Thank you for allowing me to clarify the reporting of my comments at the vacation rental study session on Wednesday night ("Napa hosts debate on allowing more vacation rentals," Jan. 16). It was noted at the outset of the session that the acoustics are challenging in Pelusi Hall so Mike Blasky may have had a difficult time hearing some of the comments in the room. I went back and watched video of my remarks to ensure that my recollection of my comments was accurate.
I did not say I was opposed to expanding the number of legal vacation rentals in Napa. I did say the city needed to find a balance between the economic need to have some expansion versus the possible impact on the city's rental market when we have a 2 percent vacancy rate. I noted that "if everyone in the room [of a hundred people] were to receive one or two licenses it could decimate the housing stock." I also noted that the renting of a room or two in a house might not have the same impact on the housing stock.
I very carefully chose my remarks because it is the opinion of all of the legal vacation rental owners in Napa that a reasonable expansion is appropriate because we've proven that the existing rules can ensure that adverse impacts on neighbors can be minimized, contrary to what might have been thought five years ago. I do not believe, nor do I want it thought that I believe, that the city should keep the number of vacation rentals at the level approved in 2009. That would be unfair.
I also did not say there was a problem with enforcing the rules at the current legal vacation rentals. The city collected a $1,000 fee from each licensed vacation rental owner in 2009 to cover the costs of a special vacation rental enforcement officer. When there were essentially no complaints, the city eliminated that requirement 10 months later. I did say that the current enforcement measures against the proliferation of unlicensed vacation rentals that don't abide by the city's rules, that hold weddings and similar events that can't occur at the legal vacation rentals, and that don't pay TOT are woefully inadequate because there are no real penalties.
I pointed out that the city of St. Helena, which also has legal vacation rentals, adopted a $1,000-per-day fine, plus recovery of past-due TOT plus penalties and interest to ensure that illegal vacation rentals don't unfairly compete with the legal vacation rentals, and to protect its citizens from unregulated vacation rentals.
Vacation rentals can be a desirable lodging option, particularly for families. We are pleased that the city of Napa is making the effort to get input from the community to make sure that we make adjustments to the vacation rental program that recognize the rising popularity of a sharing economy, but provide the right balance between the desires of our visitors and the needs of our citizens.
Editor's note: Meibeyer is the owner of two legal vacation rentals in Napa (Updated Jan. 20 to reflect that he owns two, not just one).