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Vacation renters lose a battle, but hope to win the war 

During an Oct. 9 San Luis Obispo City Planning Commission hearing, commissioners rejected an appeal by SLO resident and vacation rental advocate Sky Bergman, ruling she can’t use a room in her house as a short-term vacation rental.

Though Bergman told New Times she was disappointed with the ruling, she emphasized that the appeal concerned only her specific, individual situation. Bergman added that she remains optimistic the city will change its mind about the larger vacation rental situation.

Bergman and others who support modifying city codes to allow vacation rentals—or, specifically, “residence stays,” which they say is a more accurate label—have coalesced into a loosely knit group of roughly 20 people calling themselves SLO Hosts. The group has created a change.org petition to urge the City Council to “pass fair and reasonable short-term rental regulations.” It’s garnered 666 supporters as of Oct. 16.

“We’re trying to be helpful, not adversarial, and we’re fully willing to pay necessary taxes,” Bergman told New Times. “We are continuing to educate those who work in the city, and help to calm some people’s fears about ‘vacation rentals.’”

The planning commission rejected Bergman’s appeal because of a 1988 city ordinance that explicitly bans vacation rentals—renting a residence or part of a house for fewer than 30 consecutive days—within San Luis Obispo city limits. The decision only ruled on the validity of the appeal, not the validity of the ordinance.

The next important step for people on both sides of the vacation rental dispute is a Nov. 12 City Council “study session,” during which the council will informally evaluate the vacation rental ordinance after receiving input from both the city staff and residents.

Bergman said that—though she does have the right—she doesn’t plan to appeal the planning commission decision. She said she’s taken down all of her advertisements on rental sites like Airbnb and VRBO to comply with the code violation notice she received earlier this year.

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