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The Issue of Single Family Transient Rentals: Zoning for...

The Issue of Single Family Transient Rentals: Zoning for Economic Development in Mammoth Lakes, CA

Zoning, the main form in which land use is regulated in the United States, is a controversial form of urban planning. Property owners do not like being told what they can and cannot do with their land and view use restrictions as a violation of their property rights. Those in favor of zoning view it

Transient Rentals ProhibitedZoning, the main form in which land use is regulated in the United States, is a controversial form of urban planning. Property owners do not like being told what they can and cannot do with their land and view use restrictions as a violation of their property rights. Those in favor of zoning view it as protection from some public nuisances. For example, if you buy property that is zoned residential, then you expect protection from the construction of an industrial factory near your home. These opposing points of view are currently in debate in the Town of Mammoth Lakes, CA where arguments for and against the transient rental of single family homes are currently surging.

Mammoth Lakes is a small destination resort community seeking industry distinction located in the Eastern Sierra region of California. The Town’s local economy is based on tourism: the ski industry in the winter and fishing in the summer. As a singular-based tourist economy, the major source of revenue for the community is the transient occupancy tax, a tax levied on tourists who stay in hotels, which I’ve discussed in previous articles for The GRID. Currently, many homeowners have chosen to rent their vacation homes as a source of alternative income; however, more often than not, these homes are located in areas within the zoning code that do not permit transient rentals.

This issue has brought forth a lot of discussion regarding the transient use of single family homes. Those who are against zoning for transient rental of single family homes cite the following issues:

  • Excessive noise of vacationers;
  • Barking dogs;
  • Renters ignoring property lines;
  • Garbage disposal issues;
  • And a general disrespect for neighbors.

Currently struggling with the possibility of municipal bankruptcy, the Town could decide to allow for the transient use of homes located in Residential Single Family (RSF) zone. Recently, a coalition was formed to address the positive aspects associated with allowing this zoning update which includes aspects related to economic development. Among their main “talking points” on their website are:

  • The increased revenue that could be collected by allowing single family homes to rent transiently;
  • The high rate of potential foreclosures that could be avoided;
  • Improved marketing by remaining competitive with resort communities like Aspen, Colorado, Sun Valley, Idaho and Taos, New Mexico;
  • And the creation of local jobs (property managers, contractors, handymen, plumbers, painters, landscapers, cleaning crews, snow plow drivers, taxi drivers, rental agencies, food delivery, ski rental, restaurants, retail, etc.).

If you were a single family homeowner, would you want to allow transient rentals in your neighborhood? If you were local business owner, how would you feel about increasing the number of transient rental facilities in your town? If you were a hotel operator, how would you feel about this?

Credits: Image and data linked to sources.

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Patricia wrote for The GRID between October 2011 and October 2012. During this time she was a graduate student in Community & Regional Planning with a concentration in Latin American Studies at the University of New Mexico. She was also a recent ...

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