Since September 2013 we’ve been part-timers in Gearhart. We’d like to share our perspective on what we love about Gearhart, why we bought here, and why we are so worried about the ballot initiative that would allow unlimited short-term rentals in Gearhart.
We chose to buy a house in Gearhart exactly because it is a low-key residential town where we are part of a quiet, friendly neighborhood. That Gearhart, through its plan of development, has long expressed a goal of keeping its residential character was very important to us. That’s what we wanted and valued.
We are very concerned about the ballot initiative because we’ve personally experienced the effects of unlimited growth of short-term rentals. During the winter, we live in the San Diego beach neighborhood of La Jolla Shores, where we’ve been for twenty years. When we settled in, our neighborhood was very congenial, and we got to know most of the people living nearby. In the blocks around us there were some houses being rented long-term, i.e., yearly; there were a few that would be rented for the whole summer; and there were a few that were second homes used by their owners for only a few months of the year. These tenants and part-time residents were familiar and were part of our sociable neighborhood milieu.
The advent of internet-enabled short term rentals changed this dynamic and our neighborhood dramatically. These short-term rentals are very different from the traditional summer rentals that we were quite used to over the years. Traditionally a family often rented the same property from year to year or returned to the same neighborhood. Now many of the houses around us are used as short-term vacation rentals via VRBO.com, Airbnb, and other internet sites. The area used for short-term rentals has expanded to include streets and blocks not as close to the beach, exacerbating traffic problems. These short-term rental houses are either sitting empty or hosting groups of vacationers who form no connection to our neighborhood. Instead of a family that one gets to know a bit over the summer months and even years, the typical short-term rental hosts larger groups of people, often centered around an event such as a reunion. Such groups are less interested in meeting neighbors, likelier to be noisy, and then quickly gone, to make way for the next group. With the transition from long-term and summer rentals to the internet-based short-term version, our neighborhood lost its congenial, sociable vibe, and sometimes there is very annoying behavior by weekend visitors. We miss our old neighborhood feeling. We don’t think it will come back.
Gearhart was able to work through the short-term rental issues in an admirable way. We are a small, involved town, willing to stick with the process and persevere though to a solution. The town held an extended series of workshops and council meetings over two years, where all residents were welcome to participate in the give-and-take. The existing ordinance was crafted with input from all viewpoints. It was voted into law. It deserves to stay in place.
Thank you for considering our concerns.
Janet Elliott & Duncan Brown