Richard Thomas: Yes on Y, but we’re having the wrong conversation |

Richard Thomas: Yes on Y, but we’re having the wrong conversation

When it comes to Measure Y in Nevada City, we are really having the wrong conversation. The conversation regarding Airbnbs in Nevada City should be about the initiative that was circulated by the Hostągroup that was passed by the city council in November.

I believe that most people that sign an initiative petition do so with the clear expectation that there will be a campaign, information about the initiative available, public debates and a significant amount of time to discuss and formulate a position. The classic line of a petition circulator is that by signing the petition the signer is just putting it on the ballot so the people can decide.

That was certainly my understanding of how the process works. Indeed, that is how statewide initiatives work and they are the ones we are most familiar with.

Nevada City, however, is a general law city. The process is different in a general law city. Once an initiative has gathered enough signatures it goes to the city council. The city council has three options. First, they can submit the initiative for a report on the impacts of the of the initiative. If they don’t submit it for a report, they can pass or not pass the initiative. If they do not pass it, it goes to the voters on the ballot. That was what I believe the vast majority of the signers of the Host initiative expected. The third choice the council has in a general law city is to pass the initiative, denying the voters the opportunity to learn about the details, perhaps even read it before casting their votes. That is the choice the Nevada City City Council took back in November when on a 3/2 vote. That’s the back story. So, what does the hurriedly adopted initiative say?

From the “Host” initiative now in force:

A. 4. “Hosted short-term rental” shall mean the rental of all or a portion of a Unit for less than thirty (30) days.

A. 5. “Unit” shall mean a room or dwelling unit on a Property used for sleeping or living quarters, including a guest house located on the Property.

Putting the two together, to me that allows the short-term vacation rental of all of a dwelling unit used for living quarters. Could/would that not be a whole house?

The above is particularly concerning when considering section B. 3.: The Owner or Manager shall reside at the Property or in Nevada County.

Those are two big “ors.” Neither the owner, nor even a manager, is required to live in the house. If the initiative had been submitted for a report or to the voters, what might have that report or those voters concluded. It seems logical the conclusions would be that the Hosts initiative would increase the number of short term vacation rental properties in residential neighborhoods. That would, obviously, reduce the number of rental units available for long term tenants with the resulting deterioration of the our valued social cohesion.

It seems that it would also drive up rental rates and property prices making it more difficult for locals to continue to live in the city. Those are not my goals for this special place that some among us seem overly eager to sell.

If an owner/neighbor wants to host visitors in their shared space (the sharing economy) I am fine with that. The adopted Hosts’ initiative allows far too much more. Is Measure Y more restrictive while still allowing Airbnbs? Yes. Good. Yes on Y.

Richard Thomas lives in Nevada City.

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