Vacation Rentals, The Zoo Fence
Wednesday - December 05, 2007
You certainly know that quotation, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Maybe we need to apply some of that first item to the tussle over City licensing for B&Bs and vacation rentals, specially in Kailua.
Look, the reality is that it is impossible to effectively enforce laws against sneaking a paying visitor into your spare bedroom for a couple of nights, and even more difficult to tell who’s doing a vacation rental for fewer than the legal 30 days.
So then - if there are some things that defy reasonable oversight, why not just let them be and get over it?
If the main complaint is about traffic and parking, neither is really made much worse than it is. We can amend our laws to define a B&B, as an owner-occupied dwelling taking in no more than two rooms of temporary boarders. That’s two cars. Big deal. A vacation rental has its own parking.
Noise? If it’s an owner-occupied B&B dwelling, the owner’s unlikely to allow all-night par-tying. I was once overly noisy at a Volcano B&B and the other guests treated me like a pariah at breakfast.
Vacation rentals can present a noise problem, but the same remedy is available as if the owners were too noisy too late. You call the cops. We write a vacation rental law that strips the license after excessive violations. Like a liquor license. I’ve heard as much noise from various long-term renters behind me as I’d ever likely see from short-termers.
And another thing. There’s nothing that says you must stay at least 30 days under a rental contract. You can move out five days later if you want. You may or may not have to pay a penalty. So if we try to enforce that 30-day law, renters will simply sign 30-day contracts with a wink and move out whenever their vacation is over.
Make B&B licensees swear to their owner occupancy. Make vacation-rental licensees sharply limit the number of occupants or else apply for a hotel or inn variance and license. Invoking a 30-day law seems too arbitrary. Why are 30-day rentals better than 15 or 20?
Sneaking around to take photographs or catch a renter moving out on the 29th day or charging Ma Plunkett for renting an unlicensed back bedroom to a tourist for a couple of days - that’s over the top.
Yes, do nail those who don’t pay the taxes.
Perhaps Donald Bremner and his Keep It Kailua folks need to momentarily adopt the motto “Don’t just do something, stand there.” Meanwhile, the City could get busy rewriting our B&B and vacation rental ordinances to put some better sense into them.
I vote against allowing Art On The Fence and merchant craft fairs at Kapiolani Park, even though the only vote that counts is that of the probate judge who will hear the case next Friday.
There’s some law on the plaintiffs’ side because the park is not supposed to be used for commercial purposes. That’s in the trust document. The land was deeded to the people for open space. I’d not have approved the bandstand, the Waikiki Shell or the Honolulu Zoo there. I cheered former Gov. Ben Cayetano’s proposal to convert the Ala Wai Golf Course into a Central Park.
The artists and the crafters at Kapiolani Park are merchants. Make them rent merchant space on private property.
You see what’s happened. We started with just a little commercialism - foot in the door - and now we get regular “cultural fairs” for merchants to sell trinkets and food. They’ve spilled over to Queen’s Surf Beach.
I hope the judge sees the park trust as an instrument forbidding the City to lease out cheap merchant space.
It would be in all the people’s interest to keep Kapiolani Park noncommercial.
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