Documented by Jackie Schuster
What happened: At its Monday meeting, the Visalia City Council moved one step closer to being able to regulate short-term rentals, including homes and rooms rented through platforms like Vrbo and Airbnb.
In a 3-2 vote, the council approved introducing the first reading of Ordinance 2023-11, with the amendment that all residential zones are regulated. Mayor Brian Poochigian and Vice Mayor Brett Taylor voted against the ordinance.
If the ordinance is adopted, it would allow city staff to implement a registration and permitting process for short-term rentals in residential zones within the city. Although the ordinance did not address regulating short-term rentals in multi-family residential zones or limiting the number of short-term rentals per area, the first reading of the ordinance was passed with the amendment that the ordinance would regulate all residential zones.
After requests from Council members Liz Wynn and Steve Nelsen to consider adding a cap on how many short-term rentals can be located in one area, Community Development Director Paul Bernal said that city staff can begin looking at how a limit might be added to the ordinance.
Among the regulations in the ordinance are sections limiting short-term rentals to interior dwelling units, banning street parking for short-term renters, establishing how many occupants are allowed to stay in a room and enforcing compliance with the city’s previously established noise ordinances and quiet hours. The ordinance would also require the owners of a short-term rental unit to maintain a valid city of Visalia business license and include their permit number in all ads posted for their rental.
Two Visalia residents voiced complaints about nearby short-term rentals, with Bruce George describing the short-term rental next to his home as a “motel with a bar without a manager.” Nelsen said that short-term rentals ruin the sanctity of a neighborhood.
Visalia real estate agent and Airbnb owner Jose Briseno said these regulations threaten his rights as a homeowner. Briseno asked how staff came up with the figure of three occupants allowed to stay in a room, saying that this discriminates against large families, like his and his wife’s large Mexican families.
And also: The Visalia City Council unanimously approved a purchase contract up to $3.04 million with National Auto Fleet Group to purchase 32 police patrol vehicles, also authorizing $233,200 from various city funds to be appropriated for this purchase.
Visalia resident Barry Kaplan said he had attended the last Measure N Oversight Committee meeting, and after raising concerns over fund use was told by committee members that their job is not to provide oversight but to keep meetings as short as possible and approve what city staff and council send them to consider.
Nelsen said he cautions Kaplan against going on assumptions because “here on the council we go based on fact, we go based on detail.” Nelsen also said he personally knows people on the committee, so he disagreed with Kaplan’s comments that committee members aren’t providing oversight for Measure N funds.
City Manager Leslie Caviglia clarified that this current fund appropriation comes from general fund money, and the Measure N aspect of this will come before the council later.
Up next: The Visalia City Council will meet again on Nov. 6.