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Alhambra Council Hears Recommendations on Short-Term Rental Ordinance

  • Mark Trulson, band director at Alhambra High School and the overall director of the combined 300 member band, receives a certificate of commendation from Alhambra Mayor Ross Maza. He also accepted a commendation on behalf of Justin Lee, the band director at Mark Keppel. Photo by Helen Arase.

  • A spectator lines up a photo of Mark Trulson and Mayor Maza at the ceremony. Photo by Helen Arase.

  • Renee Ruiz-Hermosillo, the drum major at Alhambra High School speaks at the commendation ceremony at Alhambra City Hall, saying it was an honor to play in the Rose Parade. Photo by Helen Arase.

  • Benjamin Coria, band director at San Gabriel High School, after receiving his commendation from Mayor Maza. Photo by Helen Arase

  • Andy Lam, the drum major at San Gabriel High School, speaks during the commendation ceremony, saying he hopes to be in the Rose Parade again. Photo by Helen Arase.

Location

Alhambra , CA

If there was a theme to Monday night’s relatively brisk Alhambra City Council meeting it was housing but in a somewhat disjointed way.

But in the ceremonial part to the session, Mayor Ross Maza and his fellow council members honored the directors and drum majors of the AUSD 2020 Rose Parade Marching Band for their excellence in representing the city during the Jan. 1 event. 

Maza presented Mark Trulson, the band director at Alhambra High School and the overall director of the combined 300 member band with a certificate of commendation noting their hard work and dedication. Similar commendations were presented to Benjamin Coria, the band director at San Gabriel High School and  Justin Lee, the band director at Mark Keppel.  Coria and Lee joined Trulson in leading the combined band. Trulson received Lee’s commendation in his absence.

Renee Ruiz-Hermosillo, the drum major at Alhambra and Andy Lam, the drum major at San Gabriel also received commendations and each spoke of their pride in representing their respective cities and the school district on New Year’s Day.

The most complex order of business during the evening was consideration of regulations for short-term rentals in the city of Alhambra.

This stemmed from an affordable housing discussion at a Council meeting last September when the council asked city staff to evaluate short-term rental regulations.

Marc Castagnola, Alhambra’s director of community development, made the presentation to the council offering a variety of options in a series of powerpoint slides.

He started off by putting some shape to the subject noting that California law distinguishes between lease terms with anything over 30 days being a standard rental and under 30 days a short-term rental. Municipalities may regulate or fully prohibit short-term rentals.

The overall objectives were to allow short term rentals while preventing the loss of housing stock, preserving residential character and establishing operating standards to reduce potential noise, parking, traffic, property maintenance and safety impacts on adjacent neighborhoods.

And, finally, provide a legislation mechanism for the city to track and enforce these requirements as needed and ensure appropriate collection of Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT).

City staff ended up with four options for the council to consider.

—Option 1: What Should be the Principle of STR? : to this question, staff recommended a house-sharing regulation with only the primary residence in play. The STR would have to be hosted most of the time, but may be unposted at certain times.

—Option 2: Where Should STRs be Permitted? City staff recommend R1 residential districts only; and townhome projects at the discretion of the developments HOA.

—-Option 3: How Many Days Per Year Should STRs Operate?: Before offering its recommendation, it was noted that all cities with STR regulations impose yearly limits on operation.  In the case of Alhambra, it was recommended that the maximum be 90 days.

—Option 4: This was a catch all category for other recommend provisions. Those provisions would include registration with an application fee, a business license, existing on-street parking be made available to renters, the prohibition of special events including weddings, parties, corporate retreats and that a copy of the gelatin including a local contact person must be available and respond to complaints.

Resident David Sesteen and his wife Jill Hanhong, who have a short-term residential business on Stoneman  Ave. made up of two apartments, a one-bedroom and a two-bedroom, made the case that STRs are good for local businesses the visitors frequent and service providers that the business owners need to operate. They said their guests were quiet, respectful people who enjoyed Alhambra and looked forward to returning. They said that a regulation imposing a 90-day would do great harm to the business.

Oscar Amaro, president  of the Alhambra Preservation Group, had a differing perspective relating some problems he and his family had in their historic craftsman home with a neighbor who rented a room in her house for STR occupancy.  Some of the issue was proximity of the two properties, which made loud talking and phone conversations problematic for the Amaros.

He recommended that set-backs be considered for properties considering STRs.

Resident Carolyn Hill wondered what lengths the city needed to go to govern these units? Would there be health department standards, like those found in restaurants?

Council members discussed the options presented by Castagnola but not before city attorney Joseph Montes noted that any effort to impose a TOT tax for this kind of business would necessitate a revision of the current TOT  ordinance, which would require approval by Alhambra’s voters.

Some members of the council expressed concern over what opening short-term rentals would mean for the overall housing stock in the city at a time when supply seemed to be at a premium,

Council member Katherine Lee voiced opposition to the 90 day standard thinking that this was too much. She expressed concerns for those living near these short-term residential businesses not knowing who was coming or going  in their neighborhoods.

Council member Adele Andrade-Stadler asked Police Chief Timothy Vu to speak on the subject of short-term rentals and crime in the city. Chief Vu addressed the council and said that he was not aware of any criminal activity or specific incidents requiring police response at short-term rentals.

Deputy Mayor David Mejia fixed on the notion of regulatory compliance saying that stiff fines orrevocation of business license might be necessary for STR business owners who didn’t abide by city codes.

After much back and forth, the council decided it was not prepared to vote on recommendations to staff and pushed forth the discussion until the council’s strategic plan meeting in April, if not before, while seeking clarity on what other cities might be doing in regards to their specific concerns. TOT revenue was clearly on many minds as well.

The other housing issue on the agenda  included  a presentation by Caitlin Sims, principal management analyst for the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments, on the new San Gabriel Valley Regional Housing Trust Fund Joint Powers Authority.

The authority was created by SB 751 put forth by State Senator Susan Rubio and signed into law last October. It would use dedicated funds held in trust for the planning and construction of homeless, extremely low, very low and low income housing. This trust would have the authority to issue bonds and other debt instruments as well as receive public and private funds and financing. The bill included $1.35 million in seed money

The SGV Regional Housing Trust will be governed by a nine -member board, which would include seven members representing parties to the SGVRHT agreement and two housing and homelessness experts. Board members would serve two year terms and is expected to be seated in April, 2020.

All participants of the Trust Fund must be members of the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments. And each city would pay an annual administrative fee based on population. For Alhambra, that would be $20,000.

Four cities, Arcadia, Baldwin Park, La Verne and South El Monte, have already joined the regional housing trust from a list of about 20 who may have interest.

After hearing the presentation and asking a few questions on grant funding process and procedures, the council voted 5-0 to approve participation in the agreement and direct the city staff to undertake necessary steps to finalize the council’s action.

Several items were listed on the consent agenda including extending the city’s contract for professional auditing services with White Nelson Diehl Evans LLP for one year providing for services in 2019-20. Staff will then initiate a competitive RFP for the fiscal year 2020-21 audit.

A full list of consent items may be found in the full agenda here.

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