Woodside council gets earful on short-term rentals and their impact on rural character


The sharing economy, in the form of short-term rental outfits like Airbnb, has become a disruptive force in parts of Woodside.

While Woodside residents may not be able to say exactly what they mean when they're talking about the town's rural character, they seem to know it when they're not seeing it.

"I'm living next door to a corporation (of 10 employees) living and working there," resident Dick Brown of Woodside Heights told the Town Council during an Oct. 11 study session. They're nice people, Mr. Brown said, but the previous corporate tenants were not and the next group may not be either. "The rural character of Woodside is extremely important to us," he said.

A resident of Ridgeway Road said he's lived there for 29 years and that the place next door has been turned into an event center. "The noise, sometimes whole day long," he said. "And the weekend comes, and it's just a disaster and it's totally changed why I wanted to live in Woodside. ... It's very miserable to live right next to people who turned their house into a hotel."

Sue Sweeney Burow prepared a list of communities that, she said, have found ways to regulate short-term rentals. "Certainly in Woodside we care about our rural character, and if people are running hotels in Woodside, I think it would destroy the rural character of Woodside, which goes against the general plan," she said.

Among the ideas offered: no rentals for less than 30 days, no corporate leasing within residential areas, limiting the number of rentals in a calendar year, and requiring the homeowner to be living at the property.

Group events are the primary complaint, Town Manager Kevin Bryant said. The problem in regulating short term rentals, he said, is in administering the regulations and enforcing them. Bans tend not to work, he said. The sharing economy has a peer-to-peer structure, so a key issue is how a city or town might insert itself into that relationship, he said.

Annie Kaskade of the Woodside Glens, a community of small homes, urged the council to note the positive opportunities that short-term rentals offer residents away for a week or two. Tenants in such cases may be pet sitters or nannies, she said. "I don't want to leave my house empty," she said. "It's a magnet for thieves."

She urged the council to develop a formal process for addressing complaints and to consider unintended consequences of regulations.

"The community has rights," Councilman Chris Shaw said. "Neighbors have rights. Running a for-profit short-term rental place for parties is not what we want for our community. ... If you're using your property for commercial gain, that's not what Woodside is about."

Councilman Daniel Yost, a Glens resident, said that while something must be done about group events, the issue deserves a lot of thought. Noise could be a trigger for intervention, he said. The council might consider a formula of two people per bedroom plus two. (The city of St. Helena in Napa County, noted by Mr. Bryant, uses this formula.)

Councilman Peter Mason suggested that the council focus on the worst cases. We need to "quickly put something in that allows us to defend the community," he said.

"It's behavior," Mayor Deborah Gordon said. "The new sharing economy has made it such that these behaviors are coming to every community." It may be appropriate, she said, to look at egregious behavior as a first step, but noted that it's difficult to define bad behavior in an ordinance.

"We have a very tiny resource," she added, referring to the few deputies that patrol the town. (St. Helena has a police force.)

The council asked staff to come back with six or seven approaches and a report on some common regulating threads, such as using nuisance laws.


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11 people like this
Posted by Will
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Glens
on Oct 14, 2016 at 12:57 am

Woodside needs to keep its rural charm for sure. I like the idea of no rentals under 30 days. We don't need those who are not living in Woodside coming here because it's become more noticeable as an "exclusive" place and using rentals as a party space. I grew up in Woodside my whole life and I definitely don't want to see it used as a short term rental place. Let's preserve our town, and I trust the council will make a wise decision moving forward as they have with other issues that affect the town.

2 people like this
Posted by local
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 14, 2016 at 10:58 am

30 day minimum is excessive, and might actually lead to more corporate rentals.

How about a max of 60 total days in a rolling 12 months, as SF is proposing, for short term rentals?

The noise ordinance may be a problem, because plenty of Woodside residents have some pretty rockin' parties. Let's make sure any rules apply to all, or not have the rule.

Like this comment
Posted by Woodside Resident
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Oct 14, 2016 at 12:41 pm

To the extent this issue is about noise it's important to note that San Mateo County has an elaborate and restrictive noise ordinance:

Web Link

In the noise anecdotes reported, did the complainants attempt to resolve the issue either directly with the noisemakers or by contacting the county sheriff? If so, what was the result?

2 people like this
Posted by Dave Boyce
Almanac staff writer
on Oct 14, 2016 at 12:54 pm

Dave Boyce is a registered user.

It's likely that San Mateo County noise regulations apply only in communities that are not incorporated as a city or town.

As for calls to sheriff's deputies (who are contracted for police services in Woodside), a couple of residents alluded to having made such calls. One person said that nothing happened as a result. Another mentioned deputies having to "break through" locked gates to get to the noise makers.

Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 14, 2016 at 6:09 pm

Woodside has a noise ordinance.

12 people like this
Posted by Ed
a resident of another community
on Oct 14, 2016 at 7:38 pm

Airbnb should be subject to the same regulations and taxes as any hotel, because that's exactly what they are. No sympathy for thoughtless owners trying to be hip, stuff their pockets with cash, and let their neighbors bear the brunt of unaccountable transient tenants. If Woodside, or any other community wanted hotels in residential neighborhoods, the zoning would reflect that desire. I'm willing to bet hotels are not welcome in rural Woodside, and by extension, neither should airbnb.

5 people like this
Posted by Glens Resident
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Glens
on Oct 14, 2016 at 10:36 pm

The formula cited (2 people per bedroom plus 2) could work for some situations, but it could be way too many for others.

Parking should also be considered, especially in cozier neighborhoods like the Glens. Should a 3-bedroom house have 8 people living in it? Probably not. And definitely not if that means having 7 cars in and around the driveway.

A 3-bedroom home that is occupied by a family probably has 2-4 cars. If it's converted into an airbnb hotel, it could easily have double that.

7 people like this
Posted by capitalist
a resident of Woodside: Family Farm/Hidden Valley
on Oct 15, 2016 at 6:46 am

Keep big government out of my life. And off of my property. Suddenly, everyone wants more government regulations on what we do with our property.

Fed state regional county local town - NO!

7 people like this
Posted by New to Woodside
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Hills
on Oct 17, 2016 at 9:03 am

I'm tired of others telling me what I can and cannot do. Mind your own business.

4 people like this
Posted by Everything changes
a resident of Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on Oct 18, 2016 at 9:07 am

My property. Keep government out of it. Oh mighty town council member, stop defending the past. It's not helping anyone but your ego and your small networks congratulatory combined ego of "what is right"

5 people like this
Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 18, 2016 at 9:58 am

pogo is a registered user.

You can do what you want with your property but you don't get to change the rules. Hotels are not allowed in Woodside residential neighborhoods.

Perhaps you wouldn't mind if tore down my home, built a large movie screen and converted it into a drive in theater?

I suspect you'll change your mind when you can't sleep for the constant partying and your neighborhood turns into a Motel 6 parking lot.

4 people like this
Posted by been there
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 18, 2016 at 12:19 pm

It seems the issue is noise, not airbnb. Enforcing the town's noise ordinance seems like the first step. No need to ban rentals if the problem can be resolved with existing laws.

2 people like this
Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 18, 2016 at 12:27 pm

pogo is a registered user.

No one wants to ban rentals. We want to limit short term rentals.

If we wanted to live next to a hotel, we wouldn't have moved to Woodside.

2 people like this
Posted by ECommerce use and occupancy tax
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Oct 18, 2016 at 8:22 pm

Think how state finally got Amazon and other ECommerce vendors to collect sales effort to protect established brick and mortar storefront biz undercut by ECommerce

Well established legal principles of "Unlawful Restraint of Trade", together with "Interference with prospective economic advantage" cited in Buckaloo v. johnson....make limitations on AirbnB penetration into Woodside via ECommerce a tricky constitutional, property rights voyage...IMHO

Perhaps a focus on the Towns' taxing authority for use and occupancy via Airbnb to offset additional municipal costs of policing, infrastructure wear and tear due to increase of non resident transients, etc. becomes a legitimate legally Enforceable & Defensible exercise of "Police Power" of local zoning authority empowered by State Constitution Local Authority Zoning Laws...and a significant cost of doing business liened on Airbnb proprietors by the Town, like a Transient Occupancy Tax assessed to lodging establishments , at a significant premium to the typical 10-12% lodging occupancy tax....makes it really expensive in overhead and form filing costs for airbnb hosts.

Not hard to find out who the airbnb hosts are from their website....Tax them to stress the economic attraction of being an airbnb host

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle

on Aug 15, 2017 at 2:25 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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