The Airbnb movement in Three Rivers: Is it here to stay?

An Airbnb, and its riverfront cabana along Sierra Drive, has sparked controversy because it is in a commercial zone formerly housing  small businesses.

You can’t live here or visit Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks without noticing the effect that Airbnb is having on Three Rivers. In 2014, there were a handful of local properties listed with the San Francisco-based hospitality service. Today, the latest estimate is that there are more than 250 active vacation rentals in Three Rivers and the immediate vicinity.

Airbnb guests are fueling a huge spike in local business, especially restaurants, stores, gas stations. In other words, if the trickle down dollars, receipts from area hotels, and real estate sales are all added in the equation, the entire Three Rivers economy is under the influence.

The accommodations company Airbnb (short for Air Bed&Breakfast) was founded in 2008. In 2017, now a global giant, Airbnb reported $2.6 billion in revenue with more than 100,000 properties listed worldwide. Of course, the company’s explosion has not been without its share of controversy. Three Rivers is no exception.

Tulare County’s RMA planners are currently grappling with its own version of the Airbnb movement and how it should be taxed (currently at 10 percent per night) and regulated. An update will be presented at the town meeting scheduled for Wednesday, July 24 at 6 p.m. at the Three Rivers Memorial Building.

Like so many locals in Three Rivers,  Sarah and I have been witness up close to this Airbnb phenomenon. In the past 18 months, seven properties within one-quarter mile of our house on North Fork Drive are now listed with Airbnb or another of the vacation rental companies.

Five of these are detached whole houses for rent; at least two others contain rooms within a larger home. The medium-to-larger houses that cater to up to 12 guests tend to attract family gatherings; the smaller spaces and shared rooms can accommodate one or two people, mostly tourists here specifically to visit Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

The smaller properties often have an owner living on site; the larger houses have a property manager and are often owned in absentia. Airbnb handles all the rental bookings and accommodations revenue, but owns none of the hundreds of thousands of properties listed worldwide.

Airbnb requires vetted profiles for both hosts and members who book rentals. It also owns and maintains its own communications network for texts and emails between host and guests.

Like all new technology, where all this ultimately may go who really knows? Herein lies the seeds of controversy, the biggest of which is changing the make-up of a neighborhood or a town.

Next: Who are these Airbnb guests and what do they want?

An Airbnb “big house” on North Fork Drive suited for family gatherings and six or eight guests.

 

8 thoughts on “The Airbnb movement in Three Rivers: Is it here to stay?

  • June 28, 2019 at 10:02 am
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    On short little Washburn Drive alone, we have five of these. One of the absentee owners has obviously NOT told their short-term guests that campfires are not allowed. However, that doesn’t stop these folks; they use the out door fire ring for having weiner roasts, toasting marshmallows, etc. Fire department notified; still doesn’t seem to have any effect on the owner of the house. This is only one drawback to non-permanent residents; there are many more. It’s sad to see what’s happening to our community.

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    • June 28, 2019 at 7:49 pm
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      I tend to agree, Sophie. I’m sure many nice guests come to our town. But some who have no idea how to behave in an environmentally sensitive area are bound to show up. And a bad apple at the wrong time of year could be catastrophic.

      Reply
  • June 29, 2019 at 10:28 am
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    When it comes to potential action by the county, it might be useful to briefly remind your readers how we got to where we are. Starting with when a group of local activists persuaded county planners to attend a town hall to discuss this issue and the desire on the part of many for the county to take action.

    Reply
  • June 29, 2019 at 3:38 pm
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    I am totally against what airbnb’s is doing to this small community ! I have had to call owners and prop managers because of outside fires in summer, excessive noise, and vehicles doing damage and speeding on (OUR PROPERTY) that we paid for, maintain, and pay prop taxes on that gravel road. The owners/prop managers try to control the L A drivers, but they do no LIVE here on property ! Had a film crew stay behind me and they drove on our property like they drive on Hollywoodies Freeway! I have to say that most of the people are good, but the few that DO NOT CARE makes it real bad. The owners of the two airbnb near me are good people, but not on property! I wished, hope, and believe that Three Rivers airbnb would be under same rules that Motels has follow! Why NOT ! I hope I am wrong, but is all of these airbnb (HOMES) without permanent families do harm to our small local school, that attendance is lower every year ! I Love Three Rivers and wish the best for it !!!

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  • June 30, 2019 at 4:45 pm
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    I have concerns about the whole AirBnB matter. Experiences of mine: strangers walking on my property, leaving trash at my high view spot, using my driveway for a running lane, more cars and careless driving on the narrow Dinely Drive, and inexperienced drivers on the curves of 198.. I am disappointed to have strangers in the houses around me rather than neighbors. I’ve always felt we needed to know and help each other as neighbors. Now they are thinning out. Biggest concern is fire. One slip up from ignorance and we are all in trouble. Is there really any education going on by the owners? And even bigger to me, is if there is a fire, how are we going to evacuate with a larger population of people and recreation vehicles trying to go down 198? I feel our risk of fire and injury is much, much higher with an overpopulated, uninformed set of strangers. And then there’s the use of water by so many people populating a house originally designed for a few. Are they being conservant of water that could be part of my own underground source? And with less rental houses, the people I need to work on my place are not able to live locally and it’s getting harder to find workers. And guidelines for noise and lights that are a nuisance for those living nearby? I think the whole concept needs a reality check.

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  • July 1, 2019 at 11:24 pm
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    Hum. This is a growing dilemma for our community and many others. I confess to enjoying rental properties in other communities when I travel. So how do we make this successful for all of us? I don’t think we can stop it but maybe we can find ways to make it successful and safe. We won’t succeed in every situation, but I am guessing that with some education, communication and involvement we can have a significant impact on this situation. Thereby enjoying the success for local businesses, protect properties (our and theirs), and fine a way to enhance our local community. I know this message may seem a bit Pollyanna, but I think our only way to find success is to look at things differently.

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    • July 2, 2019 at 8:48 am
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      Yes D, the OWNERS, property managers, code & law enforcement need to join in and take care of these problems. I often stay in motel in Monteray, Ca., that it states on contract when signing in: rules to follow and if you do not Police will remove you from property with NO refund. Never have seen any problems when staying in that motel. IT WORKS !

      Reply
  • July 4, 2019 at 12:15 pm
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    We don’t have to invent the wheel in terms of deciding how to regulate vacation rentals–many other places are making the same decisions and trying to balance the rights of property owners and the needs of communities. Here is a rundown of what some US cities are considering or doing in terms of regulations:
    https://www.governing.com/topics/urban/gov-massachusetts-airbnb-housing-regulations.html
    The ideas seem to break down in a few categories: restricting the number of days a property can be rented short term; saying that you can only rent your house out short term if it’s your primary residence; raising the taxes on short term rentals to support a local housing fund; restricting rentals in commercially zoned areas. We need to decide what solution works best for us.
    From the same article, here is what New Orleans is doing:
    “In mid-January, the New Orleans City Council unanimously approved a package that permanently extends the nine-month ban on short-term rentals in the French Quarter and Garden District. In an effort to preserve retail space, the new rules also prevent Airbnb operators in commercial zones from renting first-floor units. And in residentially zoned neighborhoods, people can only rent out rooms in homes that they occupy.”

    Reply

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