:

  • It prohibits business entities from holding vacation rental permits. We don’t have data yet on how many such properties are effected, but it seems the number of these permits is very small. (And I’ll update this information as we learn more.)
  • It prohibits apartments (and multi-family dwelling units like duplexes and triplexes) and compound/cluster type vacation rentals from holding vacation rental permits and sunsets existing permits. Many of the properties affected by this change have already exited the vacation rental market, well in advance of the sunset date. The number of permits affected by that change is relatively small (possibly 143 permits associated with 53 properties, based on this City staff report on the issue — which would be about 7% of total permits).
  • While nearly any homeowner can obtain a vacation rental permit, they are limited to just one active permit at a time.
  • Limits on the number of contracts per year and some of the other compliance requirements of the ordinance have encouraged some owners to cease renewing their permits.
  • Homes that are part of HOAs (such as condominiums) must now provide proof (in the form of a letter from the HOA) that use of the property as a short-term rental does not violate HOA prohibitions when they apply for or renew their vacation rental permits.

Post Script: The Measure C Vacation Rental Ban Puts Effective Vacation Rental Enforcement at Risk

Palm Springs Measure C — a ballot measure which attempts to ban the vast majority of short-term rentals in Palm Springs — is coming to the June 2018 ballot. One of the major problems with Measure C is that, while making nearly all existing Palm Springs vacation rentals illegal, it also would also result in the dismantling of the City’s Vacation Rental Compliance Department and enforcement capabilities.

As noted by our Mayor and City Council, bans do not work. Illegal short-term rentals will appear or remain, but the City will be without resources to enforce the rules against them. A small number of legal rentals will remain, but enforcement resources for ensuring their ongoing compliance with the ordinance will be severely curtailed.

The City Attorney’s impartial analysis of Measure C confirms this, writing, “Measure C passage would leave the City unable to fund vacation rental enforcement at or near present levels, and result in the termination of the City’s Vacation Rental Compliance Department as it currently operates.”

If you share my support for sensible short-term rental regulations and effective enforcement, I encourage you to join me in opposing Measure C. You will find yourself in good company: Our Mayor and City Council, Police and Firefighters, Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce, Main Street Palm Springs, Palm Springs Hospitality Association, PS Resorts, and many others oppose Measure C. Learn more about why we should Vote NO on Palm Springs Measure C at

For Further Reading

Other articles in this series:

As other articles in this series are released, I’ll link to them here.

Related Resources

Elrod Villa is a luxury vacation home rental close to downtown Palm Springs with private pool & spa, gorgeous mountain views & sleeps six guests. City ID #1234.

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