Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Musings: Sheep and Wolves

As the Kauai County Council today resumes hashing out a new homestay/B&B law, Mark Beeksma of Koloa is attempting to garner sympathy for the unpermitted operators.

He penned a letter published in today's The Garden Island that portrays homestay operators as helpless, hapless sheep slaughtered by aggressive planning enforcers while the true wolves — legal and illegal TVR owners — roam free:

The sheep are just trying to make ends meet as they show some hospitality and make some new friends from around the world. The wolves are just enriching themselves while they destroy the fabric of local neighborhoods.

Oh, those poor little lambikins. They've been forced to suffer so.

Still, I keep coming back to this: Should we be sympathetic to those who must rent out rooms in order to finance a life in “paradise,” or those who bought land and houses they apparently can't afford, while locals struggle and double/triple up with family? If you can't pay your mortgage without a homestay or B&B, maybe you should sell it and buy something smaller, or take your chances with the hordes in the longterm rental market.

Instead, we're repeatedly confronted with their underlying — and irritating — sense of entitlement, that they should be allowed to continue just because they had the chutzpah to start.

And once again, just as we saw with the TVRs, those who didn't get permits for whatever reason are the first to belly up to the bar, while anyone who didn't operate illegally is pushed to the rear.

Meanwhile, other municipalities are also moving to crack down on this particular use. As reported in the Los Angeles Times yesterday, two City Councilmen there:

...are proposing new regulations to bar people from renting out houses or apartments for short stays if the home is not their primary residence — a rule aimed at preventing local housing from being bought up and operated like hotels.

“We cannot tolerate how a growing number of speculators are eliminating rental housing and threatening the character of our neighborhoods,” City Councilman Mike Bonin said Tuesday.

Under the proposed rules, Angelenos could rent out a spare room, back house or a whole house or apartment for short stays, as long as it was their primary residence. Unlike neighboring Santa Monica, which recently adopted some of the strictest regulations in the nation, L.A. would allow someone to rent out their own home while out of town.

However, Angelenos could not rent out any home that was not their main residence for short stays, nor any unit that is covered by rent control.

[The LA City Councilmen] also want the city to back a proposed state law, SB 593, that would require Airbnb and other online rental platforms to report the addresses, number of nights rented and amount paid for such rentals to cities and counties. Airbnb has balked at that idea, saying it would be a violation of user privacy.

So how much privacy do users deserve, considering they're soliciting often illegal uses on the Internet?

Looking ahead, the Kauai planning commission has scheduled public hearings on use permits for one B&B and 10 homestays — six of them on agricultural land — at its June 23 meeting.

These include two properties in Wailua Homesteads, four in Lawai, one in Hanalei, one in Poipu, one on Kalihiwai Road, one in Kalihiwai Ridge and one in Kilauea town.

And this is only the tiniest tip of the iceberg.

Just to amuse (and torment) myself, I checked out Airbnb this morning, and was presented with 726 rentals for Kauai. Some 574 advertised the “entire place,” renting at an average of $245 per night. Another 152 offered “a room” at an average of $109 per night. Just eight were for shared rooms, at an average of $54 per night.

No part of the island is excluded. They've got a cabin in Waimea town, a treehouse in Moloaa, a surf cottage in Hanalei, a riverside cottage in Wailua, an oceanview cottage in Kapaa, a one-acre “organic and non-toxic” cottage in Kapahi, a studio apartment in Haena, a romantic studio in Anahola, a sleeps-12 villa at Moloaa and a living room floor with a $5 cleaning fee in Kekaha.

Surely some of these would return to the longterm rental market if their visitor accommodation activities were shut down.

To be fair, some are in Princeville, Poipu and the Kapaa Coconut Coast — in other words, designated visitor destination areas, where no permits are required. The rest are an unregulated free-for-all.

Though the homestay/B&B operators are complaining about the new permit requirement, it actually protects them in the long run. The only way the county can effectively enforce is through a permit system. If all the legit guys have permits, then anyone without a permit is running rogue, and can and should be shut down.

Since other places are making demands of Airbnb, perhaps Kauai could join in and ask that it require licensed operators to display their permit numbers. That way visitors, and everyone else, could better discern the sheep from the wolves. Because right now, they all look like hungry predators. 


Anonymous said...

"Should we be sympathetic to those who must rent out rooms in order to finance a life in “paradise,” or those who bought land and houses they apparently can't afford, while locals struggle and double/triple up with family?"

I keep coming back to whats the purpose of all this hubbub and legal mumbo-jumbo. Locals pay their bills by relying on live-in extended family members, while non-locals pay their bills by relying on live-in strangers. I know many "locals" and their extended families that are actually from Oahu or Maui. The local/non-local distinction is divisive. Everyone is being squeezed by an increasingly unfair economic system. Why is it ok for relatives to pile into a house to pay bills but not ok for non-relatives to do the same thing? The issue seems to be over-crowding and associated noise from coming. going, and well simply living. I fail to see how discrimatory laws based on relationship status will solve this problem.

Anonymous said...

I think that is a good idea for the County to approach Air B&B and ask they require they post B&B's permit numbers on their ads.
If AirB&B doe not do that, they might be complicit in violating local zoning laws. Direct action with AirB&B and VRBO would stop a large number of the unpermitted ones from renting using a fraction of the resources that would be used in going against individual B&B owners.

Anonymous said...

9:38a.m. - AGREE. "Locals pay their bills by relying on live-in extended family members, while non-locals pay their bills by relying on live-in strangers."

In addition, locals that want to stay and live here get second or third jobs to provide for their families. These B&B owners, HONESTLY regardless if planning said yay or nay, it's common sense, you should've gotten an attorney and inquire with them as well to have all your bases covered. Typical to blame the planning department. While the planning department is cleaning up and being more consistent in their enforcement, are you saying you don't want the planning dept. to fairly and consistently enforce the law? This reference to the blaming the planning dept. is blaming the PRIOR Planning Director and Deputy, so stop blaming the current department.

These owners should get a second job as well, or MOVE.

10:10a.m. - AGREE. "...they require they post B&B's permit numbers on their ads."

Anonymous said...

Good luck trying to get these rental sites to require permit numbers. Do you really think they'll kow tow to every County in the country to meet their particular whims? lol. You'd need a federal law for that. Dream on.

Anonymous said...

In my immediate neighborhood, 3 of 4 homeowners operate long-term rentals within their homes, two with purpose built "granny units" with convenience kitchens, and one who rents a room. My impression is that this is not legal. These are local people trying to make ends meet. So it is not just the B@B people who have to rely on rental income to afford their home.

I suggest a drive by in the Kakela Makai subdivision in Kalaheo and you will see many (perhaps the majority of)houses built as duplexes, some of which I know are rented long-term by absentee owners. So if the County is going to go after the B&Bs, why not go after all of these other owners who operate rentals in single family zones? Probably because the number of such rentals is enormous and a major revolution would ensue!

There is also a B&B in my neighborhood. I know the owners well (we used to stay in the B&B before we moved here) and they have indeed tried for years to get the County to issue a permit. They were repeatedly told that either they did not need a permit, or that they did not fall into current permit structures (TVR), and/or that the County would eventually work out the permit process. At least the B&B owner pays taxes on the rentals, something that cannot be said for the other local homeowners. Incidentally, the B&B owner also works full time.

So be careful about being judgemental about B&B owners (at least some of them)!

Anonymous said...

2:04pm, according to whom did they try to get the county to issue a permit and did they ask an attorney, someone that can interpret the law? because we've all seen and heard a bunch of lies on the record at council meetings. whether local or not, if it's illegal it's illegal period. that's it. end of story. find another profession or job. or MOVE.

Unknown said...

Today the Council acted.

By majority vote the Council adopted the Homestay ordinance, including a couple of amendments, but pretty much in the form suggested by the Planning Department. Now only the Mayor's signature is needed for the ordinance to become law. From that moment forward, Kauai will have a means to regulate unpermitted Homestay/BnB operations on our island. Bonafide operators will have a way to secure operating permits. The County will be able to filter out illegal TVRs posing as BnBs. Residents are insured they will be included in the discussion when applications are filed. Residents are very appreciative of the 10 application per year processing limit which acts as a de facto cap on the number of permits that could be issued each year.

Many hours of testimony were given; for and against the ordinance. Some points were hotly debated. In the end, the Council considered what they'd heard and decided. No one came away from the experience a clear winner. This was not the intention from the beginning. The idea was to find a middle ground - a compromise. I believe this is what the Council did today.

A sincere aloha to all who took part.


Anonymous said...

9:38 & 2:04-
Major difference is long term rentals vs short term rentals!!!!! Neighborhoods are connected by familiarity-good or bad.

Anonymous said...

A lot of new laws being passed here. More laws means less freedom. Just because a law is passed (by a few council members usually) doesn't make it just or right. Ask the Colonists in America circa 1776.

Anonymous said...

Man gets life sentence in HaWAII for dealing Meth. Now, this Law should be applied to all Meth dealers in the state of Hawaii and the county of Kauai.

This is genetically modified chemicals that are killing the people in Kauai, the rest of the state and the Unitd States.

This is the number 1 poison on Kauai that our people are shame to talk about and take a hard stance because a lot of Meth dealers are related to our elected officials

What say you now people who marched against GMO? Can you folks March against Meth the true toxic killer on Kauai.

Anonymous said...

if you're talking about freedom to break the law, yes, more laws mean less freedom. we like that.

Anonymous said...

I'll share a short encounter that was quite an eye opener.

My wife and I toured the Bahamas a few years ago. The historical city of Old San Juan in Puoto Rico is a featured tourist destination. On the edge of the City on the coastal side is a residential district. We wanted to see what the residential district looked like. When we walked to a road that entered the residential district we were met by a armed military guard. Looking down the street we could see armed guard at all intersections entering the residential area. I stopped and spoke to a guard that barely spoke English and asked why the guards were posted at all entrances. His response was " for the safety of the tourists." His comment was tourists roaming through a residential district will be most likely robbed and beaten and ......... A very hostile area towards tourists in a residential district.

Anonymous said...

7:29.AM. No that is not what I am talking about but it appears that is what u want to believe.

Anonymous said...

That's what happens when one visits a tourist destination surrounded by 1000 slums.

Anonymous said...

Here's my dilemma which I'm just observing and not espousing any particular position. We're passing more and more laws in well-meaning attempts to improve our communities and lifestyles. Yet when we pass these laws, it takes more and more people to enforce them so government must get larger and more expensive (salaries, benefits and offices). So then government must raise our taxes in order to pay for these new positions necessary to carry out the enforcement of the new laws we champion. But then we turn around and complain about how expensive it is to live here. This is so obvious with Kauai's onerous zoning and development laws sparked by those who already have their homes and investment properties at the expense of those who don't. What I find interesting is the double-whammy of the TVR and B&B curbing laws which work to reduce the amount of income earned by taxpayers so that less taxes are collected (General Excise, Transient Accommodations & Property taxes) causing us to raise taxes more to pay for the laws that work to reduce the tax basis. Around and around it goes. [scratching head] I don't see a solution to this and I think the result is inescapable and already occurring. Kauai, like most desirable areas, will continue to see a loss of lower to modest income earners (like our kids) and growth in the number of folks who can afford the rapidly rising cost of living here. Please show me I'm wrong about this. Please!

for life said...

11:06 you are right in a way...which is why we Must put to a stop the behavior of those coming here with the idea to make monies on from our precious land if they want to come hee buy modest and live modest like most of us do than fine.....but they come here build a million dollar home next to mine and now my property value ism up now I cannot afford to live where I was born and raised and have been here all my life....people have to STOP being greedy....and then there will be enough for all of us....TVR's is ruining us....and B&b and home stays belong in the designated area and not in residential areas...PERIOD....

for life said...

In some ways you are right but than again not....,we MUST stop all the TVR's and b&b and homestays....they must be in a designated area and not all over in residential areas....they are taking up the land and homes that our children could afford to have if they want to buy in and live here modestly like the rest of us than fine but to buy in something they cannot afford and then want to rent it out in order to pay their mortgage....than NO aand so if the lower and modest income people move out.....who will be catering to the rich.....they cannot care for them selves they will be bringing illegals to do their work like the large tech companies are bring them in from India to do Hi tech jobs for less monies than Americans work are in the process of giving away our country.....

Anonymous said...

I think it was put rather well in MANAWAI's comment on May 19th, regarding Joan's musing: "SAY NO":

"The same legal principles that applied to, and resulted in, the grandfathering of existing TVR's in 2008 have not changed nor miraculously vanished. Existing B&B owners, if they can show that they have paid all taxes and their properties adhere to all building codes and requirements, will have the advantage in court if the County tries to take away what was heretofore a legal operation. I refer you (the Council) to all of the conversations that took place and legal advice you received leading up to the enactment of TVR regulations of 2008. The only exception to this are those B&B's on State-regulated ag lands that did not get a State use permit. I think they're out of luck because they are the only ones that have been operating illegally. Those on residential-zoned land regardless of whether it’s in a VDA or not, are currently legal and the County will not prevail in court if it attempts to prohibit their operations. What surprises me is the apparent failure of bureaucratic memory regarding the TVR issue."

Anonymous said...

Man Alive- We seem to be turning into an island of squealers. Turn in your neighbor for this or that manini thing.
I never knew I had 3 BnBs close by. But now the big hard fist of government power is crawling everywhere.
More laws mean less freedom. For all you Big Government Power limpwrists out there, some day this government will come for you.
Tutu can't rent a room out to her son's friend while he goes to school or has a quick little surf trip. All exchange students are off the books...think of the real ramifications of the law that is passed. But Sam Lee, with respect, as well as you ran DLNR...and DLNR has more rules, regs and laws on the books and hardly ANY are enforced. Furthermore DLNR doesn't even do the simple chores that are required of the department. Maybe this is the intent of the BS Council Law. Pass another law, that has no enforcement and rely on people turning each other in. There will be ways around this. AND Thank God I hear there is a lawsuit being formulated that will take on the weird "180 day" transient marker, the selective enforcement and limiting only TEN applications per year.
Get real about the government being in your bedroom.

Anonymous said...

"for life", I think you missed a factor. A lot of people have started lucrative businesses catering to the wealthy homeowner taking care of their needs. For instance, try and find someone to come in and cut your 3-acre pasture and trim your hedges. See how much it costs. Try to find a plumber who will show up when agreed and how much they charge or a solo contractor to do some work for you. So I'm really not sure how many low and modest income people they need.

Anonymous said...

Wah..wah…wah…We all locals. This da United States Of America. Tourist pays me big money to watch Keiki ride 1 foot wave…enough pay rent in nice north shore hale. Stop complain so much. I be fishing with a net without tourist. Instead, I buy my fish at Hanalei Dolphin Fish Market. Itz all good!!!

Anonymous said...

There could not be any grandfathering of so called B&B's because legally they needed to have a use permit to be legal. What you wanted is amnesty for lawbreakers, good luck with that one.

Anonymous said...

4:45, i'd bet you are not really local at all, or you still may want to net fish rather than buy your fish. I remember a woman yelling at a fisherman, fully going off on him saying, you should not be fishing here, you can buy your fish at the store!

Anonymous said...

6:09AM - Please site the law (Section and Paragraph) where it says B&B use needs a permit. I've been unable to find it, but since you're mentioning it, you must have some basis for your statement. I looked through Kauai's CZO and couldn't find it. But maybe I missed it. Please support your assertion. Mahalo!

PS - I'm not talking about State HRS which do mention transient rentals on State-regulated agricultural lands. I'm talking about County-regulated urban land.

Anonymous said...

@ 10:10 am and 1:13 pm,

It would be hard to get the website to require a posting of the permit number. But the Planning department could have language added on the application that says, all B&B advertisements need to have a permit number associated with it or the B&B would be considered an illegal operation. We all know that the planning department monitors all the Vacation Rental & B&B advertising websites. It's hilarious if you think you are going to operate illegally and have your B&B opperation all over the Internet.

Anonymous said...

It's funny. Whenever I've asked someone to site the law where the B&B's in residential areas need a use permit, all I hear back is crickets.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the crickets are confused by your use of "site" in place of "cite". Read the CZO from beginning to end, and then read it again. At that point, you may at least understand why it exists.

John Kauai said...

RE 6:48PM:

I too have spent hours reading the CZO (935) from beginning to end. While it is clear on TVRs, there is nothing about homestays requiring a permit. (I'm ignoring the state law requiring a permit for Ag Land).

So 5:56, point me to the paragraph that 935 states clearly that a homestay requires a use permit and don't tell me to read the ordinance again. I can only find a use permit is required if I infer information that is not clearly described. And don't refer to 864, it has been repealed:

"SEiCTION 2. Chapter 8 of Title IV of the Kaua'i County Code, 1987, as amended, and Ordinances Nos. 803, 8i3, 843, 849, 864, 876, 883, 886, 887, 894, 896, 903, 904, 912, 918, 919, 924 and 928 are hereby repealed in their entirety and replaced"

(I don't know why the 'i' shows up in "SECTION", it is a cut and paste from the PDF.)

IF , one reads Mark BB's LTE and accepts his conditions, I support him.

OTOH, I was talking to a realtor yesterday about the 21 bed B&B that was next door and the people knocking on his door looking for the "Hotel". It is clear to me that this is unacceptable.

As far as the lack of housing... 60% of the growth in the Island's population is from people who live here. If you want your kids to be able to say here, don't have so many kids. (This is a subject for a totally different debate, since 1: kids everywhere leave their home for better employment opportunities and 2: there are already too many people in the world)

I am sympathetic to the economic pressures of living on this island. However, I don't think those pressures are unique to this island (Detroit anyone?), nor do I think it is the fault of those moving here. If you didn't vote in the last election, or if you voted for a Republican who lied to you about how he was going to keep "taxes low", then "Blame yourselves".

Republicans do keep taxes low, but only for the people who already have all the money. You cannot demand government services without paying for them. And if you don't pay for them, then you need to stop complaining about how the island is being overrun by B&Bs -- that is FREE ENTERPRISE!

So decide, is here perhaps just a little "SOCIALIST" in you?

Anonymous said...


who needs more laws or people to enforce them? the main reason we end up with more is because a "creative" segment of humanity never ceases to look for ways to skirt existing laws. for instance, take unlicensed TVRs disguised as BnBs trying to sneak by. if you're beefing about the BnB ordinance, all you need to do is look to your illegal TVR operator friend and blame HIM

Anonymous said...

yeah 1:49

check out how many people trying to pass off illegal TVRs as BnBs. the Planning Commission agenda is choke. cheat, lie, scam, scream, act dumb, all for the love of money. but is OK. its the haole way. so pass more laws to stop the crooks.