Vacation rentals causing a stir in Grass Valley | TheUnion.com

Vacation rentals causing a stir in Grass Valley

Gold Miners Inn owner Nick Hayhurst expressed concerns about the effects short-term rentals are having on the local housing crisis and the hospitality industry at Tuesday's Grass Valley council meeting. "Cities are recognizing this has multiple effects," he said.

Grass Valley may soon regulate short-term vacation rentals, a market that some residents say is competing with local hotels and bed and breakfast businesses while not adhering to the same regulatory standards.

Vice Mayor Lisa Swarthout directed city staff Tuesday to bring recommendations to the city council at its Aug. 22 meeting, which could be used to inform new regulations.

Peter Franchino, owner of Elam Biggs Bed & Breakfast in Grass Valley, said he's seen a steep drop in business since short-term vacation rental platforms like AirBnB, VRBO and HomeAway became popular ways for vacationers to book lodging.

He said his business adheres to strict standards and regulations, while the short-term rentals don't.

“I know AirBnB is a thing of the future. All I’m asking is that everybody pays their fair share.”

— Peter Franchinoowner of Elam Biggs Bed & Breakfast

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"We’re talking about environmental health, we’re talking about inspection, we’re talking about fees, we’re talking about us having to take tests so that we can serve food, we’re talking about fire safety, we’re talking about assessment forms at the end of every year that our taxes are relied on, we’re talking about paying the state food taxes — it goes on and on," Franchino said.

"I know AirBnB is a thing of the future. All I'm asking is that everybody pays their fair share."

Nick Hayhurst, who owns Gold Miners Inn in Grass Valley, said short-term rentals are contributing to the local housing crisis and are taking away affordable housing units that could be rented by local working-class citizens.

But Yolanda Lerner, who advertises her short-term rentals on various sites, said she is registered with the city and pays the correct business taxes monthly.

She also disputed the idea that her rentals compete with local hotels.

"In my experience, the only time we can rent it is on a really busy weekend when the hotels are full," she said.

She said her rentals give her a platform for advertising the city and attracting tourists by using hashtags and actively promoting Grass Valley with pictures.

"Nobody else is doing that," she said.

Linda Chaplin, a Nevada County homeowner, raised concern that the short-term rental market could impact property values.

"As a county resident, I would like to know how this affects homeowners," she said.

She questioned whether someone selling their home would have to disclose to a potential buyer that a hospitality business operates in the neighborhood.

"Just the fact that there is a turnover of unknown people in the neighborhood — I think that's a little disquieting," said Chaplin.

City Manager Tim Kiser said the best strategy for tackling the problems associated with short-term rentals is to "regulate them in some way," rather than ban them outright.

"We're not reinventing the wheel here," said Vice Mayor Lisa Swarthout, noting that cities around the country have been working on the same issues, and many have already laid out successful framework that could serve as a model for Grass Valley's regulations.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Pera, email mpera@theunion.com or call 530-477-4231.