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Paso Robles short-term rentals the focus of Tuesday evening workshop

A screenshot from the Airbnb website showing Paso Robles rentals available this coming weekend.

City officials in Paso Robles are holding a public hearing on short-term rentals available via websites such as Airbnb and VRBO. For the past year, a task force has been working on draft policy to regulate such rentals.

Paso Robles does not have a formal policy regulating short-term rentals, but now with an estimated 300 available on peak weekends, it’s time, city leaders say. So far, getting a business license is the only requirement for someone to start renting to out-of-towners.

“But most didn’t have them two years ago and we weren’t collecting the required bed tax on most of these, either,” Paso Robles Community Development Director Warren Frace said. “So the city council wanted staff to work on some sort of policy to try to get better compliance and better neighborhood compatibility out of short-term rentals. But they were interested in continuing to allow them.”

In November 2015, over 100 area residents turned out to a city workshop on the topic.

“It was pretty much divided between operators of short-term rentals and neighbors concerned about short-term rentals,” Frace said.

The task force met eight times in 2016 to draft an ordinance. Besides mediating between neighbors, Paso Robles wants an ordinance to assure short-term rental operators are paying their fair share of the Transit Occupancy Tax. The state allows cities to charge a tax on lodging facilities like hotels and motels, and usually the TOT tax is 10 or 12 percent. It’s a major source of revenue for the city, and goes straight into the general fund.

“Part of the idea with this is that the short-term rentals that are competing with the hotel industry are paying the same fees and taxes that hotels have to pay,” Frace said.

The public workshop starts at 6:30 p.m. on January 31 at Paso Robles City Hall.