The Fresno City Council voted unanimously Thursday in support of the introduction of an ordinance to regulate short-term rentals like Airbnb, aiming to catch up with other cities that already have such polices in place.
The vote came after debate between council members on whether the ordinance would over-regulate the growing short-term rentals industry.
As a result of those discussions, the council agreed to make some suggested amendments to make the ordinance more business-friendly, such as not requiring owners to have a business license and allowing violators to get a warning the first time.
Some council members and residents say some of the problems associated with short-term rentals in Fresno include loud parties, noise, lack of parking in neighborhoods, and waste left behind like beer bottles and cans.
Roselyn Clark, president of the Fresno Police and Neighborhood Watch Association, spoke in support of the ordinance.
Clark said a short-term rental unit appeared in her neighborhood less than two months ago, causing disturbances in the area. She said she sent a letter to the City Council members about the issue.
“We’ve had some really serious problems as I addressed in that letter,” she said. “They are (like) motels in residential areas.”
Council members Garry Bredefeld and Paul Caprioglio took the lead to develop an ordinance to regulate the industry locally.
Bredefeld called the ordinance a “reasonable approach” to deal with the issue. “In my district, we’ve had some problems with Airbnb rentals,” said Bredefeld. “Airbnb’s have not been regulated in our city.”
As it was introduced, the ordinance would require property owners to get a permit from the city’s Planning and Development Department. It would have to be renewed annually.
Owners would also have to provide valid contact information, so city officials and law enforcement can contact them in case of an emergency.
Owners would be responsible for preventing any nuisance activities. “This is really not about a tax,” Caprioglio said of the ordinance. “It’s about accountability.”
Part of Thursday’s debate dealt with whether to require owners of short-term rentals to get a simple permit — or whether they should be required to have a business license.
Councilman Mike Karbassi said he has a business license. He wouldn’t like to see a family trying to make some extra cash by renting out a room have to go through the process of getting a business license.
Karbassi asked that the business license requirement be removed from the process, as he didn’t want to add another layer of bureaucracy, or create a policy that isn’t business-friendly.
“I think that’s over-regulation,” he said of the business license. “I think that we can have control without a business license.”
Councilman Nelson Esparza said he supports regulations for short-term rentals, but he believed the ordinance, as it was proposed, would decrease the number of Fresno’s short-term rentals by imposing a burdensome process.
Esparza suggested several changes, like making the first violation a warning and directing staff to make the application process simple.
Councilman Miguel Arias said he would like Bredefeld and Caprioglio to consider fines as part of their ordinance.
At the end of the discussion, Karbassi said the scope of the ordinance, given the suggested amendments, was something he could support. “This is democracy at its best,” he said.
While the ordinance was introduced on Thursday, it must return to the City Council at a later date for another reading, before it can become law.