- Desert Wise Virtual Landscape videos released
- Planning Commission to vote on Housing Element
- Industrial Scale Renewable Energy Threats to the Desert
San Bernardino County's June draft version of their state-required Housing Element contained some changes in direct response to the outpouring of public concerns about excessive Short Term Rentals in unincorporated Desert and Mountain areas of the County. MBCA has scrutinized the latest draft and sent a detailed comment letter thanking the County for some useful changes and pointing out the need for additional revisions. For a history of the ongoing County housing issues, see our News posts of June 9 (MBCA comment letter), June 9 (combined letter with Center for Biological Diversity), and June 15 (report on Supervisors' meeting). This Desert Sun article contains a good overview of the situation.
At their June 15 meeting, the four members of the California Fish and Game Commission were split on decisions relating to the status of the Western Joshua tree. Their tie votes of 2-2 applied both to a motion to list the tree as threatened and a motion to continue the decision to the August meeting, with a recommendation to develop a recovery and conservation plan. With no decision on the Joshua tree's status, it continues to be protected in “candidate” status. The topic was continued until the October meeting of the Commission. This Desert Sun article provides a comprehensive summary of the presentations, arguments, and actions taken at the meeting. Additional information and links to the recording of the meeting can be found in this email from the group ProtecttheJoshuaTrees.com.
MBCA President Steve Bardwell addresses Supervisors at June 14 meeting. Photo by Stacy Doolittle
At their June 14 meeting, the San Bernardino County Supervisors voted to place a 45-day moratorium on new short-term rental (STR) permits in unincorporated areas of the County via this Urgency Ordinance. During this time the County is expected to initiate studies about housing issues caused by the excessive number of STRs. The Board also voted to prohibit transfer of STR permits with home sales and limited STR ownership to 2 per person. Third District Supervisor Dawn Rowe was instrumental in championing these actions.
The Supervisors also voted on revisions to the existing Short Term Rental Ordinance forwarded by the Planning Commission. Supervisor Rowe made a motion to limit corporate and LLC ownership of STRs, but was unable to get a second on her motion to move it to a vote. MBCA along with other speakers emphasized the need to gather data and analyze the effect of STRs and housing needs at the local level incorporating input from the local community. This as the supervisors emphasized that the STR ordinance is a ‘living’ ordinance that should be expected to be revised over time.
There was some recognition by the Supervisors that any analysis could require more than 45 days of study. County Counsel informed the supervisors that the urgency notice could be extended for 10 months 15 days, and then for an additional year for a two year maximum.
MBCA's Pause Petition sent to the County on June 12 plus an Addendum presented at the meeting on June 14 were signed by a total of 474 people with 136 comments.
After months of escalating concern about the proliferation of short-term rentals across San Bernardino County, especially in the desert and mountain regions, MBCA joined with the Center for Biological Diversity to ask the County to immediately pause the approval of short-term rentals. The letter also urges a comprehensive study of both STR problems and the growing lack of rental housing availability.
Congressman Raul Ruiz (Coachella Valley) is planning to introduce legislation seeking to expand federal desert land protection with a new National Monument and other protection categories. MBCA has sent a letter to the Congressman in support of this effort.
In this public comment letter to the County and to the State Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), MBCA details the many inconsistencies between the state-required Housing Element policies and the County's open-ended Short-Term Rental Ordinance. A few of the many issues covered are housing displacement, lack of acknowledgement of community input, quantifying of housing unit objectives, and data about housing stock and housing types.