City of Palm Springs on top of vacation rentals

There has been a lot of noise in the valley about vacation rental properties. What we hear through the din is that the city of Palm Springs is getting it right in its efforts to regulate this cottage industry.

While this issue is percolating in many cities, Palm Springs can be seen as ground zero in the valley due to its high profile and its sheer number of such properties.

There are about 1,500 homes registered as vacation rentals in Palm Springs. That's a 10.3 percent increase since February.

City statistics taken since May say that 2 to 3 percent of rentals have generated complaints.

While it's clear some properties veer into the nuisance "party house" variety at times, presenting a particularly annoying situation for those living nearby, this growing industry as a whole brings much-needed dollars to the city.

In the 2013-14 fiscal year, vacation rentals generated $4.1 million in transient occupancy taxes. That's not slowing down. From July through September of this year, these properties brought in $851,403 — a 31 percent jump over that period last year. Big bucks for a tourist area that tends to see a slowdown in the hot summer months.

City tax revenues — and the improvements they fund — are just the beginning. Merchants and restaurants report that vacation home renters are a big part of their customer base. Some report that these valley visitors spend significantly more than their hotel-staying counterparts. Shutting down this industry, as some suggest, would be a tough blow.

The Desert Sun agrees with the Palm Springs Neighborhood Involvement Committee's assessment that the revised Vacation Rental Ordinance put into place in May, while a work in progress, has been making a difference and should continue to improve the city climate on this contentious issue. We need to give it time to work.

Along those lines, it is time for the loudest critics to stand down a bit.

The assumption should be that owners have a right to do with their property as they see fit within the law, so long as they don't violate the rights of others, especially neighbors. The city's ordinance seems to be doing a good job in ensuring that peace is maintained.

Ongoing tweaks, such as a recently announced $50,000 pilot program expansion that will have Palm Springs police dispatching contracted private security officers to every vacation rental complaint received on the weekends, demonstrate the city's steady hand in regulating and responding to the challenges presented by this rapidly growing component of city hospitality.

Previously we've weighed in on portions that seemed onerous, such as the minimum age requirement of 25 for vacation home renters. That still seems unfair and the council should continue to revisit this issue to make sure it still makes sense.

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