Most people don’t mind their neighbors having the occasional garage sale. They put up with the increased traffic and parking for a day or two because it’s only temporary. Sometimes it’s even fun. Have a garage sale every weekend, however, and neighbors may justifiably object to what is effectively a business on a front yard in the middle of the suburbs. Such is the case with what have become known as Short Term Rentals (STRs) of homes by their owners.
Before the internet age renting a house long term was generally a better strategy for a guaranteed income than risking hit and miss short term rentals, unless one owned a house near the beach or a cabin in the mountains, and even then, renting any time of the year was doubtful. But for people living near major tourist attractions in ever sunny Southern California, websites have made it possible to avoid vacancies in favor of consistent higher yielding week-long or even just weekend bookings. The result? De facto hotels next to homeowners or long term renters, who are not amused by partiers and early morning and/or late night arrivals and departures of short term guests with little interest in keeping the peace.
Homeowners also sensibly complain that the longterm effect of allowing short term rentals in their neighborhoods is an increasingly deleterious one that threatens the very idea of a neighborhood itself. You can’t call a revolving door of occupants next door neighbors, and without neighbors, you can’t have neighborhoods. Members of the Fullerton City Council who campaigned on “protecting neighborhoods” should remember their promises when they are inevitably asked to consider the practice of STRs in Fullerton.
Those who argue that banning short term rentals constitutes an infringement of the rights of property owners conveniently ignore the rights of those who own property near these home businesses. No property in a residential neighborhood should be allowed to operate a business that disrupts others, whether it be a car repair shop, chinchilla breeding farm, or a house turned into a hotel. Homeowners are perfectly free to rent their houses long term to others, just as they always have been—it isn’t as though there is a shortage of renters these days—but short term rentals cross a line from acceptable practice to outright commercial activity in neighborhoods designed for families. If people want to get into the hotel business, they should build or buy a hotel in an area zoned for it.
Fullerton’s planning staff’s recent attempt to create an ordinance governing short term rentals was picked apart by The Fullerton Planning Commission as unworkable and unfair, with some commissioners outright hostile to the idea of regulating the practice at all, calling it a solution in search of a problem. The commission ultimately asked for a rewritten ordinance to consider, coming soon, we understand. Planning staff and the The Fullerton Planning Commission/City Council can save everyone a lot of time by simply banning the practice altogether as the Anaheim City Council did on June 28 of this year.