Responding to the concerns raised by the N4N STR petition

Recently a group known as Idyllwild Neighbors 4 Neighborhoods (N4N) initiated a petition to the Riverside County Board of Supervisors seeking “increased accountability and additional enforcement of short-term rentals” in the Idyllwild-Pine Cove area. The petition identified eight perceived problems caused by short term rentals (STRs), and called for five actions steps for the county to consider as it studies potential revisions to the County’s STR Ordinance 927.


Known as Idyllwild Vacation Rental Owners, we are a group of responsible permit-holding short-term rental property owners. Most of us live in the area either part time or full time, and we champion the ways that STRs have contributed to the healthy growth of community and local businesses. That was certainly not the case just a few short years ago when Idyllwild was struggling to attract enough tourists to maintain a robust local economy. While we believe STRs have contributed positively to our community, we agree with the N4N group that there is a need for increased accountability and additional enforcement. We differ significantly from N4N, however, on several key points.


We would like to take this opportunity to respond to the concerns raised by the petition by addressing the perceived problems, followed by a simple concrete solution for our County representatives to consider as they address the working draft of Ordinance 927.1. The issues raised by the petition are:

Loud Noise and Party Violations of Ordinance 347

This seems to be the most frequent complaint, and this is an area where we can find common ground. As responsible owners we believe that excessive noise and disruptive parties negatively impact the community and should not be tolerated.

Increased Security Problems

Unfortunately the petition does not specify what the specific security problems are. General crime statistics have remained low in recent years, and instances of home break-ins and illegal squatting have decreased significantly as homes that once sat vacant (as rarely-used personal vacation homes) have been purchased by part-timers who now also utilize the properties as short term rentals when they’re not present.

Illegal and Off-Street Parking

This is another area where we can find common ground. Parking violations need to be enforced throughout the community—at STRs, at homes of full-time residents, at businesses, and anywhere where illegal parking is causing a disruption to others.

Increased Fire Hazards

Again, the petition doesn’t specify how STRs uniquely contribute to fire risk, which is difficult to determine since the Fire Department doesn’t keep such statistics. In fact, of the nearly dozen house fires in Idyllwild and Pine Cove last year, not one of them was a short-term rental. Conversely, many houses which once sat vacant for months at a time are now being purchased and renovated by STR owners who are upgrading outdated electrical systems, installing smoke detectors and other positive improvements. While some have expressed concern about timely evacuations, there is little to suggest that short term renters (who are already traveling light and have their suitcases nearby) would be difficult to quickly usher off the hill. The Fire Department has expressed that promptly evacuating full time residents and summer campers is a bigger concern than the evacuation of STR guests. Finally if fire access on Idyllwild sometimes unpaved or unmaintained roads is a concern, the roads should be improved or the fire depart needs better equipment to service not just the STRs on these roads but the residents as well.

STRs Creating a Long-Term Housing Shortage

While there is certainly a shortage of affordable rental housing for long-term renters, there is no data to suggest that STRs have “created” such a shortage. Some former Idyllwild residents have moved off the hill because they couldn’t find affordable permanent housing, but local realtors have reported extremely low instances of long-term renters being evicted so new owners could convert a home to a short-term rental. Most of the homes that have been converted to STRs were personal-use second homes that sat vacant for much of the year and were never utilized as affordable rental housing for permanent residents in the first place. The key word is “affordable.” The average home price in Idyllwild is $450,000. To cover a mortgage payment, taxes, and insurance (while still making a modest profit), a landlord would need to charge nearly $3,000 per month in rent. Assuming that restricting STRs would result in owners converting their units to long term rentals is a big “if” that still doesn’t address the underlying issue of affordable housing.

Increased Water Use and Trash

There is no data from the local water districts that breaks down consumption by property usage, so it’s not possible to determine if STRs use more or less water. Common sense, however, tells us that full-time homes use more water and create more trash than short-term properties that often use no water and create no waste for days at a time when they’re not rented. If the goal of N4N is to convert STRs into full-time rentals, we believe this could potentially create a greater strain on water and waste resources.

Danger to Drinking Water Due to Septic Overcapacity

Again, there are no statistics to suggest this is a danger. The water districts have not expressed concern. As with the above, if N4N seeks to convert STRs to full time rentals, this would theoretically increase usage. Further like the electrical wiring point above, STRs are generally better maintained and less likely to have septic tank failures. Indeed a recent survey of our members indicated many use STR revenue to offset the cost of maintaining and updating their personal vacation cabin.

The Lack of Enforcement of County Ordinances

This is the bottom line, and the point on which our two groups are in agreement. While N4N have offered no data to back up their claims regarding septic issues, increased fire risk, increased water usage, and the impact of STRs on long term rental availability, their complaints regarding noise violations and parking issues are shared by Idyllwild Vacation Rental Owners. Those concerns come down to the simple matter of enforcement. We simply don’t have enough of it.


Unfortunately, the draft of 927.1 does nothing to seriously address the primary issue, which is enforcement of disturbances to our quiet peaceful lives. The draft ordinance puts that responsibility solely on the owner/operators, including a provision that would require posted signs in front of every STR with the phone number of the owner and/or local manager. Not only would such signs open up STR owners to personal harassment, they would negatively impact the beauty of our neighborhoods, and serve as a notice to would-be burglars that the home is often unoccupied. No where does the county step up to respond to and document complaints.

The bottom line is that we owners are not law enforcement officers any more than the owners of long-term rentals are. What’s needed is a dedicated enforcement officer (either a Sheriff’s deputy, Community Service Office or other County official) who could issue fines, have vehicles towed, and document repeat offenders whose short-term rentals are abusing the system.

How would this be paid for?

While N4N calls for a “substantial” increase on initial and renewal fees for STR permits, we believe this is an unfair burden on the majority of us who are already responsible owners and operators. A “substantial” increase could actually discourage compliance, particularly with the many owners who use their cabins themselves, and only rent part time. 

According to the County’s Grand Jury Report, STRs generated 1.6 million dollars in transient occupancy tax in 2020. A portion of that tax should be earmarked for specific and dedicated enforcement. Additional revenue for such enforcement could be generated by an increase in the occupancy tax and supplemented by the fines the dedicated officer issues to the short-term renters who violate noise and parking ordinances.

In the final analysis, we all love and care about our beautiful Idyllwild-Pine Cove community. We must work together to encourage the County to enforce guidelines that are already in place rather than placing undue burdens on STR owners, or creating fear about perceived problems that are not supported by data. Now is the time to come together to encourage the robust economy to which STRs significantly contribute, while also ensuring that everyone can enjoy our unique and peaceful mountain community without disruptions from those who don’t or won’t follow the existing rules.   

The best way to help right now is to TAKE ACTION by writing to the county in support sensible and effective regulations. We’ve drafted two sample letters you can use as a starting point but encourage you to make your own statement to the county.