Indio adopted stricter short-term rental regulation on Wednesday after months of debate and adjustments. The new rules focus on the number of guests, noise control, as well as ensuring proper collection of transient occupancy taxes.
The number of guests now allowed on a rental property overnight will be capped at 20 people, regardless of the number of rooms. Previously, the number of overnight guests in a short-term rental could increase if home owners proved the configuration of the house could accommodate more guests.
The new rules also prohibit noise from radios, musical instruments, loudspeakers, sound amplifiers and "any machine, device or equipment" (including phones) that creates sound audible outside of the rental home in the evenings. The noise rule begins at 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Stricter regulation was proposed as far back as October 2020 and the city held a series of meetings on the matter since September, debating limits on the number of guests, parking, and permissible noise levels at short-term rentals. The council also held off on voting on new rules at the start of November, when several residents asked to allow more time for public input.
City Attorney Roxanne Diaz emphasized during several presentations that the goal in adopting a new ordinance was to minimize the vacation rentals' impact on surrounding residential neighborhoods and obtain proper TOT payment.
Indio currently lists 879 active short-term vacation rentals with a permit on its city website.
The city also addressed recent state legislation that has narrowed regulation of sidewalk vendors.
The council added a requirement that any stationary or roaming sidewalk vendor obtain a city business license and sidewalk vending permit.
The city will also require sidewalk vendors to get a California seller’s permit. Additionally, sidewalk vendors selling food products must have proof of completion of a food handler course and approvals from the Riverside County Department of Environmental Health.
Vendors on private property will now need a permit that shows they're abiding by the zoning code and land use entitlements, which would have to allow them to run a business there.
When Councilmembers Lupe Ramos Amith and Glenn Miller asked how children with lemonade stands or those selling Girl Scout cookies could be affected, Indio Police Department Code Enforcement Manager Jason Anderson said they would technically not be exempt from the ordinance, but that police typically do not punish such activities.
"We've looked at these issues before and there's always discretion on our part," Anderson said.
Waymond Fermon becomes mayor
Mayor Pro Tem Waymond Fermon on Wednesday rotated into the mayor position, succeeding Elaine Holmes.
Fermon makes history as Indio's first Black mayor. He was congratulated on his new role by the rest of the city council, U.S. Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Desert, and by some of his friends and family during Wednesday evening's city council meeting.
“I give you my word, I’m going to work 120% for this city, like I already have been. I love the City of Indio," he said. "I want to work continuously with our staff, our council, our community to make sure the goals we have in front of us are met."
Fermon was born and raised in Indio; in his brief speech, he said he’d like to retire in his hometown as well.
With the rotation, Councilmember Oscar Ortiz began his role as mayor pro tem.
Redistricting in the city
Draft maps advanced by California's redistricting commission recently split the Coachella Valley at both state and federal levels. On Wednesday, Indio held a public hearing to gather input from residents on the redrawing of district boundaries in the city as well.
Indio presently has five council districts, created under criteria that includes geography, cohesiveness/compactness and communities of interest in the districts.
For redistricting purposes, a community of interest means a population that shares common social or economic interests that should all be in one district for effective and fair representation, according to Jeff Simonetti, a consultant with the National Demographics Corporation that presented on the matter on Wednesday.
Communities of interest do not include ties to a given political party, incumbents or political candidates.
The public hearing focused mostly on this category as well the different neighborhoods in the city, with Simonetti saying officials needed feedback in order to better define these.
Neighborhood boundaries are typically determined by physical features like nearby highways, major roads, hills, rivers and canals. Parks, schools or significant landmarks in given areas also qualify.
Miller suggested expanding Indio's district four, the city's smallest district, by adding from districts two and one.
"There are a couple communities there that I think would blend in with community four better, once you see the map. They have the same kinds of interests," he said, adding that residents wanting more parks, for instance, should be together so as to have a "bigger voice."
During public comments, Sandra Tolento and Jorge Bojorquez individually shared that they live in central Indio: Tolento near Dr. Carreon Boulevard and Miles Avenue and Bojorquez close to the Highway 111 commercial area. They said their neighborhoods lack "quality parks" and "green spaces."
Indio High School is also a landmark in that area and Bojorquez said the centralized location creates traffic build-up when school starts and ends. "We need walking guards and traffic control there," he said.
Public comments from residents in different city districts also addressed lack of affordable housing in Indio, with "single family homes in the $400,000 price range," according to another resident.
Ortiz said that the presentation focused a lot on data about race in the city, while he would like to also see city data on age and income, since those factors often drive people's interests, too.
The 2020 U.S. Census showed that the majority of residents, or 64%, identified as Latino or Hispanic in the city with a population of 89,137.
Fermon agreed with Ortiz and requested that income and age be added to the map so that the public can see it and continue to provide feedback. Simonetti said he would add the information and create a file to add to the city website in "the next couple of days."
There are two more public hearings on the subject, scheduled for Jan. 19 and Feb. 2, 2022. Versions of the final map must be posted a week before the adoption hearing, scheduled for March 2.
Eliana Perez covers the eastern Coachella Valley. Reach her at email@example.com or on Twitter @ElianaPress.
This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Indio adopts stricter rules on short-term rentals