Should bed and breakfasts be legalized?

More Oahu bed and breakfasts may soon be legalized for the first time since 1989. This month, the City and County of Honolulu Planning Commission examines an amended City Council bill that would remove the prohibition on new bed-and-breakfast homes, and establish a permitting process for would-be B&Bs. Is this a good idea?

yes graphicTonic Bille

President of the Bed and Breakfast/Transient Vacation Units Association of Oahu

First of all, fears that legalizing bed and breakfasts will change the character of residential neighborhoods are overblown. I believe that B&Bs often improve a neighborhood. Many of the complaints that people have about B&Bs actually apply to absentee-owner vacation rentals that have no manager on the island. A home-owner who is inviting paying guests into his or her residence is going to maintain the property well, and won’t have a noisy dog. I would rather have a B&B next to my home than a loud family with numerous barking dogs and umpteen trucks in the front yard. And we do have our own strict rules regarding noise levels and behavior. If a B&B is well-managed, you don’t even know it’s there.

There are huge economic benefits for local retailers, as well. B&Bs attract the kind of visitors who spend their time and money in Kailua and other local communities. It keeps the aloha spirit alive, because we’re able to welcome visitors to experience our island lifestyle in a very personal way.

Despite what some people claim, proposal 05-187 won’t cause a large jump in the number of B&Bs. Many home-owners will not be able to get a permit, simply because of the restrictions set forth by the regulations, or the limitations of their property. Many people don’t have adequate parking, for example, and cannot qualify. There are always going to be illegal operations, but bringing more of them under the umbrella of regulation and enforcement will reduce many of the worst abuses. Increasing the number of legal, regulated B&Bs will only have a positive impact on the industry.

no graphicLarry Bartley

Executive Director of Save Oahu’s Neighborhoods

The administration’s assertion that “public opinion is strongly divided” over bed and breakfasts is just plain wrong. The neighbors are against any expansion of any type of short-term rentals in our neighborhoods, as evidenced by the official policy resolutions, most of them unanimous, of the Waianae, North Shore, Kailua, Waimanalo, and Waialae Kahala neighborhood boards.

B&Bs destabilize a neighborhood by bringing a constant flow of strangers into the area. Neighborhood watch systems become impossible, because you can’t tell who belongs and who doesn’t. And if you’ve ever had vacationing guests stay with you, you know they have a different attitude. They want to party, have a good time; they don’t abide by the common rules of full-time residents.

Creating a permitting process for B&Bs will result in widespread abuse and the fall of our coastline and scenic neighborhoods, since it would act as an open door for full-on vacation rentals. Currently, the situation is clear-cut. If you have a house that is not allowed to operate as a vacation rental or a B&B, and there are people coming and going, you know that property owner is breaking the law. Once an owner has a permit to do something that allows that kind of traffic, you have no idea whether they’re following the rules. This proposed bill blurs the lines, and it’s going to make enforcement impossible. There are going to be real estate attorneys looking into ways to convert residential neighborhoods into tourist destinations. The Department of Planning and Permitting already has difficulty enforcing the existing code. To allow hundreds or thousands more, each requiring permitting, scru-tiny and enforcement, would break the department’s back.

The market demand for B&Bs is there, no question. But what is the impact going to be on our communities?