"Full transcript: Nextdoor co-founder and CEO Nirav Tolia on Recode Decode".
I've written on the site about Nextdoor.com and the Cameron Project. Recently I came across an article about the former and a website for the latter. Thought you might find them of interest if you're following this blog:
"Full transcript: Nextdoor co-founder and CEO Nirav Tolia on Recode Decode".
CAMERON PROJECT: SURPRISE PUBLIC HEARING SCHEDULED FOR WEDNESDAY JULY 26TH AND A REMINDER ABOUT LISA MIDDLETON
Residents living in the immediate area of the Cameron Project were surprised on Thursday, July 20th. to receive a written notice of a public hearing called to review the Planning Commission's decision to approve an application for cosmetic changes to the plans for the Cameron Project.
Having taken over the development of the project from Davidson Communities, Woodbridge Pacific earlier this year asked the Planning department to approve some largely cosmetic changes for the designs, things such as "...minor changes to design, color, materials and reduction of massing and heights in certain units..."
Given that the original designs were approved ten years ago it seems reasonable that they might feel it necessary to change the color schemes, some materials etc. as tastes change but the Planning department refused their request referring them to formally apply and this they did with their proposals first being examined and approved by the Architectural Advisory Committee on May 19th. and then by the Planning Commission on June 28th.
Although the Planning staff had not approved the request when made directly, the staff report for the AAC concludes:
That staff report is signed by the Principal City Planner, Edward Robinson, who has been the planning officer associated with this development for many years and by the City's Director of Planning Service, Flinn Fagg.
asked for are "minor", why has Cllr. Kors called for this hearing? Is there something amiss with the way the Planning Commission or the Architectural Advisory Committee make decisions?
Our City Manager has told me that he doesn't know the Councillor's reason and Cllr Kors did not respond to repeated requests for information but one possibility might be that our City Council has finally become aware of the inadequacies in its process of getting input from residents' into developments such as these.
You may recall the sorry story of the role the Tahquitz River Estates Neighborhood Organization, TRENO, played in 2014 when the City, in the form of newly-arrived Planning Director Fagg, formally asked it for input into the request for yet another one-year extension for the project. Despite the neighborhood of Tahquitz River Estates having well over 1,000 homes and many more people, TRENO has a pitifully small number of members and even fewer officers, about a dozen, (see the page on this website explaining this). Under the leadership of its then Chair, LIsa Middleton, TRENO held private meetings with the then developers (Davidson Communities), and, without discussing the request with, or seeking input from, the residents of the neighborhood, reported to the City that they approved the extension request. Afterwards, in May 2014, Lisa MIddleton told local residents what she and the few others involved had done (emphasis below is added):
Lisa MIddleton rounded out her report with a promise:
As was also made clear earlier in her newsletter, in fact her first promise was patently false and neither Middleton nor TRENO could, actually, "keep the disruptions to a minimum", but she and they could have provided local residents with information. Despite her promise, both she and they have done a lamentably poor job of the latter, the most recent evidence of which is that they have not told any resident about the forthcoming public hearing this coming Wednesday, despite the fact that the notice shown above was mailed to one of the officers of TRENO, who lives near the site.
Having demonstrated her style of back-room deal-making and non-participative governance, Middleton was then appointed by a City Council led by former City Mayor Steve Pougnet, to, of all things, the Planning Commission! Now Middleton is running for our City Council. Our City will be the worse for electing anyone who treats local residents with a disdain that borders on contempt.
Every Summer people come to Palm Springs to enjoy outdoor activities but drop dead. Often such deaths were avoidable and due to ignorance and a lack of planning. People from benign climates often have no understanding of the risks high temperatures pose. Below are recommendations by the Palm Springs Fire Department. If you have friends visiting Palm Springs who go hiking or cycling it may be a good idea to double check with them that they are prepared.
A local campaigning group currently taking legal action against the City of Palm Springs, Protect Our Neighborhoods, has published "fake news" in its newsletter sent to local citizens.
The PON newsletter, sent out over Independence Day, alarmingly stated that:
The problem is that this claim of eighteen hundred VRs without permits in Palm Springs is simply not true. Boris Stark, one of the officers in the City's new Department of Vacation Rental Compliance explained that it came about because of a mistake in one line of a Powerpoint presentation at a meeting held in mid-June, a mistake which was swiftly corrected and this correction is visible online at the City's website which states:
As Mr. Stark explained:
In other words, that line in the Powerpoint presentation, about which PON say they were incredulous, is a statement about the volume of investigative work the department has been doing, not the results of that work.
Despite PON saying they "sought and received confirmation", they published statements that were factually wrong. The meeting at which they viewed the presentation was held on June 20th. Their newsletter was sent out on July 3rd. They had nearly two weeks to get their facts straight, but they didn't. Perhaps they were too eager to get "confirmation" rather than to get the truth?
The quote above from Mr. Stark is just a small part of an interview I conducted with him recently which will be published here soon as part of an ongoing series of articles about the Vacation Rental "issue" in Palm Springs.
VACATION RENTALS DEBATE: THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE NEW ORDINANCE ABOUT VRSs EXCLUDED THE PEOPLE MOST AFFECTED BY IT
Finally, claims were made about the process which led to the development of the new ordinance governing short term renting of homes.
o Home owners were adequately represented by VR agents and real estate agents as the interests of the agents are closely aligned with those of the owners.
o These people were told that if they didn’t accept the new ordinance VRs would be banned.
o The industry rejected the first ordinance, which was developed after extensive public consultation, so they are the ones who lack moderation or compromise.
REPLY: The argument that the new ordinance governing short-term renting of homes was arrived at through an inclusive and fair process simply ignores the article, in which Shon Tomlin explains that the people most affected by the ordinance were NOT included in the discussions before it was decided. That is the very reason he and his three colleagues have set up a new organization – to represent their interests and provide them with support.
The claim assumes that the interests of VR agents are aligned with those of homeowners and thus that the latter’s interests were adequately represented in the discussions with the City. But that’s not the case as many homeowners don’t use agents, the new regulations impose numerous burdensome restrictions and arduous procedures and agents would be all in favor of those as they make their services more valuable – and hence enable them to charge their clients more – and would help drive those homeowners who don’t use them to start doing so. So in fact it is reasonable to assume that the interests of agents and homeowners are not aligned at all.
The subsequent claims about refusals, warnings etc., etc., are simply irrelevant as they fail to recognize the basic point made in the article, namely, that homeowners weren’t included or adequately represented in the discussion in the first place.
Claims were made about the rights and legalities surrounding the short-term renting of homes:
o The short-term rental of a home is not allowed by planning designations of areas as residential. Homes in areas designated as Residential may not be used for commercial purposes. The rental by a homeowner for short-term stays is a commercial activity. Therefore such renting should not be allowed.
o Homes rented for less than 29 days are hotels.
o The most important perspective is that of the residents of a neighborhood, not STR home owners.
REPLY: If it were really the case that renting out one’s home in an area designated as Residential was illegal you can bet your bottom dollar that those opposed to doing so would have forced the City to prevent such renting. It thus seems to me that this claim is based on an incorrect understanding of such designations.
The argument that homes that are rented out for less than 29 days are hotels likewise seems to fail to recognize the difference between the two and in the article Shon Tomlin explains how the experience of renting a home differs from that of staying in a hotel.
Note though that it could be argued that, in terms of whether a home is a hotel, there’s little difference between renting a home out for 28 days versus renting it out for 30 days. Although one is classified as a “short-term” rental and the other “long-term” in that example the difference is only two days. If so, why should "short-term" renting be regarded as a “hotel” while renting for say 30 days is not?
So, if one were to accept such a claim, then it is quite possible that ANY home that might be rented out, whether for “short” or “long” terms, could be regarded as a hotel, and then would need to meet the same requirements as hotels, such as those of the Americans With Disabilities Act. ALL rented homes would then need wheelchair accessible toilets, ramps and a lift for disabled persons to get into and out a pool amongst many other things. This would make renting out a home uneconomical and thus effectively prevent any home being rented out for any period, short-term or long.
Finally the argument that “residents’ perspectives are the most important flies in the face of the inclusive and open approach taken by our City. Palm Springs has an admirable reputation for openness, acceptance, tolerance and inclusiveness. Let’s not destroy it.
Claims are made that by renting their homes out for short-periods, owners are adversely affecting the connectedness and community of neighborhoods.
REPLY: Community and connectedness are important to any neighborhood, but it seems to me to be a false argument to lay the blame for a lack of either at the door of homes that may be rented out, especially when, as one of the posts above informed us that:
“54% of single family homes in PS are not lived in full time and 74% of condos are not lived in full time”.
The poster found this “amazing” but many of us familiar with the history of Palm Springs don’t find that surprising at all.
Bear in mind that the homes now drawing people to visit Palm Springs in their tens of thousands world-wide, the “Alexanders” and the “Meiselmans” and the like were built as HOLIDAY HOMES, intended only to be occupied for the Winter season. These homes reflected the first expansion of housing in the City for the middle class, enabling professional Los Angelinos and others to grab a taste of what until then had been the lifestyle of the rich, the famous and those craving privacy. Even they hadn’t lived in their homes here full-time and it has only been in the very most recent years that our city has stayed open during the Summer months. Even five years ago, the closure of businesses in Palm Springs over the Summer was obvious to all and that wasn’t because fewer tourists came, but because – need I say this? – it gets so hot that many people who own homes here decamp elsewhere. Living in Palm Springs has traditionally been seasonal for many, even the majority, of homeowners, so please let’s start from a common understanding of our City, its history and how our residents have behaved for decades in examining the ideas of “community” and “connectedness”.
In addition, and as reflected by the large number of homeowners with VR permits and addresses in the Greater Los Angeles area, (30%), a large number of people who bought homes in Palm Springs did so to have weekend get-aways. They were second homes for them. They’d come for two days and be away for five, i.e. their homes were unoccupied for over 70% of the time.
To claim then that the short-term renting of less than 10% of the housing stock of Palm Springs is the reason why there is less connectedness and community in our neighborhoods is disingenuous at best and to now want to turn our neighborhoods into zones where renting is banned could actually exacerbate the problem rather than diminish it as by restricting homeowner’s rights to rent out their homes, the result may well be that homeowners may choose not to rent their homes out at all rather than switch to long-term renting and as a result those homes will remain unoccupied and empty for longer.
Enhancing connectedness and community in neighborhoods is one of the remits of our neighborhood organizations which could easily embrace and include rented homes, their owners and their guests if they chose to. The neighborhood organization for my area doesn’t but perhaps there are others which have, and those experiences could be shared here. I for one am all for increasing our sense of neighborhood community, despite the fact that many of my full-time resident neighbors enjoy their privacy and selectivity about who they spend their time with, so am happy for us to hear the “best practices” in other neighborhoods as to how this is done. Please do share ideas rather than falsely blame others for this issue.
Another claim made against VRs was:
o VRs do not contribute to neighborhood economies or cultures
o The profit VR homeowners make leaves the city.
REPLY: The argument that the short-term rental of homes does not contribute to neighborhood economies should by now have been put to rest. Visitors contribute to local economies as they go out to local restaurants and use local retail outlets and one in five short-term rental homeowners live in Palm Springs.
In addition, as Shon Tomlin indicated in the article, the main attraction of Palm Springs is our homes. By maintaining and often lovingly refurbishing, decorating and furnishing mid-century modern properties, and renting them out, homeowners are preserving a vital element of what makes Palm Springs uniquely attractive and interesting. If one doesn’t like tourists that won’t matter, but bear in mind that tourism is our single most important industry.
Modernism Week each year attracts larger and larger numbers. I think this last event brought 80,000 visitors to our city. They came to see homes included in the various neighborhood tours, tours which generated significant income for our neighborhood associations. And short-term rental homeowners included their fashionably decorated, immaculately maintained mid-century homes in those tours.
Beyond that, as Shon Tomlin says in the article, many people who eventually become full-time residents first come to appreciate living here by trying out the experience by repeatedly renting a home for a short period.
As for the second claim, that profits leave the city, we now know that one in five homes with short-term rental permits are registered to people who live in the Palm Springs, so to claim that “the profits homeowners make leave the city”, isn’t true for many.
It also assumes that people who rent out their homes make a profit in the first place. This is questionable as Shon Tomlin explains in the article that many people rent their homes out for short periods in order to help defray their costs, e.g. HOAs, taxes, maintenance and the like.
In some instances homeowners wouldn’t own their homes if they couldn’t do this and so an outright ban or draconian regulations with inflated costs will have an impact on the value of homes in the City as it will put our homes out of reach of moderate income people hoping to retire here.
Some of those homeowners rent out their homes for short periods in anticipation of becoming full-time residents, say when they retire, and that, again, belies the notion of “Us versus Them” as many of “them” become “us”, and many of “us” were “them”.
One of the arguments against short-term renting of homes was that they reduce the value of surrounding homes.
REPLY: A claim that homes rented for short periods reduce the value of surrounding homes is easily testable. The sales values of all homes are a matter of public record, as are the locations of those homes with VR permits. All that’s needed is for the data to be collected and analyzed. Yet when making that claim there’s no such analysis to support it so all we’re left with is a bald claim that may or may not make sense to the person reading it.
It may well not make sense because rented homes have to maintain a high standard both in terms of internal furnishing and amenities and also externally in appearance. I know of many homes in my neighborhood, Tahquitz River Estates, all occupied by their owners full-time and never rented out, which are in varied degrees of disrepair. One is near-derelict and unoccupied as a result of a family dispute. Another effectively has no rear walls, and is owned by a contractor who lives in another city. Others are under water or owned by ailing elderly people and all are poorly maintained. Their appearance is off-putting for buyers and drag down the prices of the properties around the and I know this as I have spoken to potential buyers of a home in the neighborhood who tell me they see these things and take them into account.
So, if there’s an impact on property prices of rented homes on surrounding homes at all I would think that it is far more likely to be positive than negative as rented homes are very maintained to a higher standard than those around them.
A variety of claims were made about the people who rent out their homes, implying, it seemed, that they are very different kinds of people from you and me.
• VR OWNERSHIP AND RESIDENCY: o Owners of STR homes:
• do not live in Palm Springs.
• are not neighbors. They are transient/have “no skin in the game”.
• are corporations.
• are greedy.
REPLY: I cannot speak to whether or not homeowners who rent out a home for short periods are greedy per se, or are greedier than those who rent them out for longer periods or greedier than homeowners who don’t rent their homes out at all nor, if some are greedy, how many are greedy and how many are not.
However, I can point out that when one asks homeowners who rent out their homes why they do so, the reasons are quite varied and some of these are stated by Shon Tomlin, who is such a homeowner, in the article at http://yesincludeme.com.
Perhaps I am naïve, but I tend to believe them when they say so as, frankly, I have no reason to doubt the truthfulness of what he and people like him, who are very much like you and me, say.
Nor can I say much to the accusation that such homeowners aren’t “neighbors” either, but in the posts I have read on Nextdoor they again seem to tell us that they do many of the neighborly things we all do as full-time residents.
Perhaps the phrase “aren't neighbors” is meant in some different way from being neighborly, and thus this accusation of “not being neighbors” is just said to make such people seem unlikeable, but I note that one person in the resurrected discussion said that likeableness varies across all homeowners, i.e. some homeowners who don’t rent their homes out are quite dislikable, and so it seems to me that whether one does or doesn’t rent one’s home out or even live in the City for a longer or shorter period really is no guarantee that one might be likeable at all.
Why one should assume that people who rent out their homes for short periods are dislikable, less likeable, less neighborly or unneighborly, simply because that’s what they do escapes me.
As far as the other claims, that VR owners don’t live in Palm Springs, and are corporations, we can actually figure that out as the City records the names of VR permit holders and these indicate their addresses as well. This information is publicly available, one has only to ask for it, which is what I did.
Using the list of permit holders as of March 2017 one can see that:
• of the total number of names stated, 4% WERE BUSINESS NAMES (e.g. “LLC”, “Corp”, “Corporation”, “Partnership” or a name that sounded like a business and not a person, etc), and thus that:
• 96% OF THE NAMES WERE INDIVIDUAL'S NAMES.
Incidentally, I used the same data to examine what proportion of VR permit holders own more than one home in Palm Springs. The answer is:
• MORE THAN 92% of permit holders own ONE HOME.
Note that no one has to take my word for that. Anyone can get the same information from the City and do the same analysis that I did.
I used the data on permit holders compiled by the City and supplied to anyone who asks for it, to examine the claim that VR owners don’t live in Palm Springs. The data did not record the address of every permit holder and the number of permit holders included past as well as present permit holders. I excluded the permit holder data where there was no address shown, leaving 1,922 permit numbers assigned by the City to permit holders which had addresses.
Here are the results showing the percentage of permit holders by stated location:
LOCATION OF PERMIT HOLDERS WITH ADDRESS SHOWN IN CITY PERMIT DATA IN MARCH 2017
PALM SPRINGS 20%
GREATER LOS ANGELES AREA 30%
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA 63%
Hopefully this gives a better understanding of the claim that homeowners who rent their homes out for short terms “don’t live here”.
It may be the case that 80% don’t live in the City of Palm Springs itself, but ONE IN FIVE DO, and the vast majority live within 100 miles of Palm Springs. They are not aliens from another planet.
Note that because a short-term rental permit holder gives another address when applying for a permit that does not say anything about whether or how often they themselves use their Palm Springs home. They may use it most of the year, part or not at all, so one cannot simply assume that all owners of homes rented out for short periods are absentee homeowners who never come to Palm Springs and don't participate in our community.
Nor can one assume they are more likely to be wholly absent from our city than people who rent out their homes for longer than 28 days. In fact it may well be that homeowners who rent their homes out for short terms are more likely to spend time in Palm Springs than those who rent them out long-term, as short term renting gives them the flexibility to use their home as they wish and to visit the city for long or short periods.
Yes, Include Me!... The Blog
Things that affect people in Palm Springs.
The Yes, Include Me! blog, is written by Jonathan Freeman with love, curiosity and a dose of cynicism about Palm Springs and the people who try to run it for people who live here for whatever period that may be.
FOR EACH OTHER
TAHQUITZ CREEK TRAIL MASTER PLAN
CRIME & SAFETY
DERELICTION, DEVELOPMENT & INVESTMENT
THE ROCK GARDEN DEVELOPMENT
PHOTO GALLERY APRIL 23RD 2015
PHOTO GALLERY MAY 17TH 2015
DERELICT MAGRUDER BUILDING
1100 S PALM CANYON DRIVE
THE FORMER DR. SCHOLL ESTATE
CALIENTE TROPICS HOTEL
THE CAMERON PROJECT
S. PALM CANYON DRIVE SIDEWALK
MR. LYONS RESTAURANT
INTERVENTION 911'S DRUG REHAB
NOISE & DISTURBANCE