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.