Chuck Kastenholz: Short-term rentals in Grass Valley? | TheUnion.com

Chuck Kastenholz: Short-term rentals in Grass Valley?

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Chuck Kastenholz

Allowing short-term rentals in residential Grass Valley is absurd. I attended the Grass Valley City Council Meeting in September, where they continued to address the issue of changing the regulations regarding short-term rentals.

Full disclosure. I don't live in the city of Grass Valley. For 13 years I have lived just five minutes from town. I have military retirement income, have six kids and have lived in six other residential communities in California alone.

I believe families and retirees are the key to this community. Tourism is important, but it is secondary.

Though there are many aspects to this issue, in the end, you need to ask yourself; Would you want to live next to a short-term rental? They will likely bring extra noise, extra traffic and unknown people in "vacation mode" at late hours. Even with the most well-intentioned owners, do you think they can control the noise and traffic?

Taking what would likely be a long-term rental and allowing it to be used a short-term rental will make the homeless problem worse

Though there has been no decision yet, council members seem to be moving toward changing the zoning code in residential areas. They have wisely looked at five regional communities to see how they have addressed short-term rentals, including Nevada City, Placerville, Auburn, Truckee and South Lake Tahoe. All of these communities have changed regulations, allowing for the legal use of short-term rentals in residential areas.

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Several times council members used the term "wave of the future" … conveying to me the idea that this was inevitable, after all, these other communities have accepted it.

While we should learn from other cities, we don't have to do what they do, nor do I think we want to be the same as these other cities.

Don't we want to be a community friendly to families and retirees? Does mixing short-term rentals into residential areas attract families and retirees? I consider Grass Valley to be family friendly. Is it worth keeping it that way? Is it OK to be different than Nevada City? Is it better to wait a bit longer to see if these other cities benefit from the change in the long run? Won't it be much harder to change the laws back to the current state than it is to relax our current rules now?

Council members seem quite attracted by an increase in revenues from short-term rental taxes. I suspect a major challenge to our council members is maintaining revenues and balancing the budget. But legalizing short-term rentals seems to correlate to a decrease in bed-and-breakfast and hotel revenues. In addition, I believe the value of homes will decrease if a neighbor is an short-term rental. Does the Council have an unconscious bias, overemphasizing the short-term influx of tax dollars? Consider the long-term decrease in property values with the resulting decrease in property tax revenue, as well as a decrease in tax revenue from hotels and B&Bs.

One of our major objectives is to reduce homelessness. Taking what would likely be a long-term rental and allowing it to be used a short-term rental will make the homeless problem worse. After all, doesn't lowering the supply of long-term rentals increase the cost of long-term rentals, which makes our homeless situation worse?

Understandably, at least half the community who offered input during the meeting seemed to have a personal financial interest in allowing short-term rentals in residential areas. However, Council members should not think that this is representative of the majority of homeowners and long-term renters in the city. Other stakeholders, primarily homeowners, should be concerned about the negative impact to housing values resulting from a change to the city policy.

Is this a serious enough issue to let the residents of Grass Valley vote on the subject? They did in Nevada City.

To summarize: allowing short-term rentals in residential Grass Valley would make Grass Valley less family friendly; this could be a financially bad decision for the city; it is likely this is a financial negative to most homeowners, as well as the B&B and hotel industries; probably makes the homeless issue worse.

Grass Valley homeowners and renters and certainly Grass Valley Council members have to ask yourselves … do you want to live next to a short term rental?

Chuck Kastenholz lives in Grass Valley.

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