News

Palo Alto tries to get a piece of the 'sharing economy'

City looks for ways to regulate and tax short-term rental services like Airbnb

It's called the "sharing economy," but Palo Alto officials are growing increasingly concerned that the city isn't getting its fair share from Airbnb and other services that allow visitors to rent rooms in local homes without paying hotel taxes.

On Monday night, the City Council is scheduled to consider new laws the city could adopt to regulate an industry that didn't even exist 10 years ago.

While services such as Airbnb are increasingly popular among users, they enjoy an ambiguous relationship with the city's zoning code. The short-term rentals of dwelling units or bedrooms for fewer than 31 days are technically prohibited in Palo Alto; the city's code defines "dwelling units" as rooms that constitute a "separate housekeeping unit, occupied or intended for occupancy on a nontransient basis." The city further defines "transient" occupancy as one lasting fewer than 31 days.

But the city's code does allow residents to use up to 25 percent of their homes' gross floor area (or 500 square feet, whichever is less) for something called "home occupation." This refers to an "accessory activity" conducted in a dwelling unit by the home occupant "in a manner incidental to residential occupancy." Home occupation must not generate traffic or parking beyond what would normally be associated with residential occupancy.

Some Palo Altans who have waded into the waters of the sharing economy are unequivocal in their appraisals of such companies. Daniel Gold has been sharing his Palo Alto home through Airbnb since last year and touted the service to the council in January.

He said his experience with Airbnb highlighted for him how "overburdened the real estate market was here in Palo Alto." His guests have included Stanford University students who may not otherwise be able to afford to stay locally and would have to rely on lodging in other communities.

"It's important to me that these people are able to work here and study here and be able to afford it -- not having them stay in outer boroughs like Mountain View, where real estate is cheaper," Gold said.

He also noted that offering students short-term rentals allows them to spend money in Palo Alto, which translates to tax revenues for the city.

Taxation is very much one of the issues that the council is exploring, following a successful ballot measure Palo Alto voters approved last November. The measure raised the city's transient-occupancy-tax (TOT) rate -- commonly known as the hotel-tax rate -- from 12 percent to 14 percent and that specified that "rental agents" who collect rent but do not directly operate transient lodgings are "subject to the same obligations as a hotel operator to collect and remit the TOT.

"Staff is in the process of notifying Airbnb and other brokers, websites and providers of the requirement to collect and remit the TOT," a new report from the Department of Planning and Community Environment states.

Letters sent by the city to companies last week note that the updated TOT ordinance went into effect on Jan. 1 and that the city expects remittance of taxes by March 30.

Other cities, such as San Luis Obispo and San Francisco, have gone further with taxation, adopting requirements that homeowners who rent out their homes to pay transient-occupancy taxes and also that they acquire administrative permits for short-term rentals. Enforcement in both cities is based on complaints.

The new staff report also states that if voluntary compliance is not obtained, "additional enforcement steps could include use of subpoenas to gather information and potential legal action to obtain compliance with TOT requirements."

The city's dilemma over how to regulate Airbnb extends to Uber, Lyft and other poster children of the sharing economy, which encourages peer-to-peer collaboration between service users and providers but often pits entrepreneurs and customers against established laws and bureaucratic structures that never envisioned these kinds of services.

This past Monday night, as the council considered how new ride-sharing services could help solve the city's traffic problems, council members expressed both caution and enthusiasm about Uber and Lyft. Councilman Greg Scharff, a regular user of Uber, praised the service for its convenience while Vice Mayor Greg Schmid cautioned that these services may not work as well in Palo Alto as they do in denser communities such as New York or San Francisco.

A skeptical Councilwoman Liz Kniss noted that the city doesn't know anything about the background of the drivers involved in these services or about the companies' impacts on the taxi industry.

She has taken a similarly critical view of Airbnb, suggesting in a colleagues memo last December that the city needs to get a better grip on regulating the company and understanding its impacts. This past Monday, Kniss pointed out that the city has received numerous complaints from residents about Airbnb and suggested that short-term rentals are "one of the areas where we need to have oversight, if not control."

"The problem is that I'm not sure that this economy is sharing with us, the cities," Kniss said. "That's one of my biggest concerns."

Kniss, along with now-Mayor Karen Holman and former council members Larry Klein and Gail Price, co-signed the colleagues memo calling for new regulations. The memo estimated that Palo Alto has about 300 to 400 listings on Airbnb per night, about the same as San Jose, and highlighted various issues posed by its business model: the collection of transient-occupancy tax, whether zoning regulations should allow such rentals, and the impacts on parking and traffic in residential neighborhoods.

"San Jose, San Francisco and a few other larger cities have been negotiating agreements with Airbnb and other similar businesses on taxation and other matters," the memo states. "Our situation may be different than these larger cities in some respects, but we believe it's time for us to review what has been done and consider what additional steps Palo Alto should take."

The council memo notwithstanding, data from city staff suggests that complaints about Airbnb rentals have been minimal. In the past year and a half, the city's code-enforcement staff has received seven complaints from residents affected by short-term rentals. In two of these cases, the rental did not violate code. Four other cases were addressed and closed and one is ongoing, according to the report. The city has also received 10 complaints in the past year about home occupations (which may or may not relate to rental operations). To date, code-enforcement activity has affected only "small fraction of home occupations and short-term rentals" in Palo Alto, the report states.

If the council chooses the most aggressive approaches for regulating and taxing short-term rentals, the rule changes are expected to draw significant time and effort from a planning staff that is already juggling a hefty suite of new parking and traffic programs. The staff report estimates that it would take a minimum of eight to nine months to develop a new ordinance, obtain community feedback and go through the approval process.

Related content:

Airbnb landlords may owe Palo Alto taxes

Comments

12 people like this
Posted by Long-time Resident
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 5, 2015 at 11:28 am

"...not having them stay in outer boroughs like Mountain View, where real estate is cheaper," Gold said.

That is silly. Mountain View real estate is not that much cheaper, and in some cases, it's more expensive than in Palo Alto.

Palo Alto City Council just wants to pick the pocket of anyone and everyone they can, being equal opportunity Opportunists, getting more money from wherever they can. Why do they have to be so greedy? To pay for the unfunded retirements of former employees? For the millions they spent remodeling the first floor of City Hall?

Leave Palo Alto homeowners alone. Allow them to be creative with helping accommodate people brought here, mostly to work for high-tech companies, as if there are no native Californians/Americans to do a job.


19 people like this
Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 5, 2015 at 11:38 am

I encourage PA citizens to do their utmost to keep free market, technology-enabled revenue out of PA city govt's hands. Kniss appears incapable of putting herself in the shoes of the 99% for whom the sharing economy is a necessary opportunity.


17 people like this
Posted by Jim
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 5, 2015 at 11:39 am

So people have found a way to make a little extra money and provide a service that people use and want. Of course it's time for the city to get it"s share. By sucking a little more revenue from residents, maybe they can raise the city manager's salary or increase city pensions.

I might agree that if a person consistently rents out a room most of the time, it might be considered like a hotel business. But to tax the once or twice yearly income that someone makes when renting their house while on vacation is wrong. This is clearly not a business but simply a way to help afford the hotel costs during travel.

And why is AirBnb always referenced. I could use dwellable, homeaway or any number of services including my own Craigslist ad.

This is really digging to try and sponge off more taxes for this. Next they'll want to collect taxes when we sell our used cars or household items.


16 people like this
Posted by 10 bedroom houses
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 5, 2015 at 11:40 am


Do we really want short term stay rooming houses in our single family home areas of town? If this is approved what is to stop someone from building a new 1-2 story "house" with full habitable basement filled with bedroom/bathroom "suites" specifically for renting out? For example if you have a 2,500sf house with 2,500sf habitable basement you could fit maybe 10-12 bedroom/bathroom suites in that amount of floor area (or more). Call it a single family home and the parking requirement is just two parking spaces. So basically you end up with a 10-12 room short term stay rooming house in a single family residential neighborhood.

With new construction you could easily get $150-$200 a night so that $2,400/day with full occupancy. That's $72,000 month! Hell I guess you could do this already as long as the tenancy is month to month as opposed to day to day...


7 people like this
Posted by Jim
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 5, 2015 at 11:48 am

The City is using the argument that an AirBnb rental somehow adds more traffic. This is an indirect argument and is ludicrous. If you are worried about car traffic, then tax every family for extra cars beyond 1 per adult. There may easily be someone that doesn't even own a car and rents to a visiting student, also without a car while a neighbor next door has multiple cars.

This is similar to the argument that advocates to criminalize drugs based on the crimes that may be caused by drug users. Why not just enforce against the actual crimes? If too many cars is the problem, tax the cars. Not home or room rentals. Again - the City just wants to take money wherever they think they can get away with it. I encourage everyone to defend against yet another tax to enrich city coffers.


2 people like this
Posted by jim
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 5, 2015 at 11:50 am

@10 bedroom house
Regulate against continual rentals or too many rentals in a house rather than tax someone that rents one or 2 times a year. Taxing rentals is different than regulating business.


25 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of another community
on Mar 5, 2015 at 12:09 pm

May I ask when did mountain view become an outer borough of Palo alto? The world does not revolve around Palo alto residents!


8 people like this
Posted by Chris Tucher
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Mar 5, 2015 at 12:31 pm

Readers are reacting as if City proposes to *ban* AirBnB rentals. Instead, it's whether to tax them - and put limits on how much is too much for a suburban neighborhood. If hotels or B&B operators pay occupancy tax, why shouldn't an AirBnB landlord? Or maybe we get rid of hotel occupancy tax? And if we want to give a little leeway, then set a threshold, like if you gross less than $5000/yr, your occupancy tax will be refunded. Because I don't think we want the "10 bedrooms" scenario, described above. And if you don't like the city manager salary, or the city hall remodel, then deal with that directly -- not through a distortion of the tax code (which is the upshot of taxing hotel but not AirBnB revenue).


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Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 5, 2015 at 12:44 pm

[Post removed; off topic.]


15 people like this
Posted by Rose
a resident of Mayfield
on Mar 5, 2015 at 1:50 pm

If owners are renting out a bedroom or two in a home, condo or apartment that they LIVE IN -- that should be their private business. In such a circumstance, no one should be taxed as if they are a hotel. People who do this need extra income -- and those who don't need income don't rent out a spare bedroom.

On the other hand, if someone is not living in an apartment or home and there is no onsite supervision of airbnb guests -- that would be a business enterprise and perhaps should be taxed in some form. But don't hurt the little people. Palo Alto has enough income from legitimate taxes that you shouldn't chase the dwindling middle class.

I've used airbnb in Spain, Italy and Tucson -- it helped make my travel affordable and allowed me to spend more on food and gifts. Airbnb accommodations do indeed help local economies.


4 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Grandma
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 5, 2015 at 5:03 pm

So I just went on AirBnB and searched Palo Alto, expecting a sea of little red bubbles. Far as I could tell, tonight there were 185 listings. Not sure where Kniss et. al. get 300 to 500.

If we are concerned with just the impact of transient renters, dividing up the city into 15 or so sections, defined by the major arteries, and using the 300 to 500 numbers, each section would have 20 to 30+ AirBnB listings every night. At the 185 number, each section would have ~ 12/night, if all the listings were rented.

Or if you use the latest census data and do the math, there are, as of 2013, 28,216 housing units in Palo Alto, of which 38.5%, or 10,863 are multiunit. Subtracting the multiunit number from the total figure, figuring that apartment dwellers were less likely to be AirBnB landlords, gives us 17,352 houses. At 500/300 AirBnb renters per night, that is a renter for every 34/57 houses, respectively. That might be noticible, especially in neighborhoods where houses are smaller and closer together. In an Old Palo Alto neighborhood with very large houses relatively far apart, I doubt they could tell.

At the rate of 185 AirBnB listings a night, dividing 17,352 by 185 means a renter for every 94 houses. Considering the number of cars regularly parked on the streets of Palo Alto, and the number of houses which are already leased to multiple renters, the AirBnB lodgers not going to be very visible. Please check for yourselves, and do your own math.

However, if we are concerned with monetizing the practice, someone needs to go through all the listings, total the $$ being asked for rent, and figure out how much is being spent total per night, although assuming all the 185 houses are rented every night is probably a stretch. Then take that figure and weigh it against how much it would cost to hire a city employee to oversee the rentals and collect the money. Not to mention the time the PACC will spend discussing it in meetings.

Frankly, I'm more concerned with the listings on AirBnB that advertise multiple listings as "startup embassies for entrepreneurs", including rooms with bunk beds clearly shoehorned in. Or with AirBnB advertisers who have multiple listings. That starts to look like a hotel business. And with the Palo Alto landlords who buy houses and rent them out for exorbitant sums to more than just families. If the city council is really interested in doing something to control/monetize rentals, they need to look at ALL the rentals, not just the AirBnBs.


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Posted by priced-out
a resident of another community
on Mar 5, 2015 at 5:10 pm

POST, Tues, 1-bedroom apt in Palo Alto, $2900.
Employees have to move out, go far south of PA.
Rent to them? us?
or tourists?


1 person likes this
Posted by priced-out
a resident of another community
on Mar 5, 2015 at 5:38 pm

Rose, not dwindling, but divided middle class. People trying to rent rooms not too far from their jobs but unable to do so because people are doing airbnb-- both these groups are middle class, please remember.
Is this what class warfare is today? Middle class v middle class?


31 people like this
Posted by Concerned neighbor
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 5, 2015 at 6:14 pm

When I moved to Palo Alto from San Francisco I moved here to be part of a single family home community in a somewhat small, yet vibrant town. Palo Alto is not a city like San Francisco nor New York nor Los Angeles and I don't think most of us living here want it to be like those cities. So I am very disheartened when I read posts that sound as if folks want to turn Palo Alto into a transient rental town and essentially commercialize our residential neighborhoods. I think discussing whether or not Palo Alto should charge the TOT tax to homeowners is putting the cart before the horse.

Right now short term rentals are NOT allowed in Palo Alto, yet on my block I have a neighbor who rents out 3 rooms and as far as I can tell he has up to 5 people staying there at a time. These are short term rentals and are NOT allowed per current zoning codes and rather than discuss whether to tax this type of rental I'd like to see Palo Alto enforce their current zoning codes. Effectively I have a hotel on my block. New cars and new people are constantly coming and going and to me this is not the way we create a community, not to mention the safety and parking hassles this creates. This is how we create the opposite of a community. I admit it is hard for people to buy a house in our town, as home prices are very high, but getting around this be creating hotels on every block is not the answer. If the city feels it needs more affordable housing or more hotels, then it should continue building them in areas that are NOT zoned as single family residential zones. The 10 bedroom house rental that someone else mentioned is just around the corner if we let residents rent out rooms or houses on a daily basis.

A final comment to the writer that mentioned residents should be able to rent out their homes while on vacation. I absolutely agree with this person, as long as the current zoning codes are being complied with. I also don't believe that Palo Alto is saying you can't rent your home out while on vacation, in fact if you read the zoning code this should be fine, as long as you are not renting to more than 1 family during a 1 month period and as long as you are not renting out individual rooms to non-related parties. So if you go away for 1 month and rent your home out for a few weeks or event the full month, this is allowed per the code, as long as you only have 1 family stay. But if instead you have constant turnover and rent to various families during your vacation, this is not allowed and I would argue it should not be allowed.

It seems to me what we are grappling with here is if we want Palo Alto to continue to thrive as a community or if we want our beloved community to turn into a transient living environment. Just because the buzz right now is "shared economy" does not mean that we need to turn our community and our homes into a "shared economy" model.


11 people like this
Posted by Enforcement please
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 6, 2015 at 5:03 am

I agree with @concerned.

And for my family and formerly tightknit street, it's a safety concern, with new strangers arriving into our neighborhood every few days. Parking more clogged by renters. These are new layers of "problems" that people like us will call on our city to look into... resulting in costs for the city... which should be paid by the people generating the "problems".

Those who wanna run a small business should be willing to pay for taxes and licensing. Pass it onto the renter. That's what most lodgers expect: cleaning fee, tax, etc. tacked on. Do it on the up-and-up, and EVERYBODY WINS.


11 people like this
Posted by Jeff Keller
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 6, 2015 at 10:06 am

Jeff Keller is a registered user.

If an individual is running a hotel in their house they should be complying with the regulations governing hotels and probably move their business where it is allowed. Do we really want everyone trying to call their business something other than what it is so that they don't have to meet the regulations nor pay taxes? Enforce the zoning and if the zoning is causing problems change it so that everyone is playing by the same rules.

Letting one group call their hotel something other than a hotel and escape taxes while levying continually levying higher tax rates on businesses following the regulations is wrong and bad for our whole society.


9 people like this
Posted by Ed
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 6, 2015 at 6:51 pm

Airbnb, and all other similar services essentially facilitate transient occupancy of private residences. Remarkably, most hotel taxes are officially called transient occupancy taxes. Arguments that renting a room to a stranger for a night or two in a private residence is nothing like being a hotel are baseless. I'm in favor of applying the hotel tax to all transient occupancy rentals.


10 people like this
Posted by Bull-oney
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2015 at 8:11 pm

I moved here to get away from Big City congestion, traffic, prices, and other assorted baloney that is unhealthy for children. yet, a few years later, all of the Big City baloney I sought to avoid has arrived here after all--courtesy of the city council, city planners, and ARB.

I am disgusted and let down, and I feel deceived by the powers that be. All of my hopes and dreams, especially for my family, have been sold out to big developers and their greed.

Palo Alto has all of the negative attributes of a Big City, without even being a Big City! I am unbelievably disappointed in this town, and hope to leave n favor of Los Gatos, which, BTW, has higher-rated schools and less insanity.

Shame on Palo Alto!


3 people like this
Posted by Taxes
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 6, 2015 at 10:30 pm

If SF can get Airbnb to pay the city the taxes it owes (including back taxes) why wouldn't Palo Alto do the same, sensible thing?


4 people like this
Posted by R-1 zoning is losing
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 7, 2015 at 1:48 pm

We have a neighbor on our street that is an AirBnB and it is not a problem. They rent out to at most 3 adults. But we have another neighbor that rents out to around 15 people for longer periods of time, and that house often generates problems. The house with 15 people has had many complaints, and not just from neighbors, but also from the police.

This neighbor no longer advertizes for less than 31 days, so code enforcement says that's OK. Code enforcement says you can rent to as many people as you want in your R-1 home. There is NO LIMIT on how many people you can rent out to.

So the scenario where people covert their homes to rent out to many people with many bunk beds is no joke, and it is already happening. And this is by far more problematic than a neighbor who rents out a room or two. This should not be allowed in R-1, but code enforcement doesn't see that as violating low density R-1 zoning designation. But it sure does.


4 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 7, 2015 at 2:10 pm

If the Airbnb model is allowed to continue and expand, it will change the essential quality of our neighborhoods. I think this is not a good thing, but it may be desirable to the majority of my neighbors (I don't know). I would prefer that the zoning laws preclude it. However, if it is allowed to continue/expand, then I will probably get into the game, myself...at least I can make some coin as the value of my house declines due to the evaporation of neighborhood culture.


11 people like this
Posted by Insights
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 7, 2015 at 3:27 pm

Hello everyone,

I am an Airbnb host. I rent one room to one to two persons (couples) at most at any time. Let me explain to you how I think we do not impact our neighborhood.

- We live in our house and are home most of the time.
- We have children who used to live with us but we are now empty nesters.
- When we had children at home, there were at least four of us at the house. We are never more than four of us at any time now, as we do not take Airbnb guests when we have other visitors, such as family.
- When we had children at home, there was at least another car parked here, our children's. Now, I would say that half of our visitors come without a car, half come with no more than one car. So, we do not park more cars here than when our children lived here.
- We screen all of our visitors. We do not allow anyone who is not vetted. We want to be safe too! Most visitors here are professionals that come to interview for jobs at Stanford or tech companies, or attend conferences, or are parents of Stanford students. They have all been very responsible, reliable people. They are not any different than non paying visitors.

So, I do not see any impact on the neighborhood.

If taxes get collected, we will pay the taxes, no problem. But please, do not ban what we are doing. As older local residents, we actually do need the extra income as our income has not kept up with the local cost of living.


5 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 7, 2015 at 4:26 pm

Insight raises some excellent points about "empty nesters" not impacting the neighborhoods when renting out a room after the kids leave. And yes, many of us could use the extra income since we're not all the "rich" older" Palo Altans portrayed by some

"Empty nesters" and childless couples have much less of an impact on the community and parking that households with multiple kids, their friends, their cars, their au pairs, etc.

Empty Nesters/Childless Couples have been paying more than our fair share for many many years.


5 people like this
Posted by R-1 zoning is losing
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 7, 2015 at 4:32 pm

@Insights: I agree with you, and the Airbnb on our street is not a problem. They are very considerate and low impact and do not cause disruptions. However, we have a different neighbor who does cause problems, sometimes involving the police, and code enforcement says it's OK to put as many people as you want in your R-1 home. All those people that come and go (maybe every month or six months or whatever) do impact the neighborhood. Plus, problems at that home spill out over into the neighborhood.

Now we hear the city wants to regulate and allow under 31 days rentals. That will exacerbate the problems we already have with the over crowding in this one home. Code enforcement doesn't want to restrict the number in a home that was never meant to be a big boarding house. Essentially this neighbor is turning our neighborhood into a mixed use zoning.

So, this is a problem that the city is so set on taxing what it considers to be a "hotel" use but turning a blind eye to the problems of a big rental house business in a R-1 home.

I'm OK with a small Airbnb. But something needs to be done about the larger rental/boarding homes in R-1 zones.


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Posted by priced-out
a resident of another community
on Mar 7, 2015 at 4:46 pm

Insights,
Please rent to employees of local companies!


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Posted by priced-out
a resident of another community
on Mar 7, 2015 at 4:49 pm

R-1 zoning,
The house with 15 people is a more attractive option for some employees of local companies than a single room miles and miles away from here.
I'd rather see that than what Insights offers because I can see living there.


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Posted by Insights
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 7, 2015 at 5:15 pm

@ Online Name

Actually, I understand your problem and am sorry you have to deal with that. I would not like to have a big boarding house close to me either. In our case, however, we rent a few days at a time, so having short rentals banned is not a good thing for us personally.

@ priced-out

I understand your pain. One of my children lives in the area and pays a huge rent for one bedroom in a shared home (not through Airbnb). I am aware of the issue. However, in our case, we want to have the flexibility of not renting continuously. So, it precludes a long-term arrangement with someone who wants to live and work here.


1 person likes this
Posted by priced-out
a resident of another community
on Mar 7, 2015 at 5:50 pm

Insights,
Thank you. I appreciate the comment, especially since you yourself know what it is like for would-be renters, since you have a child in the very situation.
The flexibility that you like reminds me of what my family did from time to time, making rooms available in our house for the families of people coming to the Stanford Hospital for procedures. We did not charge them anything and we did it rather rarely, but it's nice to think back on that, at the same time as I wonder what zoning violation we might have violated. Maybe none, since we charged nothing.


1 person likes this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 7, 2015 at 7:15 pm

If the Airbnb (or similar) goes forward, think about a neighborhood with about 1/3 of such units (maybe even mine). It IS a transient hotel in a single family neighborhood.

Palo Alto will not enforce any regulations that actually prevent more rentals of rooms. It just wants to collect the taxes on such rentals. I think it is already a done deal...unfortunately.


3 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Native
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 7, 2015 at 7:49 pm

At first, I was on the side of free enterprise and helping home owners help meet their high mortgage payments. Then I got to thinking: more traffic, less parking in residential districts, and more people living at a home than originally intended or designed for. In fact, to avoid the temptation for overcrowding in homes, I would pass a city ordinance that each home has a dwelling limit. For example, a two bedroom home is capped out at 4 adults. In short, good job PA - don't collect a rental tax - pass an ordinance that states rental rooms must be only offered by full-time residences living in that space (stops speculators creating rental homes); and each structure is limited to 2 renters, per room. Such that, a two bedroom home could only have 2 full time adults in residence renting out its other room to a maximum of 2 adults or 2 people. In general, a provision to limit the number of home renters and residences per household.


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Posted by Todd
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 7, 2015 at 7:58 pm

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by priced-out
a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2015 at 8:26 am

The whole sharing econ - a sign we're on the way down, just another sign.


1 person likes this
Posted by R-1 zoning is losing
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2015 at 11:28 am

@palo alto native -- Your suggestions are right on! It makes sense to have a limit to how many per room. This way people could rent out rooms but not have such a negative impact on the neighbors.

But the city is only interested in collecting taxes.

If you remodel your home, you will have to jump through hoops to meet the code requirements, all in the name of safety. But the city turns a blind eye to the safety issues of renting to as many people as you can stuff in your house.

A cap of two to a bedroom would go a long way in solving these problems. But it looks like the city wants higher density no matter what.


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Posted by Todd
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2015 at 11:57 am

@R-1 zoning is losing

Right, if you can only afford a two bedroom house you have no business having a third child...


1 person likes this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 8, 2015 at 12:14 pm

If Palo Alto really wanted to put a stop to this Airbnb model, it could just prohibit the rental of rooms in a private residence, where the owner still lives. It won't do this, because PACC wants more density, not less.

I agree that R-1 zoning is de-facto dead, because PACC will NOT enforce any restrictive zoning violations (e.g. multiple unrelated people living in the same home). It won't even enforce the gas-powered leaf blower ban in residential neighborhoods. The code words to watch for is "complaint-based"...which means it is a toothless rule, intentionally so.

So, given that R-1 is dead, where do we go from here?


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Posted by R-1 zoning is losing
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2015 at 12:55 pm

@/todd -- your point is good. What I was referring to is a boarding house, where the owner rents out to tenants who come and go. Many of these tenants come and go after a few months, some stay up to a year. That is very different from a family with kids. Or any kind of group of people who rent the house together and are likely to stay at least a year or two.

The bigger problem is the boarding house, which is a business, in a R-1 zone.

@Craig -- You are right. How to get the city to do its job is a tough one since the city seems to have other ideas on growth


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Posted by Jason Weinstein
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 8, 2015 at 3:39 pm

Before I found an affordable apartment my girlfriend and I stayed at [portion removed]'s house for two months. I am a developer at a technology start-up company. Dan was a great host, his place is set up well / very clean and we met some other nice quests that were also working in the tech sector.


1 person likes this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 8, 2015 at 3:52 pm

>Before I found an affordable apartment my girlfriend and I stayed at [portion removed]'s house for two months.

If I was set up for it, you could have rented a room or two from me, too. You make my point, Jason...if we continue down this path, the single family residence neighborhoods will be a thing of the past. Then our residential properties will be less desirable, and their property values will decline.

Question Jason: Where did you find an affordable apartment to share with your girlfriend? Why didn't you just move into that apartment at the beginning, instead of renting a transient room [portion removed]?


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Posted by Robert
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2015 at 4:10 pm

"and their property values will decline"

Do you actually think through what you're saying before you post?


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Posted by priced-out
a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2015 at 10:14 pm

Jason Weinstein, and I know this comment is going to be wiped out, is that Dan the one that had the tiff with Jobs?


3 people like this
Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 9, 2015 at 8:06 am

SteveU is a registered user.

4 Bedrooms, 1 Kitchen is a R1 house
No matter who occupies those rooms

We have houses near us that now have those rooms occupied by Families with High school and Collage age children.
They ALL seem to own cars and contribute to local traffic.
How is it that these children do not cause the same traffic problems that a BNB occupant does??
Flawed logic or just more City Hall GREED?


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Posted by R-1 zoning is losing
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 9, 2015 at 1:01 pm

@Steve -- Most families have about two kids, and I know some on our block have had 4 or even 5 cars. Still, this is not the same as a boarding house because those kids generally move away (on our street you are talking at most about a two year period of more cars/drivers in a R-1 house).

But the boarding house on our street has something like over 15 cars parked because some of the tenants have more than one car. And this goes on year after year.


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 9, 2015 at 4:21 pm

@R-1 Zoning: What neighborhood do you live in?

One way to settle the issue of over-parking is to establish a RPPP in your neighborhood. This would go a long way to stop the 'boarding house' issue. We have this in College Terrace...it works pretty well.

I am proud of CT for leading the way. We should all be proud of CT.


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Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside
on Mar 9, 2015 at 10:15 pm

Does the banditry of the public sector know no limits?


1 person likes this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 10, 2015 at 1:23 am

Occupancy tax is the least of the considerations. Lengthy discussion at the City Council meeting tonight. Complete with neighborhood horror stories. Parking, noise, trash, strangers at all hours. The word "egregious" was used a lot, particularly regarding absentee owners. Others said they need the income to survive locally. I think people left more confused than before. I know I did. Everything is illegal but nothing is enforceable? Looking forward to any clarifying reporting in our media. Sounds like some of the commenters above were there.


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Posted by R-1 zoning is losing
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2015 at 8:54 am

@Craig -- that sounds like a good suggestion. What does RPPP entail and how does it work? I've heard of it but do not know any details.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 10, 2015 at 10:01 pm

We have a situation in some new housing replacements (tear down and rebuild) where they are bringing in big machinery to dig out the whole bottom of the property. Looks like a basketball court going in down there? Besides the garage?
Reading these comments maybe they are putting in a basement apartment for rental to a student. That is a new thought. It is possible that when the house is being built that topic would not come up with the city.


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Posted by Downtown Paly
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 13, 2015 at 8:47 pm

In response to "Was Dan G the guy who had the tiff with Jobs"


Dan G (The person mentioned in this article to the council about sharing his home with Stanford University Students) Was not or has not been involved in a dispute with Steve J because Dan is in the age group of Mark Z, and was not apart of that era of silicon valley.

Dan is just trying to help the community in Palo Alto by offering his home to share with those who need to stay in town. I had marital issues with my spouse, and Dan welcomed me to stay even though I wasn't a University Student, and that allowed me to see my kids and pick them up from school until working things out, and that is something I wont soon forget.



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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 15, 2015 at 11:17 am

>@Craig -- that sounds like a good suggestion. What does RPPP entail and how does it work? I've heard of it but do not know any details.



@R-1 Zoning: RPPP is resident parking permit program. In College Terrace, it restricts parking to 2 hours 8 AM - 5 PM, M-F. Residents can purchase permits that allow them unrestricted parking; non-residents may not.

An RPPP is primarily aimed at parking issues, but it also has the beneficial effect of inhibiting car campers and (as in the case mentioned) boarding houses.

Your neighborhood would need to petition in with over 50% of residents supportive.


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Posted by janeoldpaly
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 19, 2016 at 7:54 pm

I remember this article. Dan Gold is the man! (Dan helped our neighbors and I fight off some bad new neighbors and clean the neighborhood up and keep the riff raft out. Its not even his job - he really cares! I actually saw him at Terun with my family. Thanks for helping Palo Alto!


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Posted by SeniorCitizen
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 19, 2016 at 7:56 pm

Dan Gold is present at a lot of the council meetings in Palo Alto. I don't know what he's upto but he takes a lot of property for his rental business in the area. Seems like a nice chap


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Posted by Theresa Mayer
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 14, 2017 at 4:12 pm

Dan Gold in Palo Alto must be a real hero around here ha! He must be running for office or something being so kind to those students. How sweet.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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