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COMMENTARY: The Hotel Next Door
Anne Farrell | Via Alta

Cities and towns across the country (especially desirable coastal towns like Del Mar) have seen increasing numbers of houses and apartments purchased by people who don’t intend to live in them or rent to long-term tenants. Instead, they buy them and then rent them to tourists for a few days, a week, or a few weeks. They charge a stiff daily rate and it is a lucrative business.

Del Mar is a small city with a beautiful beach, a charming business district, excellent restaurants, and gorgeous views. As such, we are a prime target for the powerful Short-Term Rental Business (STRB) industry to expand into our residential neighborhoods. This would fundamentally change the characteristics that attracted so many of us to Del Mar in the first place.

Short-term tenants don’t work here, or vote here, or send their kids to school here. They have no stake in our neighborhoods. They are essentially hotel guests, and the STRB proliferation is a major long-term threat to the residential character of Del Mar. Just imagine how you would react to having a constant turnover of party-loving vacationers staying in the house next door.

As a rule, those who promote Short Term Rentals are not your neighbors looking to keep their home occupied and realize some occasional income while they go on vacation. In fact, STRB proponents are far more likely to be well-financed businesses intent upon monetizing the benefits of “Del Mar living” that our citizens have worked so hard to create and defend over decades.

Make no mistake about it. The STRB industry continues to relentlessly push its agenda to eliminate restrictions on short-term rentals, so that it can create a community of profitable mini-hotels catering to transient vacation renters. These renters often disrupt Del Mar’s neighborhoods and, as they proliferate, STRBs could ultimately displace full-time residents. It is not just short-term rentals at the beach—these STRBs are in every district of Del Mar. Our town has always been very welcoming to tourists and all visitors, and we invite them to make use of our plentiful supply of hotel rooms at all price points, or to take advantage of rentals where short-term stays are appropriately zoned.

But STRBs in residential-zoned neighborhoods are all together different, and they have many negative impacts. Perhaps the most important impact is the fact that you may no longer know who’s living around you—someone you could call in an emergency, someone with shared neighborhood interests. Moreover, the STRBs hollow out the vibrant, active, resident-driven Del Mar constituency that has created our unique community; exacerbate the problem of providing affordable housing, as homes and apartments are converted to mini-hotels rather than long-term rentals; and incur civic costs to enforce regulations and deal with disruptive vacationers who could care less about the long-term residential character of Del Mar.

We are not alone in our fight. Cities large and small across the nation (and the world) are grappling with how to deal with exploding numbers of STRBs in their midst. Left unchecked, it is only a matter of time before STRBs could permanently change the residential nature of Del Mar, as so eloquently described in our Community Plan.

We must fight back. We believe in NEIGHBORHOODS FIRST. Talk with your friends and neighbors about this issue and support the City of Del Mar’s efforts to protect the very things that make our town such a wonderful place to live, raise our families, and participate in a robust civic life.

 

 

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