Council to take up bills to curb illicit B&Bs
Panel's rulings put pressure on Council
STORY SUMMARY »
In a small victory for residents opposed to more rental units in their neighborhoods, an advisory panel rejected a measure for legalizing more bed-and-breakfasts while approving a proposal to give the city greater enforcement power over vacation-rental owners.
The decision comes down to the City Council, which will be discussing next week several bills relating to rental units, an issue that has long divided the community and plagued the city as illegal vacation rentals increase.
FULL STORY »
A new day has dawned for Oahu's bed-and-breakfast community as the City Council prepares to consider new guidelines in a much chillier regulatory climate.
Next week the Council will take up four measures aimed at curbing illegal B&B operations -- the subject of vehement testimony in a series of hearings since November.
But the Council's action could run counter to a city Planning Commission decision Jan. 30 that attempted to slam the door on new B&B licenses.
Saying that the vacation units benefit only the owners and not the community at large, the commission unanimously rejected a bill that set new guidelines for licenses.
The seven-member advisory panel also approved a measure that would give the city greater enforcement power by requiring owners to provide more information in all advertisements, including on the Internet.
"We feel that the Planning Commission's decision properly reflected the pulse of the community," said Don Bremner, spokesman for Keep It Kailua, a grass-roots group against vacation rentals. "We think it's a good solid message to the City Council."
These proposals have prompted passionate and sometimes heated testimony from hundreds of community members at hearings since November. The commission received testimony from nearly 600 people in favor of the B&B bill and from 140 against it.
"The Planning Commission was mainly a step in the process," said Tonic Billie, who owns a bed-and-breakfast. "What is really important is when we go forward to the Council. I hope the councilmembers can realize that there will be better order and compliance with clear guidelines."
However, with the commission's decision, it is now harder for the Council to pass self-generated B&B measures. According to city policies, any bill drafted by the nine-member Council that is rejected by the commission needs to be approved by a majority of six votes rather than five.
The extra vote is not required for bills introduced by the administration.
Problems with illegal rental units have long plagued the city because it is nearly impossible for investigators to track and catch owners in the act.
The last time the city revised its rules on rental units was in 1989, when residents also opposed any changes that could lead to more legalized rental units in their neighborhoods.
"One has to address the concerns rather than tuck them away," said Councilman Rod Tam, chairman of the Zoning Committee. "Residents need to put aside their emotions so we can deal with the problem."
On Wednesday the City Council will discuss four bills relating to rental units -- two from the City Council and two from the city Department of Planning and Permitting.
Supporters of rental units say they help boost tourism and might be the main source of income for some homeowners. Their opponents maintain that the vacation rentals are slowly turning their neighborhoods into commercial zones and that tourists bring traffic and noise.
BY THE NUMBERS
» 100: Homes with bed-and-breakfast permits
» 2,000: Online advertisements for short-term rentals on Oahu
» 1,000: Homeowners with certificates to rent rooms
Source: City and County of Honolulu and a 2005 state study