City Council punts on short-term rentals, pay raise

Management analyst Alexander Cousins delivers a presentation Tuesday evening on short-term rentals during the Claremont City Council meeting. Courier photo/Andrew Alonzo

By Andrew Alonzo |

STR study session

The Claremont City Council held a study session Tuesday evening regarding short-term rental regulations.

It was déjà vu for those who attended an October 2019 meeting where the council gave direction to city staff on how to regulate STRs. Back then, after the council directed staff to draft program guidelines, they then provided direction to staff in early 2020 to regulate STRs with some recommendations meant to be woven into a final ordinance. Among them: hosts have to provide proof of ownership and primary residency, with only having one permanent residence in which they must reside for a minimum of nine months per year; commercial events such as weddings or parties were prohibited, and residency limitations were imposed on hosted and un-hosted stays, among others.

Drafting a permanent ordinance stalled however due to the emergence of COVID-19 in March 2020. Short term rental apps such as Airbnb and VRBO have since soared in popularity.

The council reaffirmed evaluating the regulation of STRs when setting its 2024-2026 priorities and objectives in April, bringing the item back to the table.

Though officially banned in Claremont, STRs are common. There are currently 81 STRs in the city, according to a staff report, 79% of which are listings for entire homes, 88% categorized as single-family homes, and about 80% considered vacation homes. The average nightly rate hovers around $200 with an average occupancy rate of 61%.

“Claremont’s current approach to STR violations is complaint-driven,” read a staff report. “Since 2020, the Community Improvement Division has processed 38 code violation causes involving 23 unique properties. After verifying the STR listing, staff will issue a citation for $100, followed by additional $200 and $500 citations if the listing is not removed. Despite these penalties property owners continue to rent their units as vacation homes.”

Pomona, La Verne and Glendora allow STRs. Property owners there must first fill out a permit for approval before listing their property. San Dimas does not have any regulations in place.

Management analyst Alexander Cousins delivered a presentation highlighting four key questions the council should consider with respect to any new STR ordinance: should Claremont permit and regulate STRs, permit and regulate “vacation rentals,” or rentals considered “a dwelling that is not a primary residence and is available for lodging for compensation,” allow accessory dwelling units to be used as short-term rentals, and/or implement rental terms for hosted and un-hosted stays?

The staff report weighed each scenario. Pros included the city collecting revenue from transient occupancy tax and permit fees, and allowing Claremont property owners to get some additional income in a high inflation economy. Arguments against stretched from taking long-term rental units off the market, to creating unfair competition with hotels and motels.

Mayor pro tem Corey Calaycay and Council member Jennifer Stark agreed the purpose of an STR ordinance would be to not only collect transient occupancy tax currently slipping through the city’s grasp, but also to regulate this unique housing issue that would ensure a level playing field between STRs and hotels and motels.

“Why regulate? Because we haven’t yet,” said Stark. “It needs to be regulated because it’s a business.”

Another key question for consideration is who or what would be the ultimate STR oversight authority since Claremont does not have a dedicated housing department.

Oversight “would fall within the community development department,” Cousins told the Courier Wednesday. “There’s a good chance we’d use one of those compliant services I was talking about yesterday. We’ve talked to a couple. We haven’t made a final decision or anything, but they’re not exactly consultants, they’re more like a software program.” Cousins explained the software can handle permit applications and provide location and compliance data to staff. “They’re fairly cost effective, around $15,000 to $20,000 or so a year.”

Following a lively discussion, the City Council again provided direction to staff regarding STR policy. Community outreach meetings will be held in the future to elicit public feedback.


Pay raise proposed for Council members

With Council member Jed Leano absent, the council agreed to postpone the consideration of an ordinance that would increase Council members’ monthly salary by more than 300%, from the current $400 to $1,275.

The proposed pay increase comes on the heels of Senate Bill 329, which allows increases for cities with populations between 35,000 and 50,000. Claremont City Council members’ salaries have not been adjusted since July 1990, according to the proposed ordinance.

The council aims to revisit the discussion prior to its August recess. If the pay raise is approved, it is expected to go into effect following the November general election, with funding coming from the general fund.


Consent calendar

The council approved a host of consent calendar items. They included:

  • a recommendation to adopt a resolution determining and establishing an appropriations limit in the amount of $52,211,838 for fiscal year 2024-2025.
  • authorizing the city manager to enter into agreements with All American Asphalt, worth $1,989,898, and to contract with LAE Associates in the amount of $144,564.
  • allowing the city manager to: contract with CT&T Concrete Paving, Inc. for an agreement worth $1,148,889; award a contract to We R Builders, Inc. worth $241,500; enter into an agreement with IE General Engineering, Inc. totaling $179,550; contract with RKA Consulting Group in the amount of $90,000; and to appropriate $800,000 from the Proposition C Fund and $447,521 from the Measure R Fund to fully fund the 2023-2024 sidewalk rehabilitation project.
  • voting to receive and file the annual report for the military equipment use policy of the Claremont Police Department, as required by AB 481. The downloadable report is attached to consent calendar item number eight on the May 28 agenda.

The next council meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 11 at council chambers, 225 W. Second St., where a presentation of the draft 2024-2026 city operating and capital improvement budgets will be heard and considered for adoption.


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