[Humboldt County] Letter to the Editor: Rentals running riot

Blog note: this letter references a 2018 grand jury report.

Dear Trinidad City Manager,

 I wanted make a plea to you to listen to our concerns and make a priority of community safety and quality of life for those who live and work here in Trinidad. Many residents are frustrated and feel their voices are not being heard. 

Residents are not making reports of Short Term Rental (STR) problems due to their fear of retaliation and the lack of timely follow up by the City of Trinidad. The lack of law/code enforcement seriously compounds these problems. 

Residents of Trinidad no longer report STR issues to Property Managers (PM) or the City of Trinidad. Ongoing problems with the PM and the City in resolving STR complaints made by community members has created a situation of retaliation and distrust. 

Residents have been repeatedly subjected to retaliation by PMs, often receiving letters threatening litigation for complaints they have made. 

The city provides no real time “witness” (code enforcement or law enforcement officer) to respond to a problem at the time it is occurring. Any enforcement of the STR ordinance clearly cannot happen. 

When neighbors make complaints, PMs deny the problem occurred ad/or threaten the complaining party with a lawsuit. The City clearly has no adequate enforcement process and has not moved to correct this problem. 

Residents voice concerns that complaining would just cause more trouble for them, from STR owners and managers. This will only worsen as we head into another summer rental season.  

Recent STR renter behaviors have included: 

• Dogs barking while no one is in residence 

• Being awakened after 10 p.m. STR people arrive to the vacation rental, unpack, and gather in the driveways, opening and shutting car doors. 

• Daytime noise. One STR occupant was heard shouting. When the neighbor investigated the noise, the occupant, a NAKED man on the deck was making the noise.  

• Suspected occupancy overages at the STRs. 

• STR occupants smoking near their property, he smoke to drift onto neighboring properties. 

• No “Meet and Greet” or property orientation being done by PM as is required by the City ordinance. 

• Vehicles parking up the streets /blocking alley’s/trails with STR occupants and their guests. 

Unfortunately, law enforcement issues also abound in Trinidad. The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) does not follow up on Trinidad STR ordinance issues. 

The lack of law enforcement presence, and the increase of incidents in town related to theft, panhandling, burglary, gas siphoning, car break-in’s, combined with transients in our neighborhoods, have degraded our neighborhood, community and quality of life. We are left feeling unsupported and unsafe in our homes. 

Issues with the HCSO, including the repeated lack of contract deliverables by the Sheriff, as per our City contract, are ongoing. Trinidad is contracted for 1.5 full-time employee Sheriff officers. 

The contracted time is not being fulfilled. Law enforcement issues with the STR issues combined, create serious safety and quality of life problems for the people who live and work in Trinidad. We never know who is coming and going next door.

 In 2018, the Humboldt County Civil Grand Jury investigated Trinidad and these issues. These recommendations are a year old now and have yet to be implemented.  

The Humboldt County Civil Grand Jury offers the following recommendations to the City Council and to the citizens of Trinidad to consider for the peace and comfort of residents and visitors.

• the city of Trinidad and the citizens of Trinidad follow the steps outlined in Ordinance 2016-03 to solve complaints in reference to Short Term Rentals.

• the city of Trinidad consistently and strictly adhere to Ordinance 2016-03 to manage the short-term rental application and renewal process.

• the City of Trinidad allocate a portion of Transient Occupancy Tax revenue to hire seasonal enforcement staff to deal specifically with Short Term Rental issues by December 31, 2018

• Trinidad City Council members who own or manage Short Term Rentals always recuse themselves when STRs are considered, discussed, or voted upon. Said recusals should be recorded in the meeting’s minutes.

• the Trinidad city manager notify complainants in writing within seven working days of all city decisions on Short Term Rental complaints and appeals. This should begin no later than Oct. 1, 2018.

 Assure the residents of Trinidad that you are addressing STR issues. We need the help of the City to resolve these problems. I look forward to working with you, together with the residents, toward increasing community livability, and the quality of life in Trinidad. 

Thank you. 

June 9, 2019

Mad River Union

Letter from Kathleen Lake, Trinidad resident

County: