SB1350: Paradise Valley residents say they are under siege with rampant party houses

Shared economy pursuit at Arizona Legislature translates to neighborhood motels, residents say

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Residents of the Town of Paradise Valley and surrounding communities say they are living a nightmare --- often involving scantily-clad women, beer bottles and general unsafe conditions --- as the repercussions of SB1350 is creating unrest in neighborhoods across the state.

While Paradise Valley, Scottsdale and Phoenix residents are racking their brains to get Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s attention, state legislators are submitting legislation to also address the vacation rentals that are over-running their communities, they claim.

Ever since the implementation of Senate Bill 1350, single-family homes being converted into short-term rental units in residential neighborhoods has permeated throughout desirable communities including the Town of Paradise Valley, Scottsdale, Sedona and Flagstaff.

The issue appears to be nearing a fever pitch, resident contend.

In late 2019, a joint ad hoc committee was formed at the state level to look at the impacts of short-term rentals prior to the 2020 legislative session beginning. Thus far, two bills addressing short-term rentals have been submitted for this session, as well as two concurrent resolutions seeking to put short-term rentals on the November ballot.

However, Gov. Ducey has been quoted by news media as saying he hasn’t heard about the short-term rentals being a problem from anyone other than reporters; and those familiar with the situation believe he won’t implement any changes to SB1350.

On Feb. 4, a resident group gathered at a Paradise Valley home to share their stories and brainstorm how they can take the problem into their own hands.

Safety and general wellbeing top the list of concerns voiced by the group, as one resident recounted nearly being hit in the head with glass beer bottles that came flying over the wall while walking her dog. Another, had vacationers enter the wrong home through the front door leading to a scary situation.

A Scottsdale neighborhood reports an absentee landlord who cares more about their return on investment than any community concern.

Legislative District 28 representative Aaron Lieberman, who was one of the meeting attendees, says short-term rentals is by far the issue he hears about the most.

“It’s heartbreaking stuff --- one mom, in Paradise Valley, said she won’t let her daughter walk around their neighborhood on the weekends because there’s a house with drunk people in front of it and it’s different folks every weekend,” Mr. Lieberman said. “This for me, it’s also personal. Around the corner from us, there’s a house that didn’t sell for a while. Suddenly there’s loud, big groups of people. We’re seeing vodka bottles on the street.”

At the onset of the 2020 legislative session, Mr. Lieberman sponsored House Bill 2001, the first bill filed at the Arizona State House of Representatives this year, which would repeal the ban on local cities and towns being able to regulate short-term rentals.

Following the Feb. 4 meeting, Mr. Lieberman filed House Concurrent Resolution 2037 to refer a vote to appeal short-term rentals directly to the ballot in November to let the people of Arizona decide their fate. If the HCR passes both the House and Senate, the bill goes directly to the ballot, and can’t be vetoed by Gov. Ducey, Mr. Lieberman says.

Prior to Mr. Lieberman’s HCR, Senator Kate Brophy-McGee introduced Senate Concurrent Resolution 1042 ultimately seeking the same outcome.

“She’s doing the mirror image --- it can start in either place. Based on our conversations, she’s doing it in the Senate, I’m doing it in the House, and the goal is to get either one of them --- to get to the ballot it has to go through both the House and the Senate and then get through,” Mr. Lieberman explained.

Rep. John Kavanagh of LD 23, has also filed a bill co-sponsored by Sen. Brophy-McGee, to regulate short-term rentals with limits on regulations, adopting enforcement and limiting usage, among other things.

“The goal was to make this a great part of the shared-economy, businesses would flourish,” Mr. Lieberman said of SB1350’s intent. “In this instance, it’s completely come at the expense of our neighborhoods.”

A local vigilante

Paradise Valley resident Durrell Miller has been living with a short-term rental directly across the street for the 4.5 years he’s been residing there.

Mr. Miller has had numerous calls to the police department due to the party-house. His meticulous surveying of the happenings at the rental has become time consuming for the local father.

In 2017, during the time the Final Four was hosted in the Valley, the short-term rental hosted a party with security officers and busloads of women.

The night before the party, two men who identified themselves as Georgia police officers came to Mr. Miller’s house to introduce themselves.

“Sir, we understand you had a little difficulty at Mr. Wright’s home last weekend --- he wanted us to introduce ourselves as police officers. We’re going to be here all weekend, and wanted you to know that it’s being leased. Many of the coaches that have come into town will come to he house for a barbecue,” Mr. Miller recalled.

“The party comes the next day, and it happens to be my son’s 7th birthday. He was absolutely right, the police officers were there --- there were hired security people, a man and woman all dressed in black with the word ‘security’ on their back walking up and down the property. So I noticed that, and I’m not a guy to hide. I went across the street, I introduced myself, and said I’m going to be the one who dials 9-1-1.”

Mr. Miller says he advised the security to do what they needed to properly do; and that his wife, who is a photographer, would be taking pictures of every person and license plate that dropped visitors off.

Big black buses labeled “Valley Girls” came to the property where “girl after girl after girl” got off, Mr. Miller said.

“You could say three girls were wearing one person’s clothes,” he joked.

“My wife took 300 pictures,” Mr. Miller said of the Final Four party.

“My wife and I had a little joke later in the day; we called our guests ahead of time: ‘you have a choice, you can continue to come to our son’s 7th birthday party by turning left into our driveway. If you want to go to the brothel, turn right.’”

Over the years, Mr. Miller and his wife have been vigilant in making sure the short-term rental doesn’t get out of hand, including installing cameras on their home. Mr. Miller says he has worked with town officials to do what he can, and ultimately learned about the town’s code enforcement.

“Tina and I became good friends on the code violations because Andrew Miller told me that’s all we can do here, so you better become an expert on the codes,” Mr. Miller said. “So, every single day if I saw anything that got up to code violations I sent pictures first to Tina, and then a write-up about it. It did work.”

Problems are imminent

Timothy Dickman, another Paradise Valley resident with a short-term rental on his street, sent a written letter to Gov. Ducey urging the repeal of SB1350.

On Feb. 4, Mr. Dickman explained to the group how his house is nearby the Old Town Scottsdale area, and concern of drunk behavior is paramount for him.

“PV obviously doesn’t have sidewalks, so there’s people that walk in the evenings or in the mornings --- but these are people that are coming back from the bars in downtown Scottsdale going back to their rental. They’re drunk, weaving around, a couple of our neighbors said they almost got run over by them,” Mr. Dickman said.

The property was recently rented out for a wedding venue, with upwards of 100 guests, Mr. Dickman says.

“There was like a million cars --- that’s really a commercial enterprise,” he said.

“We didn’t sign up for that --- no one in the neighborhood did.”

The street numbers are similar in Mr. Dickman’s neighborhood, making out-of-town guests confused when trying to find the rental.

“These people are trying to find the rental. They walk into our neighbors house, through the front door with their luggage, thinking they’re in the rental but they are in these people’s house,” Mr. Dickman explained.

“Why they didn’t have their front door locked, I don’t know, but they didn’t --- so these people walk in, they’re lucky they didn’t get shot or hurt or something else. That was scary for them, and the people with suitcases. It was a bad scene there for a minute.”

In addition, Mr. Dickman says he’s heard stories of other occasions when people show up at the wrong house, and rattle the front door knob trying to get in.

Lastly, Mr. Dickman points out safety codes in a home versus a regulated hotel.

“Hotels have a lot of safety codes around that,” he said. “I’m just waiting for the day that one of these big houses is going to be jammed with people and something bad is going to happen. We don’t have any ability to enforce any local codes on that, at all.”

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