Guest column by Deb Simmons
My husband and I are longtime residents of Manzanita, drawn to this incredible place by its natural beauty, sense of community and quality of life. For 13 years I taught at Nehalem Primary School and I have no doubt had several of your children in my class. I have good friends and neighbors here, and we are invested in this town. It is our house.
So it pains me to say that the character of our community is threatened by the city’s reliance on short-term rental (STR) revenue.
Of course, we have to welcome visitors, but there needs to be a better balance; the city must first and foremost meet the needs of the people who live there.
We have a comprehensive plan which has the force of law, but which is not being respected. It states that:
“The main asset of Manzanita is its residential character.”
That Manzanita should “promote housing and living environments to meet the needs of families of different sizes, incomes, ages, tastes and lifestyles.
That the overall plan should not be used for the benefit of a few owners or special interests, but for the city as a whole.
Let me ask you: do short-term rental houses for 21 people fit in with existing houses? Where do 21 people park their cars in a neighborhood? A house with 21 visitors is not a neighbor, it’s a business.
Short-term rentals allowed owners of second homes to cover part of their bills. But they have become big business, operating in the heart of our residential neighborhoods. The average short-term rental owner collected $30,000 or more in rent in 2019-20, compared to $7,500 in 1994-95.
The houses were rented mainly in the summer. Now they are rented year round. In 15 years, the use of the STR has increased by nearly 400% in our residential neighborhoods. Larger houses replaced smaller beach cottages, attracting more visitors. Although there are seven companies in town to handle all rentals, oversight still falls primarily to local residents.
They are the ones who call, again and again, when six or eight cars show up at a rental house, when the limit is half.
They are the ones who have to ask tenants again and again to please party inside after 10 p.m.
They are the ones who suffer from the constant flow of cleaners, repairers and visitors to single-family neighborhoods.
Of course, you need a permit to operate a short-term rental, and yes, the city limits and enforces the allowed number to 17.5% of existing homes. But that cap is city-wide and misleading. In areas close to the beach and town, where most visitors want to rent, rental concentration can be as high as 50%. Many of our friends have STRs on two or three sides of their house – new people every time a car pulls up. Does this sound like a neighborhood to you?
The explosion of short-term rentals has virtually eliminated long-term rentals for families and workers. It’s just not as lucrative for the owners. The result is that fewer young people and families can afford to call Manzanita home and our local businesses cannot find the help they need.
I am therefore delighted to see that the city is organizing a working session on Wednesday, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., to discuss the future of short-term rentals. It is long overdue. I hope you will come and share your experience – and a vision for Manzanita’s future – because our current path is not sustainable.
We must take back our city. Put a pause on short-term rentals until we find a sensible way to regulate them. Look for other sources of income to fund the services we need. Update and honor the full plan – and live up to the principles it sets out.
Forward-thinking cities have become smart and act to preserve their communities. We must do the same.
Wednesday, March 9 Manzanita City Council Workshop 3-5 p.m. – The Future of Short-Term Rentals. During the workshops, you can ask questions and make comments; City Council at 6 p.m.
Link to zoom and comment during the Manzanita City Council working session:
For City emails, go to: https://ci.manzanita.or.us/