Kathy Dotson: No on Measure Y
I moved to Nevada City right out of college in 1994, hoping to find that perfect place to start the next chapter. Immediately, I fell in love with the Yuba and the community. It wasn’t long before I fell for a Southern man who had come west to find his own adventures.
After our first child, we were fortunate to buy a home in downtown Nevada City. Unfortunately, we bought at the height of the market in 2008. You know what happened next, and the significant loss of the value of our homes many of us experienced. I was at SYRCL making a fair salary as the director of the Wild & Scenic Film Festival. My husband was just starting as sales manager for a solar company. We were and still are middle class folks doing our best.
Although the value of our home plummeted, we decided to stay. We loved our home and we loved being a part of the downtown community. We had established ourselves in Nevada City for the long run. But after leaving SYRCL and the festival to have another baby, I knew I would have to be creative with my portion of income to cover our mortgage.
Our property has a legal second unit that we rented long-term from the start. Some of our renters were lovely, one we had to ask to leave, and a few we couldn’t wait to see move on. Because it is such a small unit, renters had their stuff spilling outside and into multiple cars on the property. I could do very little to improve landscaping or keep the area looking nice.
I continued as a self-employed designer, working at home and taking care of my girls. My income was crucial to the budget, but working for myself was not always providing what we needed. When our last renter moved out in 2014, we decided to make our extra unit an “executive suite.” Not knowing of Airbnb, we thought visiting professionals would take advantage of the short-term rental. After discovering Airbnb and getting immediate bookings through the rest of the year, we knew we had made a good decision.
Since September 2014, we have rented to a variety of people: grandparents visiting family, wedding guests, visitors exploring Nevada City, those looking to buy a home, and professionals who need a space with a kitchen for a week or two. We have never once had an issue with any of our guests.
And now because of the passed 2015 Ordinance legalizing short-term rentals in Nevada City, I pay 10 percent for each night a guest stays. Since January, I have paid the city almost $600 and I estimate it will be close to $3,000 by the end of the year. There are currently 11 legally registered short-term rentals downtown.
But Measure Y seeks to severely restrict what is already working. If it passes, 10 of the registered units already paying their tax, would have to close. They say we are taking away long-term rental units. We did an informal survey of short-term hosts in Nevada City. The majority would not offer their small units for long-term. And as a reminder, the current ordinance does not allow whole house rentals. The rental crisis is real, across the county. But shouldn’t it be up to the city and county to create housing for multiple levels of income? It should not be up to the homeowners. Let me decide what to do with my property.
Measure Y proponents want owners to be on site 24/7. Kind of like a dorm mom. Sometimes my family goes on spontaneous trips to Tahoe and if we’re lucky a longer vacation. If I’m away, my mom is the off-site manager (she lives in Nevada City). But I am always “on.” I stay available by phone for my guests and to manage inquiries.
If Measure Y passes, what next? Will they put the same restrictions on long-term rental owners? I wonder how many long-term rental owners live out of state. Will long-term renters be required to park off street, too?
I love Nevada City. What I am doing is not harming it. As a current and future leader in our community, I think I am making it better. My husband and I are middle class property owners doing our best to make a great life for our family — and give back to the town we love. There is no harm in that. I think my neighbors would agree with me.
Kathy Dotson is a Nevada City resident and short term rental owner.
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I was a Republican for decades. The party chased me out with ideology that was good for the Republican Party but very bad for our country.