Frequently Asked Questions

Have you changed your PAC or group name?

Yes we have.  Unknowingly, when our group was named “Big Bear Lake, Together!”, there was a Grocery Outlet-related lawsuit against the city called “Big Bear Lake Together”. To avoid any confusion, we renamed our website and our Political Action Committee. Our PAC is now called “BBL United to Limit STRs”.   Our website will be http://BBLUnitedtoLimitSTRs.org  Also, our Facebook page, “BBL United to Limit Short Term Rentals” aligns more closely. Do not worry about your donations, they have gone to the correct place   This is just a simple filing of a name change.

Why is there a Citizens’ Initiative to limit short-term rentals?

During the fall of 2020, it became abundantly clear that the outdated Vacation Rental Ordinance needed a major overall. The number of short-term rentals had increased at an alarming rate, code enforcement was woefully inadequate to meet the demand of inappropriate behavior and residents were begging for help… causing many to leave Big Bear to find a safer neighborhood community elsewhere. While the updated ordinance, approved August 2021, does a better job addressing behavior and code enforcement, council has failed to take action regarding the residents’ immense dissatisfaction with the oversaturation of short-term rentals in our neighborhoods. City Council would not consider any language to limit short-term rentals or even a temporary moratorium to allow time for thoughtful deliberation. Instead, everyone except Councilmember Lee, consistently voted in favor of the “free market” at residents’ expense. Because residents felt so under-represented, Big Bear United to Limit Short-Term Rentals on Facebook had an overwhelming response to take political action as a last resort. From a membership of over 400 strong (and growing), came a decision to launch the Citizens’ Initiative to let the voters decide. The opposition likes to mischaracterize our Initiative as divisive. We believe it’s democracy in action.

What is the process to put a Citizens’ Initiative on the ballot?

As previously stated, there was a call to action made by members in Big Bear United to Limit Short-Term Rentals after the City Council failed to vote in favor of limiting short-term rentals or even approving a temporary moratorium. Therefore, the residents wanted the voters to decide through an Initiative. If it passes the Initiative will override City Council’s action and become policy. The process has started. First, we get the Initiative written and vetted by an attorney. Then petitions need to be signed by a certain number of eligible voters. Once that is done, the Initiative is presented to Council for a final opportunity to accept, negotiate or reject. If council rejects or negotiation falls short then the Initiative goes to the ballot. The most important part of this process is making sure every resident is well informed to vote.

Does a Citizens’ Initiative cost money?

Good question. Yes, a Citizens’ Initiative costs plenty of money especially when the opposition like Airbnb and even Big Bear business/tourism industry has deep pockets and greater lobbying power. This is precisely why residents have this problem in the first place. We are out voiced and without the financial pull that captures City Council’s attention and votes.

How can I help?

Thanks for asking! 

  1. Use the Donation Button to donate to ‘Big Bear Lake, Together’ to cover expenses; we appreciate every donation, no matter how big or small.
  2. Get on our email list BigBearUnited@yahoo.com. for a yard sign/car sticker, notices to attend meeting updates and eventually sign a petition.  We would like your name, physical address, email and phone number. It doesn’t matter if you are a permanent resident or a concerned vacation home owner.
  3. Become a street leader; spread the word in your neighborhood to advance an informed citizenship when it is time to vote; one person on every street would greatly unify the effort; share your success.
  4.  If you are a legal registered voter in Big Bear, vote in the November 2022 election.  (Note, the opposition is openly encouraging vacation rental owners to falsely register to vote in Big Bear. This is illegal and we are working with the San Bernardino registrar’s office to ensure they are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.)

Are short-term rentals or vacation rentals going to be eliminated?

Absolutely not. We are not opposed to an owner of a home-away-from home that needs a few nights of rental income to offset expenses. Quite the contrary, they make good neighbors too. What the Initiative opposes is the oversaturation of vacation rentals that are for-profit (and unsupervised) businesses operating in neighborhoods zoned residential or R1. We are not eliminating short-term rentals, only limiting them for a better balance; also, deterring the profiteer/investor from making money off of existing residential property with no intention of living in that home while it rents on a short-term basis. 

When the Initiative passes, will I lose my short-term rental?

Absolutely not. All existing vacation rental licenses at the time this Initiative passes will be grandfathered in. The limit or cap will be achieved through attrition. As an investor leaves or chooses not to renew their vacation rental license we will have one less vacation home. It’s important to note, this generous offer through attrition will take years to achieve. It is in lieu of a more damaging Initiative to remove all short-term rentals in residential areas or identifying certain residential land management areas specifically designed for tourists, like the ski areas, for short-term rentals only. We are proud of this Initiative in that we believe it’s fair.

I am a long-term renter, what about me?

Yes, this Initiative is for you too!  We can’t have a vital economy without workforce housing and our existing critical shortage is unacceptable. We are hopeful our Initiative will incentivize the profiteers/investors to switch from short-term to long-term rentals. This is something that the City Council could do as well. We understand how desperately you want to live, work and raise your families in beautiful Big Bear. We have great schools and an abundance of nature to enjoy. You are more than the economy or profit margin. You are our community too. Get on board and help us win!

Does the Initiative deny homeowners their property rights?

This is a popular argument against limiting short-term rentals. My neighbor and I have the same property rights but the moment their actions impede on my property rights that’s when the government is supposed to step in. We live in neighborhoods zoned R1 for residential, not commercial. This is precisely so unsupervised businesses can’t compromise the quality of our lives in our homes. What this Initiative opposes is the oversaturation of vacation rentals that are strictly for-profit investments. These unsupervised for-profit businesses should not be allowed in our neighborhoods. Furthermore, no different than a driver’s license, a vacation rental license is a privilege, not a right. If you are lucky to get one, it is granted for one year. 

If the Initiative passes, how will it affect my property values?

Indeed, during the pandemic, platforms like Airbnb and VRBO, even private home owners, discovered Big Bear and profiteers/investors rushed to deplete our housing inventory in favor of for-profit short-term rentals. It also depleted long-term rental properties which left a critical workforce housing shortage. As a result, we experienced an inflated buyer’s market with loans based on a synthetic tourist economy. Now, because of a potential glut of short-term rentals a profiteer may not be satisfied with the return on their investment. Such is the nature of investment. It’s always a roll of the dice. There are no guarantees in the stock market or at a gaming table either.

To most permanent residents, even vacation home owners that want to enjoy their property but need rent to offset expenses, this claim is irrelevant. We bought our homes in neighborhoods zoned residential, not commercial, to enjoy what a small-town mountain community has to offer. We are less concerned with values and rights and more concerned about having our neighborhoods, zoned residential, not commercial, regain a semblance of balance. We are more concerned about limiting the revolving door of strangers invading our neighborhoods 24/7. We are more concerned about the oversaturation of short-term rentals, rendering our neighborhoods unattractive to future home buyers/second home buyers seeking a viable neighborhood to enjoy with their family. 

This political action is not unique to Big Bear. It’s sweeping the nation in many other popular resort communities with favorable results. Residents have had enough. Without proper limits, our remaining housing inventory will only be suitable for unlimited short-term rentals. This is unacceptable. 

Bottom line… our Initiative focuses on neighborhoods needing neighbors… not more short-term rental profiteers worrying so much about property values or property rights. 

Won’t the housing market self-correct, rendering the Initiative unnecessary?

Ask any Big Bear realtor, the only thing predictable about the housing market is that it’s unpredictable, especially in a resort town that fluctuates for many more reasons, like weather, drought, a pandemic… that affects tourism in different ways. Many believe that life after the pandemic will self-correct the crushing tourism that strains our infrastructure; also, unlimited vacation rentals in our neighborhoods. Even though the council is supposed to be protecting our investment too, we learned the hard way that the business and tourist money machine gets council votes, not residents begging for help. Too emotional they say, not data driven. So be it. If we are going to be under represented then we just have to work harder so that what has happened gets fixed and won’t happen again. 

Will this Initiative reduce the amount of money the city collects from the tourist tax for overnight stays?

Perhaps, however, City Council could easily raise the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) to offset any loss of revenue. FYI, our TOT is currently lower than many other resort communities in Southern California. It’s actually lower in many non-resort communities as well. In Big Bear, the business/tourism industry has been opposed to raising TOT in favor of keeping travel to Big Bear more affordable. Keep in mind tourists pay TOT, not residents. This revenue is used to create more tourist attractions; also, to market more tourism for Big Bear. 

Is this Initiative bad for tourism?

Absolutely not. There are always people who think something changing in the town is going to kill it. Residents understand Big Bear needs a strong tourist economy to survive. Big Bear is a popular destination for millions of people living in Southern California less than 3-hours away. Most of our tourism is generated from day trippers, not short-term renters. Because Big Bear is such a popular day trip is why residents know exactly when to grocery shop and run errands to avoid crushing tourist traffic during peak seasons and weekends. We accept this commerce as a way of life in a tourist town but not in our neighborhoods. Furthermore, it’s worth repeating this Initiative is not eliminating short-term rentals, it’s only limiting them.  

What is wrong with tourists in our neighborhoods?

There is a big distinction between a second home owner that respectfully rents to offset expenses and the profiteer/investor that oversaturates our neighborhoods with a revolving door of strangers to satisfy the profit margin. One can be a good neighbor because they have every intention of enjoying their property too. The other often become party houses and a source of numerous code enforcement complaints relative to over occupancy, noise, trash and parking issues, especially in snow and ice, to name a few. Furthermore, there are so many of these nuisance short-term rentals in our neighborhoods, it is inconceivable that parents now have to worry about ‘stranger danger’ and other criminal behavior. We are learning that many parents won’t even allow their children to play outside anymore.  This maybe one of the reasons why. Per the San Bernardino Sheriff’s department, Violet Crime has increased 73% from 2016 to 2020.  Aggravated Assault has also increased from 2016 to 2020 by 117%.  This is unacceptable in Big Bear.

Where will tourists stay overnight?

There are plenty of hotels, lodges and even short-term rentals available for overnight stays. The Initiative is not eliminating short-term rentals, only limiting them.

When will the initiative be on the ballot?

The Initiative will be on the ballot November 2022.