Pacific Grove is one of the only places on the Monterey Peninsula where visitors can stay in short term rentals. Now, voters there are set to decide whether they want to restrict where those vacation rentals can be located. Measure M would remove them from most residential neighborhoods.
Right now, there are 254 short term rentals, or STRs, in Pacific Grove. A map of them is available online.
“The blue dots indicate short term rentals. If you click on each dot, it shows you the address, the license number, and link to the complaint form,” says Haroon Noori, a Management Analyst for the City of Pacific Grove. He oversees the STR program.
Pacific Grove began issuing licenses for STRs back in 2010. Only in recent years did the city start tightening its regulations. This came in response to neighborhood complaints.
The city has two main restrictions on STRs. First, to get an annual license, there cannot be another vacation rental within 55 feet. That’s to reduce too many in one place.
Secondly, licenses are limited to 250. That’s about 3% of the homes in Pacific Grove. The cap will go fully into effect by April as licenses that don’t meet the new rules expire. There are also other reasons licenses may not get renewed.
“If we determine that they had a delinquent account and that there have been substantial complaints lodged against an STR, [that] mainly becomes the grounds for nonrenewal of a short term rental license,” says Noori.
But for Thom Akeman these limits are not enough. He lives on a narrow street in one of Pacific Grove’s small, historic homes. It’s just one block from downtown.
He knows this is an ideal neighborhood for visitors. He lives by five STRs; three across the street and two behind him.
“Their deck comes right up to our fence. So we hear them when they're out there drinking,” says Akeman.
The noise and the loss of parking spots are just a couple of things that bother him. He also didn’t like seeing some of his long term renting neighbors pushed out to make way for vacation rentals.
“Anybody who says they're good, I would almost guarantee you are people who have never lived beside them, across from them or behind them,” says Akeman.
Akeman is part of a group who pushed the Pacific Grove City Council for years to regulate STRs. When they felt the city did not go far enough, they got Measure M on the ballot.
Measure M would ban short term rentals in most of Pacific Groves residential zones. It does not affect short term rentals in the coastal zone. That’s an area regulated by the California Coastal Commission.
Akeman will vote Yes on M. He says for him it’s an issue of zoning.
“It's really a matter of way residential characters are defined. If the majority of our residents don't mind these things, then that's the way it's going to be. I think the majority of us do mind these things and would rather have stable neighborhoods, which is probably why most of us live here, where we do in the first place,” says Ackmen.
Pacific Grove does have more than 1,000 rooms available at hotels and inns. Short term rentals became more feasible for visitors and homeowners in recent years with the help of web sites like Airbnb.
That’s where Hank Armstrong lists his Pacific Grove home. It’s where he and his wife Sally raised their two girls. Now, the kids are out of the house and the Armstrongs are retired. So whenever they know they’re going to be out of town for a few days, they rent their home to visitors.
“They're looking for different amenities. They're looking for a place that will accommodate perhaps three or four or five people,” says Armstrong.
Pictures of their travels hang on the wall in a hallway and their short term rental license is posted in the front window. The license cost them about $1,200 a year.
“We invested in it because we will be leaving town part of the time for different reasons. And my wife and I as part of our economic plan for retirement, make it available on Airbnb,” says Armstrong.
Losing that license would mean a financial hit for the Armstrongs, but it would be a bigger financial hit for the City of Pacific Grove.
The City has grown to depend on the revenue coming in from short term rentals. The most recent numbers show they brought in nearly $2.2-million in Transient Occupancy Tax and other fees over the past year. The city wouldn't lose all that money, but it would take a substantial hit.
Armstrong says he worries most for the city’s loss. He’s voting No on M.
“Those cuts are going to have to come from programs, are going to have to come from services, and none of us want to go back to a library that's not open when we want to go there. None of us want to go back to not enough police or not enough fire. All the things that come with a healthy city budget. So hold on, let's think this through. Look at the program, tweak it if it needs tweaks, which the city has done, and keep it because it's good for most of us,” says Armstrong.
Voters have their say on what they think is best for Pacific Grove on November 6th. Measure M needs a majority vote to pass.