Bloodied when a short-term rental scenario went wrong with tragic results in February, Orinda’s city council has spent the interim period tinkering with ideas to safeguard homeowner, renters – and the city – in future.
Mayor Victoria Smith asked city staff to canvass surrounding cities and towns for their approaches to the short-term rental market, popularized by sites like Airbnb, after a house party at a Camino Encinas residence leased for cash ended with an assault which left one partygoer in a coma.
City officials have said they recognize the need for some Orinda residents to have the option to rent out their residence or a portion of it as they desire. But after getting a $9,000 bill for investigative services from the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office in the wake of the Camino Encinas assault, Smith initiated a search for protective options.
Options include the implementation of taxes as well as ordinances that either permit short term rentals by right, an outright ban of rentals, or the allowance of short-term rentals subject to specific conditions.
Residents spoke on both sides of the issue during an early session before the council in April. Some maintained it was essential for area residents, particularly older residents looking for a way to supplement their incomes, to be allowed to do so. Others cited concerns with possible traffic and safety issues and incompatible uses in neighborhoods within a semi-rural setting.
City staff polled their opposite numbers in neighboring towns and cities to see if there was some common ground and a solution for the issue, coming up with a myriad of approaches ranging from taking no action at all to assuming a regulatory stance. Up for discussion is the possibility of administering a fee up to $300 for owners seeking permits for short-term rentals or levying a Transient Occupancy Tax staff estimates could net the city an estimated $55,000 annually if imposed.
The issue is scheduled for further discussion at the council’s July 19 meeting.
A friend of mine (Orinda resident) told me “if you need the money that badly, you probably don’t belong in Orinda.” I don’t feel that strongly. There are elderly residents who could use the supplemental income. “Past experience” says it all. Safety issues are a concern, and this needs to be banned.
The incident on Camino Encinas could’ve been easily avoided with common sense and good judgment. The homeowner was greedy and foolish, and the partygoers got what they wanted. An out of control party in a nice home.
“if you need the money that badly, you probably don’t belong in Orinda.”
That says a lot.
Danielle, your friends’ comment (and that you shared it) is offensive.
Tell your friend that we (like most people we know here) moved to Lamorinda to become contributing members of the community; for our kids to have a great upbringing and education, and for them to understand that sharing what we have is important. There are a lot of us in Orinda and surrounding towns, and to be frank; we work our asses off to be here. Broadcasting your friends viewpoint isn’t helpful or neighborly, and only serves to widen the divide between the self-proclaimed rarefied and the working folks who also call Orinda home — all of whom, mind you, are pretty “well off”, comparatively speaking. But in the end, it comes down to ratios. We may earn plenty, and have the luxury of living here, but the ratio between income and expenses can be daunting, at times.
AirBnB income (which we pay taxes on, by the way) offsets our childcare expenses, which in turn gives us the extra cashflow to pass along to local businesses (craftspeople, restaurants, baby sitters; the list goes on), and occasionally go see the world while staying in AirBnB rentals. This isn’t hyperbole, it’s our reality.
Honestly, most of our AirBnB guests are friends or family of Lamorinda residents. Others are visiting St. Mary’s or Cal-Berkeley, or coming for high school graduations. Several have been immediate neighbors, needing a place to stay while their floors are redone or what not. Neighbors always get a deep discount.
All have been fabulous, respectful guests who love staying in a neighborhood and patronizing local businesses that we recommend, rather than stay in a motel room in Oakland or Walnut Creek or San Francisco. All have respected our house rules. We have had no problems, and our neighbors were a part of our decision making process to host AirBnB guests in the first place. We go to great lengths to ensure guests are a good fit for our family home and our neighborhood.
But, it’s not for everyone — AirBnB guests generally are trying to save a few bucks on travel expenses while getting a more authentic, localized experience — perhaps, even, so they, too, might be able to move here some day.
People comment on the lovely climate, neighborhood, and proximity to everything the Bay Area offers. They love the privacy and also hearing kids playing outside. They love Lamorinda, and that helps the community.
In closing, I’d venture to guess that few — if any — of the naysayers have ever dared try it. I invite you to come stay in our private AirBnB unit (there’s a two night minimum). Hit me up and I’ll gladly honor the neighborhood discount, even though it affects our bottom line – that’s what neighbors do.
If that becomes the town motto, I don’t think you need to worry about an influx of airbnb renters.
I think Airbnb should be banned in Orinda and everywhere. It’s a very popular opinion. I would be very annoyed if my neighbors turned their home into a hotel. If you’re that easily offended, perhaps it’s best that you not read my posts.
I don’t have to tell my friend anything about Orinda. We both grew up in Lamorinda, and are currently residents of Orinda. Both of our families go way back.
I speak my mind, and will continue to do so.
For added income, I recommend real estate investments and the stock market. Being highly educated and a nice salary helps too.
“For added income, I recommend real estate investments and the stock market. Being highly educated and a nice salary helps too.”
Wow. That’s the most passive-aggressive thing I’ve read in a long time. Who says that? Seriously.
I guess, if you need more money you just ask for it. “Please, sir, I want some more”. More nice salary please.
Danielle, thanks for your advice on becoming highly educated and having a nice salary, like yourself. I’ll have to look in to that one of these days. Of course, we must be doing something right, to be able to afford living in the same community as you!
Thank you, but our current real estate investment is our own home, purchased from the proceeds of our first home in San Francisco, using an informed balance of a ‘nice salary’, risk and timing. We’re maximizing that investment using AirBnB, which will ultimately help our children become highly educated and make a nice salary, too — and maybe even dabble in the stock market some day, just like you!
But, that’s where the similarities probably end. Entitlement and your air of superiority isn’t one of our family values. Congratulations on having “made it”, only to condescend upon those of us who are “working on it”.
When you shared the sentiment “if you need the money that badly, you probably don’t belong in Orinda”, you likely offended about half the population of Lamorinda.
Okay… thanks for sharing. Have a blessed day.
Twenty-six hundred views, and I count 3 comments from Orindans. Where did everybody go? I guess this is less controversial than roundabouts. Less controversial than parklets. Just charge a reasonable “hotel tax” (like other cities) to cover the city’s occasional expenses and to level the playing field with hotels, and let the marketplace work.
David — I agree. So much for the whole ‘popular opinion’ line. We’d be happy to pay whatever permit fee / tax for operating our AirBnB unit – it’d still be worth it, if not for any other reason than to get the hardline “ban everything different” crowd off our backs.
I agree with Danielle. She’s right on the money-no pun intended. My friends in Orinda are against it. Orindans lead busy lives, and most of the people who read and enjoy this site don’t leave comments.
I don’t live in Orinda but I’m close. It looks like a nice enough place. You can put me in the “let the homeowner do what they want with their home as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else” category. When government starts to meddle I get nervous.
What happened on Camino Encinas did hurt the town of Orinda, financially and otherwise. A $9,000 dollar bill and the residents near Camino Encinas were affected. This young man ended up in a coma because of an irresponsible homeowner. AirBnb is flaky, and it should be shut down world wide. See you at the council meeting July 19.
This has been fun to follow and some of the comments have been eye opening. Most of our neighbors are away on vacation right now and I don’t any of them who have turned the time to their advantage and offered their homes through airbnb. I can seen the benefits of doing so and appreciate the comments on how well it has worked for some but must add that most of the neighbors I have spoken with about the subject have said “good idea, just not for us.” I ask why and they almost all say “because our home is our home and we don’t want anyone else staying there unless they are family or friends – in which case they stay for free.” But all things change and things are really changing today so perhaps this will become standard procedure in the future.
Steve, regarding the Camino Encinas incident, the homeowner was irresponsible by accepting a cash transaction, off-platform, which doesn’t mean AirBnB should be banned, let alone world-wide, as you suggest. I doubt very much many AirBnB hosts around here would do such a careless thing (although clearly, one person did), and it feels like the actions of one have castigated all of us. I too believe the homeowner should be liable for the bill from the County, plus interest & penalties. I’d expect to be held responsible if that were a situation at our own rental, which is just one of many reasons we are very careful as to who we host.
I’d love to read commentary from people who have actually used AirBnB as a guest. My suspicion is all those posting here against it haven’t ever dared tried it.
I have stayed at a few Airbnb rentals, and it worked out well for me. I wouldn’t be interested in being a “host” myself. It’s an interesting property rights question, I think, and I think the Town is smart to address it. Let’s see what they come up with. Or do they just kick the can down the road?
Anybody who rents out their home to total strangers has no respect for their neighbors, and no respect for their town in general. Anything can happen, and it does.
I hope the Orinda city council is reading. If it can be banned in large cities (NY, etc.) it can be banned in smaller suburbs where it has caused problems in the past.
Orinda is a beautiful town, and if you can’t afford to live here, then you can’t afford to live here. Your financial situation is something you consider before you sign on the dotted line.
Just a reminder. The rental on Camino Encinas was privately arranged.
That was NOT an Airbnb rental. (I think my prior post may have been lost?)
The bill for investigative work in the wake of that shameful assault and party should go to the homeowner who made it possible for an unsupervised mob to come and set up shop in a local home. Period.
Well, that’s an interesting view of property rights. Ban rentals.
Homeowners have every right to rent out their property as they see fit. And neighbors have every right to expect compensation if a drunken mob takes the property over while the owner is off counting their money, safely removed from the problem. Orinda appears to be working toward some form of regulation, but then you’d have to have an array of regulations and ordinances in place to support the prosecution and protect the town if and when violations occur. And we all know how simple measures to restore quiet to quiet neighborhoods has been handled in the past. I’ll be interested to see what develops.
I always like to ask what would Marie Antoinette do in a situation like this, when your Orinda money is running a little low. Why, just sell one of your vacation houses, of course!
There’s a big difference between “renting out your home as you see fit” and turning it into a hotel.
Renting out a bedroom or two because you need the money is one thing. That would mean the person renting would become a resident. Residents sign a lease. Renting out by the night (or a two night minimum) is the business of a hotel.
Your home is not a hotel. You’re in a residential area, not a business zone. You’re taking business away from the hotel industry. Are you paying hotel tax?
I agree that the bill should go to the homeowner. If not, we all end up paying for it.
Yes, I feel very strongly about this. Our neighbors (who we know, like and respect) own very nice homes, and I hope they don’t rent out, J. Geils house party style.
I’m a J. Geils fan… but no thanks to the potential aggravation.
Hey, Guys, good discussion here. Thanks for keeping things civil and on point! It’s the 24/680 Way!
And thanks to Danielle for the J. Geils reference.
Daniel, J. Geils was my immediate next door neighbor for the 8 years I lived in Groton, MA — we became friends over time, and let me tell you; his partying days are over — he’s now a jazz musician and car collector.
His reputation precedes him, and similarly, I feel you’ve got some idea formulated that all AirBnB units are “hotels”, and all AirBnB hosts are “poor”. And, what hotel industry do you speak of, here in Orinda? AirBnB rentals are almost always a single person or group of people (a single reservation), not multiple parties sharing a common space (like a hotel). Our current guests are a 70+ couple from Canada, touring California, in a very nice Mercedes Benz AMG (it seems a detail like this is probably important to you). Our last guest was here for four days; a nurse from New York City (where, by the way, AirBnB has NOT been banned, as you suggest, just regulated) searching for a condo to purchase in Lamorinda. Before that, family of our neighbors who’s house simply wasn’t big enough to contain them all during a wedding / reunion week.
Like most, we don’t offer a portion of our home if we’re not here, and strictly enforce how many people are allowed here at any given time. Please, don’t associate all of us with the actions of the Camino Encinas homeowner. And please, stop giving financial advice, Danielle – it’s not helping your cause any. Situations can change, believe it or not, after signing on some ‘dotted line’. A very sarcastic “Congratulations!” to you, on making it to a place where you feel so entitled as to determine who can afford to live here, and who can not.