Mailbag: Fractional home ownership affects the neighborhood

Mid-20th-century cottages in Newport Beach alternate with taller, contemporary homes.
Mid-20th-century cottages in Newport Beach alternate with taller, more contemporary homes in older neighborhoods. Fractional ownership has become an issue in the city as neighbors against the practice say temporary ownership changes the quality of life in the community.
(Courtesy of city of Newport Beach)

In his recent letter to the editor (Daily Pilot Mailbag, March 10), Joe Maehler (whom I understand to be a Pacaso executive) basically says “Jump, I’ll catch you.”

Maehler states “Pacaso owners have a significant vested interest in both the home and the community ... Pacaso owners are responsible families that abide by local ordinances and are committed to being good neighbors.” He assures us that his family is “heavily” involved in local sports and “spends a lot of time in local parks and beaches.”

In my view, Maehler’s praise and assurances of Pacaso owners and his family’s civic involvement do not necessarily qualify as license for a well-funded, dressed up timeshare operator to disrupt the peace and quality of life for which our villages are renowned.

Unless you grew up in Newport, do you remember the feeling of unbridled excitement when you arrived from your inland home at the rental for a summer week at the beach? I do.

The warm sand. Welcoming blue ocean with white-cresting waves. Colorful swim suits. Canvas rafts before Boogey Boards were invented. Fishing rods with soft shell sand crabs as bait. Volleyball and touch football. Hot dogs and hamburgers on the barbecue. Multicolored umbrellas. Zinc oxide and baby oil. Top 40 blaring on the patio. Noise. Party on! Late nights. Nirvana.

But what about those poor neighbors who were full-time residents? They put up with the noise. They put up with all of our many visitors — the relatives, the boyfriends and girlfriends (and their friends), the parents’ pals. They put up with the overcrowded parking and the hoards from our San Gabriel Valley home. They put up with the trash we accumulated, the beach toys we scattered, the sand we tracked. They put up with the blaring music we played, the wet towels and bathing suits we draped on the walls, the beer cans our parents emptied and the garbage. They put up with the loss of privacy, the likely loss in property value. They put up with a loss of community and “neighborhoodness,” the traffic, the noisy late nights! For those seven days we received the maximum return on our investment.

The good news for our poor neighbors was that it was temporary. A summer week here and a summer week there. It goes with the territory of Newport as a desirable community, but it all ended on Labor Day.

But fast forward to the age of Pacaso.

The typical Pacaso model promises 45 days for each of eight owners (who may well be strangers to each other) on a repeated, in-and-out, never-ending, year-round basis. The Nirvana hormonal excitement of a summer week at the beach is multiplied by eight owners for 52 weeks who all want to get their money’s worth for their high-priced investment at the expense of neighbors.

Fractional ownership does nothing to help us meet the multiple California mandates regarding RHNA and affordable housing and will permanently scar the nature, quality of life and character of our village-centric town.

Paul Watkins
Newport Beach

As enticing as Joe Maehler makes co-ownership of housing sound, it has many a pitfall. Interestingly, never does he refer to the practice as it is most commonly known — fractional home ownership or FHO. It is a hot-button issue right now before the Newport Beach City Council. So far 12 of these FHOs have popped up in residential neighborhoods in the city and contrary to what those promoting them have said, these homes affect the surrounding neighborhood and not necessarily in a positive way.

Purchased by real estate/management companies, the homes are often remodeled and then sold in “shares,” usually to eight different buyers. The buyers are allowed to “ share” the home usually in what ends up to be two weeks at a time.

Just imagine eight different families rotating in and out of the house next door every two weeks. There could be even more than eight families rotating in and out because these fractional owners can give away their weeks or rent them as they please.

Fractional owners own the property, and it is difficult to regulate their homes in the same way the city regulates and permits short-term lodging. Once established, you cannot take away their operating permit.

FHOs invite “ vacation-type” activities: partying and late-hours behavior that is not conducive to promoting a sense of community in a neighborhood. The kids do not go to school in Newport Beach. Consequently, the FHO owners don’t have the usual educational and charitable connections to the community.

This type of housing has become a divisive issue because these homes will be cropping up in some areas (think: beachside) and not in others; therefore, many parts of Newport will not be able to relate personally to FHOs. But this is indeed a “city issue,” and the whole city needs to get involved in the solution.

Lynn Lorenz
Newport Beach

Invocation could be silent

An invocation at a public meeting is constitutionally protected; however, this once benign action, like many other things; has become political and acrimonious. The purpose of having an invocation strives for the idea that people of different faiths and those who do not ascribe to any faith can be united in a community of tolerance. That obviously is not happening at Huntington Beach City Council meetings.

Bringing religion into government meetings erodes at the boundaries of separation of church and state. A moment of silence instead of an invocation would be an adequate solution.

Lisa Shook
Huntington Beach

H.B. lawsuit denies housing reality

The Huntington Beach city attorney, instead of remaining independent and correctly advising the City Council of the state’s affordable housing law, has chosen to side with the council’s right-wing coalition, and this has resulted in the city being sued by the state.

The 59-page lawsuit filed by the city against the state in federal court is basically a delaying action, and it might come as a surprise to the city attorney, but more is not necessarily better, and you can’t fight city hall!

Since the city received a letter of warning from the state for noncompliance with the state housing law, further ignoring it can result in sanctions, which will be born by the taxpayers. When we first moved to Huntington Beach in 1962, the population was 10,000, and now it’s 200,000, so the city can already be considered urbanized.

Affordable housing can only improve the city, and the city attorney should be aware that his responsibilities belong to the property owners and not to individual certain City Council members.

Richard C. Armendariz
Huntington Beach

Recently the Huntington Beach City Council announced its latest push back against the state of California. The new council has a bad habit of frittering away the city’s treasury on quixotic lawsuits. This is distressing to me but not because the city will lose (again) on the same issue of affordable housing.

No, I am disappointed in the inability of our city leaders to understand the words that come out of their own mouths.

According to the Daily Pilot, at the press conference when the City Council revealed their intention to sue the state, one of them, Casey McKeon, said “Let the free market dictate what the demand is per city.”

Think it through, McKeon. If you believed your words about the free market, you would not protect the city’s zoning code but instead work to eliminate it altogether since it is the most anti-free-market regulatory apparatus on the books.

But you will never do that because the code is a set of government rules that favor the already-housed (that is, the wealthier) residents of the city. Those are, in your words, “our residents and our constituents that elected us.”

So, McKeon, please do not insult us with your transparently ridiculous appeal to the free market. You are fine with government interference in the housing market when it will win points and get you elected.

William Yarchin
Huntington Beach

As a resident of Huntington Beach, I am deeply disturbed at what is currently happening with city government and the new majority members who exert control with a 4 to 3 vote. As a former city planning commissioner, council member, mayor and a member of the State Coastal Commission, I want the very best for our city. Recent council meetings have been unruly and without the decorum that we had come to expect from previous councils. Freedom of speech is, of course, the basis of a democracy, but unruly conduct and name calling is not. Leaders have an obligation to lead, to set the tone, and to build consensus through participation.

I am also concerned that this council is undoing so much that had been achieved and is not looking at the future. For instance, instead of relying on functional policy that already exists and moving forward with the adoption of a housing element, new and unnecessary ordinances have been written and necessary steps forward slowed. The flag policy, as was originally written, gave the council full jurisdiction to determine which flags they deem appropriate to be flown or displayed on city property. And, fighting the “builder’s remedy,” which can only be used if you do not have a certified housing element, would be remedied if the majority moved forward and adopted one (in the hopes of it being certified by the State).

Past litigation against the state has shown to be unsuccessful. And now we find ourselves filing lawsuits against the state yet again. The city attorney’s new lawsuit against the state’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) is unlikely to result in a positive outcome but instead will likely cost the city money, attorney time and who knows what other consequences.

Add to all of the above, grossly increasing the amount of campaign contributions from $620 to $5,500 each election cycle, places control of our local government more firmly in the pockets of the wealthy and special interests both inside and outside of the city. And, if that wasn’t enough — the new majority has injected the city into the selection of the person giving the invocation at the start of City Council meetings; proposing, instead, to create a list of “certified” religious leaders to handle the invocations and control the rotation, thereby replacing the decades-long successful role of the Greater Huntington Beach Interfaith Council.

These decisions have many ripples and repercussions including the resignations of a number of the city’s executive team with the loss of some of our most talented and dedicated people — our director of community and library services, public works director, homeless and behavioral health director and chief financial officer. Certainly, these departures were motivated by new opportunities, but might they also have been motivated or at least been made easier by something else?

As we look to the future, I ask anyone who feels that his or her voice is not being heard, to come and raise it during public comments at a council meeting and/or schedule a meeting with a council member. Now is the time to get engaged.

Now is not the time to go after subjects that only divide the community. Now is the time for leaders to take stock in our present and to seriously plan for our future. What are the plans for our coastal city when climate change and sea level rise impacts us? Will our financial position remain strong? Is our infrastructure well maintained, and do we have a plan to make sure it will be in the future? Will we be able to hire and retain qualified people after the bad publicity we have received?

This is what government does — it looks ahead, prepares for and addresses all of the issues that may impact our fine city.

Shirley Dettloff
former mayor
Huntington Beach

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