Palm Springs Vacation Rental Hotline Calls: Observations from 12 Weeks of Reports

Or, I read 454 Vacation Rental Hotline Call Summaries so you don’t have to. Here’s what I found.

[Update 5/23/17: Those with an interest in Palm Springs vacation rentals will want to know about a new organization organizing and supporting owners of licensed vacation rental properties in Palm Springs. Vacation Rental Owners and Neighbors of Palm Springs (VRON-PS) is dedicated to “preserving Palm Springs’ rich history of vacation rentals and home-sharing through education, awareness, and the promotion of responsible vacation rental ownership and management.” I’ve joined this group and urge other Palm Springs vacation rental permit holders to join us as well. Shortly after its formation, VRON-PS learned of a proposed ballot initiative that seeks to modify the recently-updated Palm Springs Vacation Rental Ordinance in such a way that it would ban nearly all short-term rentals in Palm Springs. More on this in future articles.]

As you might know, I’ve been and analyzing the Vacation Rental Hotline Call Summary reports published by the City of Palm Springs Vacation Rental Compliance Department (“VRCD”) since they started publishing weekly summaries of Hotline calls in February of this year in my Palm Springs Vacation Rental Hotline Call Map project (see that page for a lot more detail).

Now that enforcement of the recently updated Vacation Rental Ordinance has gone into effect (as of April 16th), I thought it would be a good time to summarize some observations from the entire period and to also compare the February 5 — April 15th period (when property managers were tasked with responding first to issues reported to the hotline) to the April 16 — April 30th period (in which City staff respond to calls first).

Some key findings are summarized in the table image below:

Key statistics compiled from VRCD Hotline Reports, February-April 2017


Call Summary Volume

Over this roughly 3-month period, there were a total of 454 summaries of calls to the Vacation Rental Hotline. As can be seen from VRCD’s monthly call volume data, Hotline call volume is seasonal and (surprising to me) doesn’t always correspond to vacation rental occupancy. While call volume is understandably higher during busy periods like April’s “Festival Season”, it also trends higher in summer months (when occupancy is substantially lower), presumably because of more outdoor activities.

The February and March period were fairly quiet for the Hotline, but the Hotline saw a lot more use in April (which brings various festival-goers to town). City-first response to calls began on Sunday, April 16th (during the first weekend of Coachella Music Festival) and, in addition to high-occupancy associated with the various festivals, I believe that awareness of the new ordinance and some of its new provisions (particularly around vehicle limits), and better awareness of the Hotline contributed to the higher number of call summaries in April. (For example, from reading the summaries I see a clear increase in calls about parking and occupancy issues starting mid-April. More on this below.)

Expressed statistically: In the period before City-first response there were an average of 4.71 Hotline call summaries per day. This increased to an average of 8.86 call summaries per day in the City-first time period. Over the entire period, the Hotline averaged 5.40 call summaries per day.

As you might expect, call volume is higher over weekends, as vacation rental occupancy (like hotel occupancy) in Palm Springs tends to be higher on weekends. The highest volume call day was Friday, 4/14, with 36 calls summarized. There were 12 days in the total period with zero call summaries.

Addresses Reported, Number of Vacation Rental Permits, and Properties Receiving Multiple Calls

The 454 call summaries related to 206 unique, real addresses.

Note: There were about 4 call summaries where callers reported “address unknown” or a non-existent address and no response could be made. Also, as part of this analysis, I’ve taken great pains to ensure that “unique addresses” count is as correct as possible (. Often, Hotline Summary reports will render a given address in varying ways. For example, “100 S Elm Street” may be rendered as “100 S. Elm”, “100 S Elm”, “100 Elm Street S”, etc. I’ve rationalized all of these so that counts of numbers of calls per address are correct. A less careful analysis could easily overestimate the number of unique homes that received complaints.)
[Edit 05/09/17: Found several more duplicates in the dataset and several more calls about unknown addresses — original 214 number corrected to 206. (I told you this was hard…)]

During this period, there were roughly 2000 short-term rental permits in Palm Springs (the exact number of permits as of March data was 2088). So homes that generated calls to the Hotline represented about 10% of all permitted vacation rentals.

Of the 206 reported addresses, about 58% (120) had only one call summary, 19% (39) had two call summaries, 9% (19) had three call summaries, and 14% (28) had four or more call summaries.
[Edit 05/09/17: Corrected the above numbers for accuracy.]

Understanding Call Summaries

In general, any call to the Hotline related to a complaint or disturbance issue generates a summary (which describes the nature of the incoming call, who responded to the call, what the responding party or parties found, and whether a citation was issued).

An example of the types of information reported in Hotline Call Summaries, as shown on my map project page. Summaries as they come from the city are provided in Adobe Acrobat PDF form, formatted like a spreadsheet. Summaries of calls from each week are now published weekly (typically on Fridays for the previous week).

Most of the call summaries describe an incoming compliant, and the ensuing manager/City response and resolution. However, there are occasionally incidents that result in multiple summaries. And there are occasionally calls that are not complaints (for example, in some cases we see an owner/manager calling the Hotline back for more info and those calls will generate a new summary).

My point is that there’s not a pure 1:1 correspondence between call summaries and “complaints.” When looking at the data in aggregate I don’t think it’s statistically significant, but it’s worth noting. (This same issue creates a slight problem with accurately counting citations — there were a couple of multiple-summary cases where it’s not entirely clear if there were, for example, 1 or 2 citations resulting from a certain incident. Again, the effect is small, resulting in at most a +/-2 “margin of error” in the count of total citations in this particular period.)

From February 5 through April 15th, summaries described both the local property manager’s initial response and the City’s follow-up response to a given call. From April 16th on, the City is first responder, so those summaries no longer have an entry for manager response. Follow-up interaction between City and local property managers may be described in the resolution of the call.

Note [Added 5/9/17]: Since first publishing this article I learned that, at present, the VRCD does not pro-actively notify local response contacts that a call to the Hotline was received about their property. So, particularly in cases where a call was made and City responders find no issue, the owner and/or manager may have no way to know that such a call occurred unless they actively review Hotline call reports (which are not published until a week or more after the incident).
This is a potential issue with City-first response that I had not yet considered. I’ve suggested to VRCD officials that more pro-active and timely notification in such cases would to beneficial in several ways.
In the meantime, I would recommend that concerned permit holders check the Hotline call summary reports periodically. They can be found in the Weekly Hotline Reports Section of VRCD’s Reports Page and are typically published each Friday for the preceding week.

Citations During the Period

Noise Citations (Noise, Amplified Music, Music at Property Line)

One of the things I’ve been most interested to see with “City-first” enforcement is whether citations for noise would increase. Many had theorized that we would see more noise citations issued as local property manager contacts would no longer be tasked with addressing noise complaints first (before follow-up by City staff).

On the other hand, the point of the Hotline is to provide a means of quickly mitigating noise, disturbances and other issues and past reports show that City responders are very much focused on resolving problems or complaints and are not simply showing up to issue citations. When one reads the summaries, one sees that even if City responders find no citeable issue (and they do enforce the City’s noise ordinance using sound level meters), they often make contact with vacation renters and counsel them about Palm Springs local ordinances.

That being said, there was a significant increase in the frequency of noise citations during the City First response period. Note that vacation rental guests are subject to the same noise restrictions as any other Palm Springs residents with two exceptions — they are not allowed to enjoy amplified music outside (at any volume) and music must not be audible at the property line (again, regardless of whether it exceeds decibel limits or not).

Noise/Outdoor Amplified Music/Music at Property Line Citations

During the PM First response time period, there were 12 citations issued for noise/music violations, meaning that 3.64% of Hotline responses found a citeable noise offense. During the City First period, 11 noise/music citations were issued, meaning that citeable noise offenses were found in 8.87% of cases. For the total period, citeable noise offenses were found in 5.07% of cases.

(In the tables, I’ve called these “Citation Rates” for lack of a better term. A “Citation Rate” is the number of citations in a period divided by the number of call summaries in the period, expressed as a percentage.)

Failure to Respond Citations

Under the previous ordinance, local managers associated with each permit were responsible for responding first to Hotline complaints and had 45 minutes to respond and resolve the issue. If there was no response from the local contact within the required timeframe, the VRCD would issue them a citation for “failure to respond.”

VRCD was not shy about issuing these sorts of citations: These were surprisingly common in the “PM First” time period and far outstripped other types of citations. During that period, there were 28 citations for failure to respond (8.48% of calls resulted in such a citation). As an interesting aside, in all but one of those cases, no other citation was issued (that is, responders found no citeable issue at the property).

Failure to Respond Citations: More of less a thing of the past.

I had been tracking this statistic to get a read on what “City first” response would be like and how that might change the total number of citations issued. My point was that, while noise citations might go up, the total rates of citation issuance would probably go down. This effect is seen pretty clearly in the data so far. Going forward, this is probably a meaningless statistic — we may see occasional “failure to respond” citations, but they will not be so prominent as we see them in the 2/5–4/15 period.

Failure to Register Citations

Occasionally, callers to the Hotline will report an issue at an address which does not seem to be a registered vacation rental. This creates a bit of a problem for the Hotline as their resources are dedicated exclusively to responding to issues involving registered, short-term rentals.

Sometimes the caller has mistakenly identified a long-term/seasonal rental or non-renting neighbor as a vacation rental. Other times (rarely, it seems) the property is being rented short-term, but the property is not registered.

In either case, if these calls involve a disturbance, they are referred to PSPD for response. VRCD then follows up to investigate whether the property is an unregistered vacation rental.

During this period, there were 3 call summaries (0.66% of calls in the total period) that involved unregistered vacation rentals, resulting in citations for 2 unregistered properties that were being rented short-term without a valid permit.

Failure to Register Citations

By the way, the VRCD now provides a way for residents to report non-urgent matters (such as a suspected unregistered operation of a vacation rental). Visit the VRCD’s Request for Review page for details.

Over-Occupancy Citations

Complaints specifically related to over-occupancy seem to be relatively rare and there was just 1 citation specifically for over-occupancy (and it was issued in the PM First period). There were 10 calls during the total period where callers mentioned occupancy, usually in the context of cars.

Over Occupancy Citations

Citations in Total and Unique Addresses

Looking at the data for all types of citations during these periods gives us a way to understand how the rate of citation issuance is trending over time. The “Total Citation Rate” is the ratio of total citations in a period, divided by the number of Hotline call summaries in the period.

Total Vacation Rental Related Citations from Hotline Call Response

For the PM First period, there were 44 total citations issued (0.63 citations per day on average), meaning that a citation resulted from 13.33% of calls. Keep in mind that that period included 28 “failure to respond” citations, however (representing 64% of all citations in that period). If we factor out the “failure to respond” citations, the citation rate becomes 4.85% for the PM First period.

For the City First response period, there were 11 total citations issued (0.79 citations per day), meaning that a citation resulted from 8.87% of calls.

Looking at the entire period, there were a total of 55 citations issued (0.65 citations per day), meaning that a citation resulted from 12.11% of calls.

Over the total period, citations went to guests or owners at 44 unique properties (about 2.2% of all registered vacation rentals). If we filter out the “failure to respond”-only citation summaries (where no on-property-related citation was also issued), this number drops to 26 unique properties (about 1.3% of registered vacation rentals).

Aside: I believe that all of the properties that were the subject of calls in this period were single-family homes. The only way we have of differentiating between those types of properties and condo/other HOA-controlled type properties would be a “unit” number associated with the address reported in the call summaries. I do not find a single instance of an address with a unit number. This is something that I’ve been meaning to ask VRCD about and feel it’s a subject worth exploring in future research.

Later in this report, I drill down on some of the details around all 44 of the properties that received citations during this period.

Calls when Owner Occupied

Hotline call summaries report whether the property was owner occupied (i.e., not being used as a short-term rental but occupied by the owner(s) themselves). The reason for this, as explained by VRCD is that, “when a home is being Owner Occupied and having a gathering that creates a nuisance, it is not handled as a Vacation Rental complaint since it is not considered a guest stay. The PSPD is responsible for owner occupied matters.”

Owner occupied stays are, of course, not subject to the stricter noise/music restrictions applied to short-term rental guests. (And do not count as contracted rental stays, don’t have to conform to the same occupancy, parking and other restrictions, etc. Owners can designate 5 “friends and family” contacts

Additionally, a vacation rental home on suspension can, of course, still be used by the owner or for long-term rental stays. We do see summaries in this time period where callers called the hotline about a suspended house being “rented” and the resolution determines that the home is instead owner-occupied.

So, while these are indeed calls to the Hotline, these represent cases that are not, strictly-speaking, related to short-term rental activity.

Hotline Call Summaries where Property was Owner-Occupied

Over the total period, 38 of 454 Hotline call summaries (8.37% of calls) found the home to be owner occupied. This is not to say that noise ordinance citations or pre-citation courtesy notices are never issued in such cases. (In this time period, there were at least 2 pre-citation courtesy notices for “loud noise” issued to 2 different owner-occupied homes, both of which were on the vacation rental suspension list.)

Parking/Vehicle Complaints and Citations

Under the new ordinance, there are parking/vehicle limits associated with vacation rental permits. In the past, though one could call the Hotline about parking/vehicle issues, there was only so much that responders could do. Responders didn’t have a mechanism for dealing with general congestion caused by excessive numbers of vehicles associated with short-term rental guests.

In the first 2 weeks of City First response, there has not yet been a citation issued specifically for violations of vehicle limitations, though responders have had local managers assist with resolving parking issues and complying with the now-applicable limits. (During the prior PM First period, there were 18 calls mentioning “cars” relating to 15 unique addresses. During the City First response period, there were 13 similar calls relating to 10 unique addresses.) In at least one case, a call about what seems to have been a party — that involved both too many vehicles and noise — resulted in a noise citation, breaking up the party, and alleviating the excess vehicle issue.

Under the new ordinance, more than 1 vehicle per bedroom is a citable offense. Residents are not being asked to “police” this aspect of the ordinance — the point is that, if there are (for example) 6 cars in use by a vacation rental on your block (most rentals are 4 bedrooms or fewer), this is something that one can legitimately call the Hotline about, and responders can (most importantly) require that over-limit vehicles be removed and, if necessary, issue a citation for this.

The intent of that particular part of the ordinance is to mitigate parking and congestion impacts of vacation rentals by limiting the number of vehicles allowed. I expect that VRCD will become increasingly strict about issuing citations for violations of vehicle limits over time as part of the rollout of enforcement of Ordinance 1918.

Occupancy limits (which are stricter under the new ordinance and which can be seen at the VRCD’s website, along with a lot of other helpful information) have a similar intent.


Who Responds to Vacation Rental Hotline Calls?

Calls to the vacation rental hotline are responded to by a mix of city code enforcement officials, USS (a private security service), Police and VRCD officials, depending upon availability and the nature of the call. The costs involved with responding to calls are funded by vacation rental permit application and renewal fees (which are currently $900 per year).

In some cases, multiple parties may respond to a single incident so one sometimes sees two types of responders noted in a call summary. Summing it all up, here are the percentages of calls responded to by various enforcement resources from 2/5/17 through 4/30/17:

  • USS Private Security: 39%
  • Code Enforcement: 27%
  • Police: 25%
  • VRCD Officials: 9%

Worth noting: Though City-first response did not begin until 4/16/17, all but one or two of the calls in the prior “PM First” period described in this article were in fact followed-up by on-property visits from at least one of these City response types.


Problem Homes and Problem Neighbors: Do They Exist?

In the debate around short-term rentals in Palm Springs, there’s an often repeated theory that there is a small percentage of homes with vacation rental permits which are “problem houses” that must be removed from vacation rental use.

Some argue that the provisions of the previous vacation rental ordinance, were they properly enforced, would be sufficient to “weed out” these bad actors. Some argue that additional, more stringent regulations (such as the stricter fines and penalties adopted in Ordinance 1918) are also required to remove such properties from the pool of available vacation rentals.

I myself felt that this was likely the case — and that such properties would quickly become visible by following and analyzing the Hotline reports. However, with just 12 weeks of data, it is difficult to determine if the proverbial “problem houses” actually exist and, if they do, how common they might be.

During this same debate, there have also been anecdotal reports of spurious, malicious or false reports against vacation rentals. In response to those concerns, Ordinance 1918 makes such reports an offense subject to citation and fine. I believe that such situations are rare. However, while there have not yet been any false report citations issued yet, there is some evidence that these protections are needed.

From examining the data thus far, I can say the following:

  • Beyond a (very) small number of egregious examples — more on this later — it is not clear that “problem houses” exist in any great number.
  • At least with the amount of data we currently have, the number of Hotline call summaries about a property is not yet a good measure of whether we might qualify that house as a “problem.” As more data accumulates, we might be able to use One has to examine the reports themselves to get a clearer picture. And since “calls” do not equate to “citations” (which are really the only objective measure we have of how disruptive a particular property might be), we have to drill down to understand what’s going on with any particular property (as I do below).
  • I continue to feel that Hotline call and citation volume is remarkably low, given the number of active vacation rental permits in Palm Springs. At present, the Hotline seems to be successful in mitigating issues quite quickly, usually without the need to issue a citation.
  • The preceding being said, we see a small number of homes generating numbers of calls that are so high that they are actually skewing the data in a statistically-significant way. During the period I’ve been discussing, for example, there are 4 homes (4 out of 2000, mind you) that generated more than 12% of Hotline call summaries. Below, I examine what’s up with that on a case-by-case basis. (Perhaps surprisingly, not all of the the high-complaint properties are obviously “problem houses”, but given the low bar for permit suspension now, they are significantly more likely to be at risk.)
  • From the period before consistent Hotline reporting started, there were already 6 properties on the VRCD’s suspension list (meaning that they are not allowed to be rented short-term and are subject to legal action, and now permanent suspension by the City if that occurs). A 7th property was added to that list on 4/17/17. These properties are subject to a great deal of scrutiny by VRCD. Hotline calls about homes on the suspension list are always responded to first by PSPD (other responders may follow-up or assist).
  • Ordinance 1918 sets the bar for suspension of a property’s permit fairly low. Under the new ordinance, 3 citations in a 12 month period can subject the property’s Vacation Rental Permit to suspension for 2 years. Fairly or unfairly, we will likely see properties fall into suspension with much greater frequency than we’ve seen in the past.

So, with these things in mind, let’s take a look at the properties that received citations from 2/5/17 through 4/30/17.


Examining the 44 Properties that Received Citations

As noted previously, the 55 Hotline-related citations issued during this period were associated with 44 unique property addresses (just 2.2% of all registered vacation rentals in Palm Springs).

We might expect that the number of Hotline call summaries that a property shows for the period would be well-correlated to the number of citations it received. And further, that there might be some clear trends. But it’s not, and there aren’t. Mostly because of the “law of small numbers”, once we get past properties with 4 call summaries, the sample set is so small that things get wacky.

The following table illustrates this point:

This chart shows the number of properties that had a certain number of Hotline call summaries associated with them and the likelihood that any of those properties received a citation (“citation rate”). [Edit 5/9/17: Corrected for accuracy.]

Additionally, during this period, no single property with an active permit received more than 3 citations. In fact, only one property had 3. The remaining 43 properties either received 1 citation (33 or 34 properties) or 2 citations (7 or 8 properties). There were 2 suspended properties that received (at least) 3 citations, but strictly-speaking these may not be “vacation rental” violations (both properties are described below, at any rate).

Note: There is one case where it is not clear whether the property received 1 or 2 citations, hence my uncertainty in the previous paragraph.

Mercifully, the total number of citations in this period is low enough that I could reasonably (but just barely) take a look at all of the individual citation-producing incidents and summarize those below, with an increasing level of detail as the number of calls increases.

(It is those few homes with a large number of calls where we more of the interesting stuff. If the first part bores you to tears, I encourage you to read on.)

Note: In the summaries below, I examine the Hotline call summaries for every property that was issued a citation. At that individual level of detail, one starts to the see the discrepancies between the number of Hotline call summaries, and the number of inbound calls or reported incidents. In my discussion below, when I say “calls”, I am usually referring to the actual number of calls received (as determined by actually reading each summary report). As noted previously — particularly where a citation is issues — sometimes a single incident will be summarized across multiple summaries. This is most apparent/vexing for homes that have 4–8 Hotline call summaries.

Properties with 1 Call Summary: 120 Homes, 15 Homes Cited

There were 120 properties in the period that have exactly 1 Hotline summary associated with them. Of those homes, 15 (12.50% of this group, or 0.75% of all permitted homes) received 1 citation. These citations were as follows:

  • 4 properties were issued noise citations (which may be excess noise, amplified music and music audible at property line violations).
  • Another 11 properties received “failure to respond” citations, but no other citeable offense was found.
  • In the remaining 105 cases, no citeable offense was found. (This does not imply that responders did nothing upon arrival. On the contrary, responders sometimes find “borderline” citeable situations, mitigate the disturbance and counsel renters on the Palm Springs ordinances. Even in cases where they do not find any sort of disturbance, guests are often advised of the rules anyway.)
  • These 120 Hotline call summaries here represent 58% of all Hotline summaries in the period.

[Edited 5/9/17: Above section corrected for accuracy.]

Properties with 2 Call Summaries: 39 Homes, 8 Homes Cited

There were 39 properties in the period with exactly 2 Hotline summaries associated with them. Of these homes, 8 (20.51% of this group, or 0.4% of all permitted homes) received 1 or 2 citations. These citations were as follows:

  • Property #1: 2 citations for 2 different incidents: 1 for failure to respond, 1 for music at property line.
  • Property #2: 1 citation for failure to respond. There were 2 calls from the same day in the “PM First” period. Both calls (one in the morning and one in the evening) were about parking issues (too many cars, some parked incorrectly) at the property. In the morning case, the property manager replied to the Hotline 1 minute late with the following information: “This was a meeting point for a group of people who went golfing. Unable to reach residents but will continue to try; should return in the afternoon.”
    Code enforcement did not respond in person as parking at that time was not part of the vacation rental code. In the evening call, PM responded promptly with info, “Guest will be moving cars and now in compliance.” USS followed up with in-person visit and reported, “Made contact with renter and gave verbal warning; told to park correctly.”
  • Property #3: 1 or 2 citations from the same day for “music at property line.” The summaries associated with this incident are unclear/confusing. Guests were uncooperative when contacted by City staff, property manager had to be re-contacted to assist.
  • Property #4: 1 citation for failure to respond, 1 citation to a guest for outdoor amplified music.
  • Property #5: 1 citation for failure to respond, relating to 2 complaints about a guest’s dog (which seems to have escaped from rental yard to neighbor’s yard and possibly became threatening — issue referred to animal control).
  • Property #6: 1 citation for failure to respond (to a call where no other citeable issue was found), second call summary was about a noise issue in which property manager warned guests of eviction in response to the compliant (no citation issued).
  • Property #7: Calls turned up an unlicensed vacation rental. 1 citation issued for “failure to register.”
  • Property #8: 1 citation for noise issued, in response to 2 calls about same noisy situation where City responders found an uncooperative guest.

Properties with 3 Call Summaries: 19 Homes, 9 Homes Cited

There were 19 properties in the period with exactly 3 Hotline summaries associated with them. Of these homes, 9 (47.37% of this group, or 0.45% of all permitted homes) received 1 or 2 citations. These citations were as follows:

  • Property #1: 1 citation for music at property line.
  • Property #2: 1 citation for failure to respond. The 3 summaries represent 3 separate noise complaints, none of which found a citeable noise offense.
  • Property #3: 1 citation for failure to respond. The 3 summaries represent 2 complaints on same day, 1 about noise, 1 about parking.
  • Property #4: 1 citation for failure to respond. The 3 summaries represent 3 separate noise complaints (no citeable noise violations found).
  • Property #5: 1 citation to guest for noise. The other 2 summaries represent one “owner occupied” situation, and one noise complaint with no citation but where guests were counseled on the rules.
  • Property #6: 1 citation to guest for noise. The summaries represent 3 separate calls on different dates.
  • Property #7: 1 citation for failure to respond (issue was a noise complaint where PSPD found no noise). The other 2 summaries relate to a separate noise compliant (1 summary describes a communications error, the other notes that USS responders found no activity from dwelling upon arrival).
  • Property #8: 1 citation to guest for amplified music. The other 2 summaries relate to parking complaints from a day when the property was part of the City-sponsored Modernism Week Tour event.
  • Property #9: 3 calls about 2 different situations. It’s not clear that a citation was actually issued. Call findings note that a “pre-citation courtesy notice” for noise was issued in one instance, in which the manager evicted the guests.

Properties with 4 Call Summaries: 10 Homes, 4 Homes Cited

There were 10 properties in the period with exactly 4 Hotline summaries associated with them. Of these homes, 4 (40.00% of this group, or 0.2% of all permitted homes) received 1 or 2 citations. These citations were as follows:

  • Property #1: 2 citations, 1 citation to a guest for amplified music and 1 citation for music at property line, both in the “City First” response period (2 different incidents on 2 different days). The other 2 summaries relate to noise complaints in the “PM First” period where no citeable noise offense was found.
  • Property #2: 2 citations for “failure to respond” (no other citeable offense found). Summaries represent 4 separate reports, 1 about parking (not a violation at time of that complaint), and 3 for noise.
  • Property #3: 1 citation for “failure to respond” (noise complaint with no noise found). The other 3 summaries relate to 3 separate events: one noise complaint while owner-occupied, 2 other complaints of noise (no citeable offense found in either case, in one case City responders found “family on way to church”).
  • Property #4: 1 citation for excessive noise. The other 3 summaries refer to separate noise complaints in which no citations were issued, but guests were contacted and counseled on local ordinance in all cases.

Properties with 5 Calls: Approximately 10 Homes, 2 Homes Cited

At this point (properties with 5 or more calls), because of complexities in terms of Hotline summary reporting, I’m just focusing on the exact number of calls/incidents reported (as I determined by examining the call summaries themselves).

Among properties that received 5 calls (approximately 10 homes), there were two homes (0.1% of permitted homes) that received citations: one that had 3 citations (the only home in this period that received more than 2 citations) and 1 that received 1 citation:

  • Property #1: 3 citations total: 1 incident which generated 1 “failure to respond” as well as 1 “over occupancy” citation (this showed up as 2 call summaries but was 1 inbound call). In a separate incident with a noise complaint (about music), the owner/manager again failed to respond and was issued a second “failure to respond” citation (City responders found, “no music just people swimming ”). The fifth Hotline summary was in the “City First” response period, about a “party with music” that found no noise violation. That summary notes that the owner/manager was advised about the complaint after City response.
  • Property #2: 1 citation in total: a citation for amplified music (in “City First” period — USS found “very loud music” on arrival). There was one additional call in the “City First” period about “outside talking extremely loud” at 2:40 AM — upon PSPD arrival at 3 AM, Police found “lights off no sound or noise.” Additional call summaries from the “PM First” period describe: 1 call about “loud classic rock” (no noise found, possibly wrong address, nobody home, manager said wrong address); 1 call about “screaming and yelling at pool” — property manager reported father and daughter guests were in pool and they went in — USS found no citable noise offense upon arrival; 1 call about outside music — which was resolved by property manager — upon follow-up, Code enforcement found no issue upon arrival.

Properties with 7 Calls: 1 Home Cited, 1 Home on Suspension and Rented

There was 1 property (0.05% of permitted homes) with an active Vacation Rental permit which received 7 calls, for which 2 citations were issued. This home is interesting in that the calls about it are almost solely from the “City First” response period.

Also, this would seem to be one of the only reports of what are most likely Coachella-related parties as all incidents occurred over the 2 weekends of Coachella. (While there are quite a few reports of noise and/or outdoor amplified music during that period, this is the closest thing I can find to an “all out rager” associated with vacation rentals during this year’s events.)

All 7 calls about this home are from 4/15 and beyond (you’ll note that 4/16 was start of “city first” response). The 2 citations and related calls are as follows:

  • On 4/15 (the last day of “PM First” response), there was 1 Hotline call reporting “over occupancy — 13 cars” — to which the management company failed to respond, so was issued a “failure to respond” citation. PSPD responded to the call. On arrival, they advised guests of rules and, “parties cleared out and cleaned up trash.”
  • There were 2 calls on 4/16 reporting what would seem to be another party “audible music, heavy bass, beer bottles and trash” and also “20 cars parked, loud party.” City-first responder USS private security issued the second citation, for “music at property line.”
  • There were 4 calls on 4/22 reporting “many cars” at various times and what may have been another party, but no citations issued: 2 calls in the AM were responded to by Code Enforcement, who found excess vehicles and had manager make guests comply; 2 calls in the PM (5:35 PM and 9:25 PM) were both responded to by USS and found 5 cars in both instances. No notes about noise, no citations issued.
  • As an aside: In the interest of possibly identifying a legendary “problem house”, I took a quick look for Hotline summaries about this property from the available 2016 and early 2017 monthly summaries and saw no previous complaints about it.

The second home with 7 call summaries in the period is one on the VRCD’s suspension list:

  • This is a home on Araby that has apparently been a “problem house” to its neighbors for some time. The property has been on VRCD’s suspension list as a result of numerous noise and disturbance violations in the past. From looking at older monthly reports (from prior to 2/5/17), this home seems to have been well-known to the City responders for continued operation as a short-term rental even while on suspension. It was on suspension during the entirety of this period — and has continued to operated as a short-term rental while on suspension. This out-of-compliance behavior has been verified by VRCD. A summary from 3/18/17 noted that, “VRCD contacted Owner; reviewing next steps with City Attorney (also VRCD Official Severin arrived at property and confirmed short term rental occupants).” Short-term rental guests staying at this property while on suspension have been advised of its status and warned by the City of potential criminal prosecution for any violation. At least three citations of various types (not all of them, strictly speaking, vacation rental violations) were issued during this period. At times during this period the home has also been owner occupied — it is, of course, entirely legal for them to do so — however, even the owner has been issued a pre-citation for noise. It seems that further legal action against this property is likely imminent — such action to permanently revoke its ability to rent short-term may have been waiting for the stricter penalties of Ordinance 1918 to take effect.
  • At the risk of editorializing: This home would seem to be the very model of the prototypical “problem house.” However, this type of behavior is (thankfully) nearly unique. It is 1 seemingly extremely bad actor out of 2000. It is also a noticeably bad actor even out of the 6 homes that were on the suspension list for the entire duration of the period about which I’m writing. As an example: There is another suspended house (in the Warm Sands neighborhood) that had 3 Hotline call summaries during the same period. However, that home shows up nowhere else in this report as all calls about it (reporting the home as “occupied while on suspension”) turned out to be owner-occupied stays (as is the owner’s right), it was issued no further citations, and there is no evidence that the home is being offered as a short-term rental while on suspension.

Properties with 10 Calls: 2 Homes, Both Cited — One on Suspension, Another Problematic

There were 2 homes (0.1% of all registered vacation rentals) that received 10 Hotline calls during this period. Both were quite clearly engaged in out-of-compliance behavior, in somewhat different ways. The two homes are:

  • Property #1: A home in the Twin Palms neighborhood that initially received a noise complaint and was tagged as “not a vacation rental.” Upon further complaint calls and VRCD follow-up it was determined that this house had recently changed ownership and the new owner began operating it as a short-term rental prior to receiving the proper permit. One Hotline call summary notes that the owner intends/intended to apply for a permit. It is unclear if this home has yet received a vacation rental permit or if it will, in fact, be allowed to have one. The home was cited at least twice in the period: At least once for failure to register, and a guest was cited once for “amplified music.” There were multiple additional calls during the period about noise, where responders seemingly found no citeable offense. While the property may be poorly managed, it is not entirely clear from Hotline reports whether the owner intended to skirt the law or simply poorly understood the requirements. Adding to the confusion: Several of the calls about this home misidentified its address — noting its street number as “1980” (which does not exist) rather than the correct street number “1890.” (It took me quite a bit of time to connect the two addresses as representing the same property, as well!)
  • Property #2: A home in Andreas Hills that was on VRCD’s suspension during the entirety of this period. As with all homes on suspension, PSPD has been the responder to any Hotline calls about it. There were at least 10 calls to PSPD or the Hotline about this home during the period and at least 2 noise citations — 1 to the owner, 1 to a guest (who may have been a short-term rental guest). VRCD officials accompanied Police on a call to this property as recently as 4/17/17. Unlike a similar property on Araby (see previous description), there’s no clear note yet in any of the call summaries that VRCD has confirmed short-term rental use while on suspension, but it is clearly being investigated. On the face of it at least, this would seem to be another (thankfully rare) prototypical example of a “problem house.”
  • It’s worth noting that the 20 calls/summaries about these 2 properties represent 4.4% of all Hotline calls during the period.

Properties with 12 Calls: 1 Home with 2 Citations

There was one home (0.05% of all permitted vacation rentals) with 12 call summaries during the period. While this property was the subject of numerous complaints (looking at the summaries, there seem to be 10 incoming calls, really, resulting in 12 summaries total), it received only 2 citations in the period:

  • A complaint about “loud noise” on 2/21/17 (this is in the “PM First” period, mind you) went unresponded to by the then property manager (which seems to have been a property management firm) until the next day. While USS responded to the call at approximately 5 PM and took a decibel reading exceeding 50 dB, there is no note of a noise violation being issued, no additional detail about what might have been found and no evidence of contact being made with guests. A citation was issued for “failure to respond.”
  • The next summary is from 3/12/17 about a call about “kids yelling in the pool at 9 AM.” The local response contacts are now different (and may be the owners, or possibly a smaller/independent local management contact). They respond immediately and when City responders (Police) follow up they note, “Made contact with the occupants, were advised by the manager about the complaints.” No citeable noise issue found.
  • On 3/22/17 there are two calls, at 1:56 PM and 2:20 PM, about “Loud noise, has a loud pitched machine running nonstop.” Local manager responds to the first call within 10 minutes, informing the Hotline that “Occupants were filling up an inflatable pool raft.” Code Enforcement follows up at the property at 2:15 PM and reports, “Upon arrival no noise, spoke with a tenant. She states she used a small pump for the pool raft.” No citeable noise issue found.
  • You’ll note that the second call described in the previous bullet point happens a few minutes after successful, citation-free resolution of the reported issue.
  • There are similar noise reports on 3/24 and 3/30 with nearly instantaneous manager response, no noise found on City responder follow-up.
  • On 4/8 there is a noise report of “Music outside and chatter.” Manager responds to Hotline that guests, “Had music on with door open but now it’s off and door shut.” When Code Enforcement follows up about an hour later, they find, “Found the guests playing music, by visiting the neighboring yard. Issued citation to the guest.” A noise citation is issued.
  • On 4/14 there are two calls about “ Loud adults and screaming kids” (one at 1:25 PM and again at 2:06 PM). VRCD on-site response happens at 1:45 PM and finds, “Could hear light voices from front door, no noise at street; knocked and no answer; left good neighbor brochure; drove around block and could not hear anything.” No citation issued.
  • The most recent call is from 8:04 AM on 4/15 (the last day before City-first enforcement and enforcement of new Ordinance 1918) about “loud kids.” Code Enforcement’s on-site response from 9:20 AM notes, “No noise or music on arrival; rang doorbell and guest said agent had contacted him that children should not play outdoors until after 10am; Code explained neighbors would appreciate them keeping the noise down.”
  • A quick look at older, monthly Hotline reports shows many similar scenarios. I’ve not asked VRCD about this particular address, but I believe that they may de-prioritized response to this particular address due to excessive calls that find few citable issues. It’s not clear whether the caller or callers have been advised of the “false claims” provisions of the new Ordinance, or if there have been further calls about this property since 1918 went into effect (current data goes to 4/30). The timing seems unusual however.
  • It’s worth noting that calls about this single property accounted for more than 2% of all calls to the Hotline during this period.

The Strange and Slightly Disturbing Case of “The House with 24 Calls”

The last of the 44 properties with citations during the period under review is a true outlier. With 24 Hotline call summaries, this one property in the Tahquitz River Estates neighborhood represents more than 5% of total summaries in the period. (That is, more than 1 in 20 call summaries in the 12 weeks of data under examination are about this property.)

And yet this property has just 2 citations in the period — and one of them is for the manager’s “failure to respond.” In the other, a guest was cited for “amplified music.”

What in the heck is going on here? Let’s take a quick look at the call descriptions:

  • This property is the subject of 24 call summaries, many of them reporting “screaming and yelling,” sometimes, “screaming and yelling all day.”
  • Is someone in danger, we wonder? This can’t be normal. Other entries note, “throwing rocks over fence” and “slamming doors loudly.” We are starting to get a little creeped out. Is this a poltergeist situation? “Kids have been screaming for at least 6 hours now.”
  • “Music is coming from the house.”
  • “Screaming, yelling, music.” Stop, you’re really starting to wig me out.
  • A quick scan of other columns and the words “chain sawing” jump out at us. That’s it, I’m officially freaked out. Won’t somebody do something!?

After taking a moment to regain our composure, we decide that perhaps it’s best if we look more calmly at this one (with fingers over our eyes, if we must):

  • The 24 calls about this property span 13 unique dates ranging from 3/2 to 4/30/17.
  • First call from 3/2, caller reports “Outside music” at 4:37 PM. Fair enough (and that’s simply not allowed, at any volume, so this should be an easy one). Local response contact reports resolving situation at 5:00 PM. Says, “Spoke with guests, advised them to turn music off, couple in 70's.” Following up on site at 5:10 PM, Code Enforcement reports, “Upon arrival no noise or music present, made contact with the occupant.” No citation issued. I wonder what music they might have been playing? Report is sadly silent on this issue.
  • Next call is some days later — 3/18 at 2:22 PM, “Yelling and screaming in back pool area.” Oh, I get it, noise at the pool. OK, that’s better. Glad nobody’s getting murdered over there. Property manager seems very responsive, reports resolution in 5 minutes (2:37 PM). “Said tenants are not making noise; found tenants in compliance. Noted caller was upset he was reported earlier to Police for vulgar music,” says report. These short summaries aren’t always super well written… It’s not entirely clear who reported the caller or when, but I think I get the idea. Code Enforcement pops by at 2:39 PM (7 minutes from original call… what, are they just standing around this house waiting to get called? At any rate, seems like excellent response time.) They report, “Did not hear or see anything. Noted thick ficas trees; would be helpful to have access to adjacent property/caller’s property.” [sic on “ficas” — I think they meant “ficus.”] No citation issued.
  • Some days later — 3/22 at 6:17 PM caller reports, “Yelling and screaming all day.” As an aside, VRCD recommends calling while a disturbance is going on. Local response contact, as usual, responds in minutes (6:30 PM) to Hotline about resolution, “Mark called back, said nothing is going on. All in compliance.” Now, in the olden days, the Hotline might have just left it at that. But during the period we’re talking about here, they followed up on every call. USS private security arrives at 6:32 PM (are they hiding in the ficus trees or something?). Reports, “Upon arrival noise level was at 44 decibels, no violation. Knocked on the gate, no answer, left flyer on the gate. No other issues noted.” No citation issued.
  • Two days later — 3/24 there are 8 Hotline summaries. The sequence of events seems to be as follows: At 6:18 PM, caller reports, “Yelling and screaming for 6 hours.” Local contact Mark reports to Hotline by 6:34 PM, “Guests checked in at 2:30 pm, kids were playing in front yard not in the pool.” Police come follow up on site at 7:00 PM, “ All quiet.” At 7:15 PM caller calls Hotline again, “Screaming, yelling, music.” Before Mark can even call back, there’s another call to the Hotline, “Throwing rock over the fence and loudly slamming doors.”
  • … What a minute, are the renters now throwing rocks at the neighbor caller!? Sorry, this one is confusing. NO, it appears that it’s the renters who called in the latest complaint. Wait, are they narcing on themselves? NO, report says, “Renters called in complaint. Advised that the neighbor from [next street over] was throwing rocks at the kids in the backyard from his property. The neighbor was sitting in front of the rental property, when renters came outside, he did a burnout in a circular motion in front of the home.”
  • … So I guess he was sitting in his car? Apparently. Somewhere around this time, Mark calls Hotline back as well, “Is calling the police, and security is going back to the home.”
  • … Can we stop now? We get it. Nope, turns out there’s more. Complaining caller contacts Hotline again at 8:53 PM, “ Kids have been screaming for at least 6 hours now.” No, kidding, you’ve been throwing rocks, making harassing phone calls, and burning donuts in the street at them all afternoon, dude! Mark, who apparently has the patience of a saint and an unlimited cell phone plan, calls in resolution by 8:59 PM, “Mark found renters to be in compliance, children were not being loud, but enjoying the pool. He advised this is harassment from the caller.”
  • There’s more on 3/24, but I’ll leave it there. There are several more calls from original caller to Hotline. At some point, Police arrive and make contact with both renters, property manager, and complaining party. No citations all around. At some point, harassment behavior gets reported to Police. Complaining caller insists there was music from renters. Says “he will proceed with matters in civil court.”
  • There’s another call on 3/25 at 3:39 PM, “Yelling and screaming in the backyard.” Manager Mark calls back with resolution by 3:52, “Called tenants. No one is yelling or screaming. Said neighbor who called is chain sawing bushes and there is more noise on his side. Found tenants in compliance.” The guy accused of throwing rocks at kids is now brandishing a chainsaw? Seems that way. In his defense, he’s probably just trimming up that ficus… Probably. Also, since Hotline summaries don’t identify the caller, even in an obfuscated way such as an alias, we can’t be sure that all of these calls are from the same person/address. Yeah, but it sure sounds that way… Well, sure, but I just thought I’d point this out. Anyway, Code follows up at 4:45 PM, obviously not so anxious to visit again so soon. Reports, “Upon arrival no noise from the property line. Complaint needs to allow us on their property to ensure compliance to confirm violation.” No citation issued.
  • There are less dramatic, but still citation-free scenarios that play out on 4/4, 4/9 and 4/13. Four summaries total in this time.
  • On 4/14 there are multiple calls again. In the notes of the second one, the description of USS’s report reads, “Security reported no findings, property in compliance ‐ reports possible false call.” Oh, ya think? Well, it’s worth mentioning as it’s the only call summary in this time period that even raises the question of a falsified report… Just 2 days before such things become a citeable offense themselves. Well, that would have been poetic justice, eh?
  • Wait there’s more. Oh geez, not again. Final call on 4/14 comes to Hotline at 7:38 PM, “Loud outside.” Uncharacteristically, Mark returns call with resolution at 8:30 PM, “Kids in pool; in compliance.” I see where this is going… USS on site at 7:54 PM, “ Decibel reading 34.5.” No noise citation… But “Citation Pending, Failure to Respond.” Are you kidding me? No. No I’m not. I hope he contested that citation. Me too.
  • On 4/18, there are calls again about, “Outdoor music.” Now we are in the “City First” response period. Code Enforcement arrives at 1:45 PM and reports, “Heard no music; could not make contact, gate locked.” In response to a second call, Code arrives at 3:00 PM and reports, “With access to adjoining yard, heard music beyond the property line; VRCD to follow up.” Citation issued to guest for amplified music. Guess caller finally got that ficus trimming done, huh?
  • There are 3 additional call summaries from 4/21 and 4/30 about noise or music. City responders from USS and Code Enforcement found no issues.

Conclusions from this Most Peculiar Set of Reports

Whatever you think of this scenario described above, it is quite real, but thankfully quite rare. Additionally, it is illustrative of several points that I like to stress:

  • While is useful to when looking at data in aggregate to simply count Hotline calls and think of them as “calls” (this makes it much easier to track trends and such), one cannot simply point at that number and say things like, “There were X complaints to Police about vacation rentals.”
  • Similarly, we can’t simply look at the number of calls on a property and use that solely as a way to judge whether that property might be a “problem house.”
  • That concept might not even be relevant, anyway. Under Ordinance 1918, it will be quite a bit easier for a property to find itself on the suspension list as there are many more compliance provisions with which owners and manager must comply.
  • In many cases, “manager first” response was extremely effective in promptly resolving noise and disturbance issues. During the first two weeks of City-first response, I’ve seen several cases of slow response by City responders, but in general, response times have been reasonably timely. I’ve not done a detailed analysis on pre-/post- response time (there’s only been two weeks so far, time math is hard, and VRCD is likely keeping track of this, anyway, and may report on it at some point), but it’s worth keeping an eye on.
  • While the Vacation Rental Hotline may be abused in some cases, I do feel that it may be underutilized, in general. The goal of the Hotline is to provide the rapid mitigation of legitimate vacation rental-related issues. It’s not intended to be (nor should it be) used only by those who might seek to rack up citations against specific properties.
  • Further to the previous point, noise and other disturbances are extremely subjective. What is one person’s unbearable racket might go completely unnoticed by another. This is why enforcement of noise ordinances, for example, must rely on objective measures of violations such as taking measurements of sound levels (as City responders often do).
  • I was cheeky about it in preceding descriptions of the events at this particular property, but it truly can be difficult to understand some Hotline reports (and related statistics) at first glance. Related: I read the summary reports each week as they are released as part of importing them into the database that powers my Hotline map project. While I had taken note of several of the other high-call-volume properties, this one had more-or-less escaped my attention until compiling this report and had a “wait, what?” moment about these 24 summaries.

Some Background on the Vacation Rental Hotline

The City of Palm Springs has regulated, licensed, taxed and had nominal level of monitoring of complaints/issues around vacation rentals (short-term rentals of 28 days or fewer) since 2008. A “Vacation Rental Hotline” operated by the City is available to report noise, disturbance or compliance issues related to vacation rentals.

With the most-recently revised version of the vacation rental ordinance, Hotline calls are now responded to by City compliance officials (a mix of Vacation Rental Compliance Department staff, private security service and police, depending on availability and the nature of the report) first.

Previously, local property managers (a designated local contact person associated with each vacation rental permit) was tasked with responding first to the reported issue and resolving/mitigating any issue. City officials did not follow up to confirm issue resolution in all cases.

Since at least February of this year, however, City staff have followed up in-person to ensure issue resolution and issue citations when they find citeable violations of the VR ordinance. This improved response and (as of April 16) City-first response is enabled by a better-staffed and resourced Vacation Rental Compliance Department (VRCD), which is entirely funded by VR permit fees, which are now $900 per year.

The Hotline is intended to provide a convenient way to quickly resolve noise complaints or other concerns related to short-term rentals. In general, since at least February of this year it has been working quite well. See my “Vacation Rental Hotline Map” project for a lot more detail as well as links to other ways to browse and analyze this data for yourself: www.evillapalmsprings.com/map.html.


Some Quick Related FAQs

Q: What is the vacation rental hotline number?

For the latest Vacation Rental Hotline Number, see the VRCD web page. (I understand that the number may be changing soon, so didn’t want to type it out here!)

Q: Why is there a Hotline at all and why are callers asked to give the address of the property in question?

A: When occupied by short-term renters, vacation rentals (also known as short-term rentals or STRs) are subject to different rules than apply to other guests and residents of the City. Among these, a somewhat stricter noise ordinance (short-term rental guests may not enjoy outdoor amplified music of any volume, indoor music should not be audible at property line, even if it does not exceed noise limits), limits on both daytime and overnight occupancy, and (as of the new ordinance) limits on number of vehicles.

For STRs, the City has additional responders beyond police. But these resources are only available for STR-related calls. (Funds for this response come exclusively from Vacation Rental Permit application and renewal fees.) So, Hotline staff ask for the address to see if the property in question is registered as a vacation rental before dispatching responders.

If the Hotline receives a call about a property that is not clearly a vacation rental, the caller may be referred to police (who are tasked with responding to noise complaints about other types of residences and residents).
Similarly, if one calls PSPD with a noise complaint, police dispatch may first check if the address in question is a registered vacation rental and, if it is, may refer the caller to the VR Hotline.

In addition to noise: Under the new ordinance, there are parking/vehicle limits associated with vacation rental permits. (These are specified as no more than one vehicle per bedroom.)

Q: What percentage of homes in Palm Springs have vacation rental permits?

A: The City or County might have more accurate info, but the “go to” place for info on number of housing units in municipalities is the US Census Bureau. Based on their 2011–2015 info, there are a little over 36,300 total housing units in Palm Springs (margin of error of +/- about 500 units — source data here).

Of these, a few over 13,000 are 1-unit detached (i.e., freestanding “single family” homes). About 21,000 are multi-unit (and among those, about half — 11,000 — are “1-unit attached” implying that they are duplexes/townhomes and the like — these are, of course, common in many of the condo developments).

If the above is correct, housing units with vacation rental permits are about 6% of total housing inventory (the actual number of VR permits as of March 2017 is 2088 and total housing units is estimated at 36,327).

Recently, a group opposed to short-term rentals in Palm Springs published a relatively up-to-date list of Palm Springs addresses that are registered as vacation rentals.

Note: The City of Palm Springs does not publish data on addresses associated with Vacation Rental Permits due to security and privacy concerns. The data was obtained from the City by the aforementioned group via a public information request. I cannot vouch for its completeness or accuracy, except to note that all of the addressees successfully geocode as unambiguous Palm Springs addresses. (Which is a fancy way of saying that they can be displayed on a Google map and there aren’t any completely obvious errors in the addresses themselves.)

There are 1921 permitted addresses in that dataset. Of those, there are 447 permits with a “unit” number attached, indicating that the address is either a condo or part of some other HOA-controlled type community. (My own home is an example of the latter — it’s a freestanding detached 1-unit structure but part of a condo complex and so our house has a UNIT number rather than a unique street number.)

The majority of the rest of the permits in that dataset, 1475, are mostly single family homes (though there may be a few condo/HOA-controlled units with unique street addresses among those).

So, about 12% of single family homes in Palm Springs have vacation rental permits (assuming about 1600 single-family home vacation rental permits at this point, and a total of 13,000 single-family homes). Somewhere around 4% of condos (this is a little tougher to estimate) have vacation rental permits.

March data from the City of Palm Springs showed a pretty large net-new increase in new VR permits (a net increase of about 78 permits, most of them to individual owners rather than to property management agencies — the total number of permits by that count is 2088).

I think that some of those new registrations may be from owners who had previously resisted complying with registration requirements but, faced with the severe penalties for short-term renting without a permit in the new ordinance, have now come into compliance. I had asked VRCD if they had an explanation for this apparent “spike” in registrations and officials told me, “The increase in March is primarily due to our new staff being trained up and able to process a large bulk of the applications we had already received.”

Q: Why does this data only go back to February 5, 2017?

While the Vacation Rental Compliance Department has long compiled Hotline call summary summaries, the older monthly reports (some of which are available on the VRCD’s Reports Page), were previously available only via an email distribution list. I became aware of and interested in these reports early in 2017, at the height of discussions around the future of the Palm Springs Rental Ordinance.

At the same time that I had wanted to begin visualizing and analyzing that data, the VRCD was moving toward making weekly summaries available via its website. The department had just become better staffed and the new compliance officials had made some important changes to the formatting of the weekly reports, making them more standardized and improving their accuracy, utility and clarity. This was done, in part, in preparation for “City-first” response to Hotline calls.

These new weekly reports started with the week of February 5, 2017.

Since past reports are essentially incompatible and inconsistent with the new reports, there’s no easy way to compare them and analyze them versus the latest data. While the old reports are useful and interesting in some ways, they are substantially harder to understand.

One common error I’ve seen made in analyses of those past reports is that individual call summaries were regularly interpreted as inbound complaint calls. However, in the older format, a single incident would usually (but not always) create two summaries — one representing the inbound “complaint” call and another representing the Local Response Contact’s follow-up reply to the complaint.

Nonetheless, I’ve tried to create a database of older reports in a searchable/sortable/map-able format, but it’s not actually possible given the way that they were previously published (info about various technical challenges in doing so deleted).

Q: Who are you and why do you do this?

A: My wife and I are part-time Palm Springs residents who offer our Palm Springs home as a licensed vacation rental (PS TOT #6386) when we are not able to enjoy it ourselves. We developed our love for the city, people, and unique architecture of Palm Springs over the course of more than 10 years visiting the city — usually staying in vacation rentals (even from the time before the original 2008 ordinance)! We were finally able to realize our dream of having our own home there (it’s our only house) and greatly enjoy both staying there and sharing it with others.

I’m interested in many types of civic affairs and like to consider complex topics in a data-driven way. With respect to vacation rentals, I feel that many issues are not well understood and are prone to distortion by folks with radical opinions (either “pro” or “con”). As an independent owner/operator of a Palm Springs vacation rental, I’ve been active in trying to help shape our City’s short-term rental policies in sensible ways. When we rent our home, we do it with a great deal of respect and consideration for our neighbors and think that others should do the same (for the most part, they do).

Palm Springs has an amazing tradition of vacation rental hospitality and I believe that most in the City want to keep that alive in a way that benefits all residents. But neighbors should make up their own minds as to what are the right approaches, based on all the information we can gather.