In the front yards of some homes on South Sunset Drive in Lodi are signs reading “neighborhoods are for neighbors, not vacation rentals,” which Sally Skelton said were made in response to problems she and her neighbors have experienced from Airbnb vacation rental homes such as the one next door to her house.
“This one has been here since May,” Skelton said. “(There has been ) a lot of noise, no respect for the neighborhood and lots and lots of cars on the street.”
Nancy Mirko, one of Skelton’s neighbors, said she has seen people climbing a tree in a house behind her own to smoke marijuana and look into her own backyard — who she believes are Airbnb renters —in addition to the noise and increased traffic.
Mirko also worries that she and her neighbors have no way of knowing who the next renters will be — if they will have loud parties or bring more renters than allowed — and that as far as she knows, some of the people buying homes in her neighborhood to use as Airbnb rentals are not from Lodi.
“This is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, and it’s only just started to go downhill,” Mirko said. “I’ve been here since 1972, and it was always a great place to raise kids, but that’s starting to change.”
Mary Roman, another of Skelton’s and Mirko’s neighbors, said another house on South Sunset Drive was recently purchased for use as an Airbnb rental.
Roman worries not only that the increased noise and traffic will decrease property values in her neighborhood, but also that she and her neighbors were not consulted before the houses near them were used as vacation rental homes.
“It would be nice for the people who are buying these homes to come to us and ask if this is what we want, but they haven’t,” Roman said.
In addition to the concerns shared by her neighbors, Skelton worries that the owners of the rental homes live out of town, resulting in unsupervised renters.
“It wouldn’t be a problem if the host was on the premises, but these hosts live an hour away so if there’s a problem, they can’t deal with it,” Skelton said.
Skelton and her neighbors also feel that the City of Lodi should regulate where Airbnb rental houses can be located in the city, and worries that there may soon be more than the three vacation rental houses currently in her neighborhood.
“It’s exactly as the signs say: ‘Neighborhoods are for neighbors,’” Skelton said. “If any house can be an Airbnb — and as far as I know at this point, they can be — what happens to our neighborhood?”
Craig Hoffman, senior planner for the City of Lodi, said there are approximately 15 Airbnb rental houses in Lodi where the owners either rent a single room, a small guest house on the property or the entire house itself, although the owners do have to go through a permitting process.
“Within the City of Lodi, you have to get a home occupation permit to run a business out of your home and they need to get a business license so the City of Lodi can collect a transient occupancy tax,” Hoffman said.
Some of the property owners live in the Bay Area, Hoffman said, who bought the homes before they plan to retire and rent them out in the meantime to help pay for their mortgages.
The property owners could lose their business licenses if their renters create a nuisance, Hoffman said, and while that has not yet happened, he has heard complaints from residents in neighborhoods such as South Sunset Drive where there were previously no rental properties.
“I understand the neighbors’ concerns,” Hoffman said. “It is different.”