The increasing trend of leasing out rooms in the residential homes by the use of travel websites like Airbnb has been prosperous in San Luis Obispo. However, there is one problem and it is the fact that the business is illegal. The ancient ban on vacation rentals in the town of San Luis Obispo is now being challenged by some of the residents saying that the times have now changed and the ordinance should do the same.
In the last two years, Sky Bergman has been making use of the social lodging site, Airbnb, to rent out a room once in a while in her restored home located on Mill Street, downtown San Luis Obispo. The social lodging website enables the homeowners to advertise their homes to renters on a short-term basis for a night, a weekend or even as long as one month. Bergman is among the seven homeowners who were issued with citation recently telling them to stop renting out their homes or face fines that begin as low as $100 but with a probability of escalating up to $500 for each violation. Joseph Lease, the chief building official said that eight more notices will be sent out soon and that the city was currently investigating 35 other people for likely violations of the ordinance.
Bergman, who is the arts and design program’s department chairwoman at Cal Poly, said that the additional income that she makes from the renting of a room on a short term enables her to keep the home that she loves. She said that she enjoys the elasticity of not renting out on long-term as most of the times she has family and friends who are visiting. Bergman says that she has hosted people travelling internationally and she has had the chance of meeting many people and making friendships that last.
While criticizing the ordinance against vacation rentals, Bergman says that it is an outdated code just written in the books and that those who were supporting its continuation were not people who were struggling to live in the town. She is appealing against the citation and she is planning to present her case against the Planning Commission of the city in the month of October. The ordinance, which was drafted in the year 1980, is very clear: Vacation rentals are prohibited in any zone. Vacation rental is described as a part of dwelling or a residence that is equipped and rented out for less than 30 consecutive days. The only exceptions here are the: monasteries, sorority, fraternities, hotels, motels, bed and breakfast inns or boarding rooms.
Currently, 52 properties are being investigated for possibility of being vacation rentals by the city. Out of these, 19 were found on VRBO.com, one of Homeaway.com and 32 on Airbnb.com. Lease has said that the enforcement by the city is in response to complaints that have been made by the people in the hotel industry or the neighbors. Derek Johnson, the Community Development Director, says that the concern of the city is only about commercial activities being carried out in the residential areas