AirB&B Fires & Neighborhood Disturbances

This post was removed from the Pioneertown Rimrock Facebook account .because it was “Shaming” Here is the post.

Laurie McVay this is a response to your comments to Rue M. concerning the AirBnB fires in Pitown.

With all due respect, I don’t think you were here in 2006 when 22 Pioneertown homes were destroyed in the Sawtooth wildfire. (I was one of them). It was life changing and devastating for everyone in our community who lost their homes. In my case it took 2 years to rebuild and months of stress, heartache accompanied by unrecoverable memories.

Stands to reason there may be a few owners with an “Unwelcoming Spirit of this Community” when the out of town guests come here to whoop it up with their all night parties, bonfires, loud music, reckless driving and reckless behavior. The lack of respect to our long time residents is deplorable. Fires of any kind are unacceptable and AirBnB owners need to educate their customers. Disturbances are reported to the appropriate authorities but without consequences or resolution. This is a total waste of our county resources and is a chronic occurrence without an ending.

Your characterization of the behavior of our community as “Shameful”is truly offensive when, in fact, it’s the AirBnBer’s whose lack of respect for our community is shameful! The AirBnB homeowners are doing this for huge financial gains and sadly most are absentee owners who just don’t care.

In some cases these AirBnB owners have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars converting their purchases into resorts and spas. They’ve added amenities like swimming pools and bars not for their own personal use but to attract outside events to their new resort in a residential area. So much for our community and neighborhood, they are disappearing.

We used to enjoy evening horse rides and would only see an occasional car, but now our roads are like freeways with no regard to the dust, speed or safety. It’s truly hazardous and life threatening to take a walk or ride our horses night or day on our own maintained roads!

It’s all about the money and it’s always about the money even when they say…It’s not about the money.

With all due respect, you don’t live in Pioneertown where we are experiencing all the commotion of the night parties and reckless behavior of the Airbnb community at the expense of the long time residents of Pioneertown. And you also operate an airbnb so it’s understandable why you choose to defend the AirBnBer’s and their owners.

Members of our community are frustrated because the county turns a blind eye and does nothing. And the AirBnBer’s continue to break the law…

Sadly we have lost the peace and quiet we’ve enjoyed and a major attraction for those who moved here.

I hope it can be resolved in a peaceful and timely manner.



We are indeed having a difficult time with irresponsible B&B operators. We also have several examples of excellent management of these facilities so we know this can work well. We now have clear and unambiguous regulations designed to govern the permitting and management of these businesses. And we have a County that is not enforcing those regulations. We all invested several years getting these regulations and permitting processes thought out and implemented only to suffer from their being sidelined.

Pioneertown has a maturing commercial district to accommodate appropriate profiteering and development. But the largest part of our tiny 1 square mile is a well-established quiet community. We have been trying for many years, with the full agreement from County Land Use people, to update the zoning (from SD-RES to RL 2.5) but the process has stalled since 2014. That leaves us with County code as our only protection. So, without real enforcement we are left to call in complaints again and again; resulting is stuffed case files and no real remedy.

Thank you for bringing this growing issue to the forum! Let’s get in to this.

David Miller


There are a couple issues here, but I think the critical ones are the lack of enforcement, and a lack of incentive for absentee short term rental owners to adequately manage their rentals (until there are actual consequences for bad actors, why would they care?). Although it’s important that everyone continue to report violations to Code Enforcement so that they can be logged, we already know that Code Enforcement is understaffed and is under political pressure not to aggressively enforce the rules that are already on the books.

There’s a zero chance that this gets fixed simply by reporting violations. The only way I see to bring this to a head and get a result that puts the bad guys out of business while still allowing the good guy local owners to continue to operate is to put together a petition to the Board of Supervisors, head of Code Enforcement and Director of Planning demanding a moratorium on new absentee owned short term rentals and a permanent ban on wood burning chimineas, fire pits, and charcoal barbecues in Pioneertown.


My issue with having fire at short term rentals is not about fuel type.

It’s about giving easy access to fire to potentially intoxicated people who are not familiar with the fire history of the area nor proper fire safety protocol.

The decision by that BNB to allow a huge billowing (propane fueled, mind you) bonfire in the midst of one of the worst wildfire seasons in recent history only serves to prove my point!

@k.ben.loescher another consideration is that resident property owners may not want to live next door to what is essentially a commercial operation - the rental on Minna Gombell has increased our road traffic by 10x, significantly reduced my privacy and increased my stress!


So we have a new Airbnb above us. Check out the lighting and firepit. Just think if someone is roasting a marshmallow and they flick it off into the field below, this is scarey. can’t sleep because of the fear of fire. We already burned up in the 2006 sawtooth complex fire. We lost everything but our lives. 22 of our neighbors lost their homes and contents and one person was killed. Every night the whole house is lit up til they go to bed and the outside lights remain on and and are very bright. It shines into our bedroom!!!

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I get it - I wouldn’t want to live next to one either, I just don’t think there is a way to put the genie back in the bottle. Too many folks who live in Pioneertown now rely on STR income to ban them entirely, and from what I’ve seen the ones with on-site supervision are completely different in how they operate and their impact on the community.

Nothing will change as long as we are only posting on social media, but if folks care about this as much as I think they do we all need to do a petition and get a meeting with Supervisor Rowe.


Just this morning, before noon, more than six vehicles have come and gone from the property next door.

Of course, they come tearing up the road at 30mph with no respect for any of the clearly posted signs.

Myself and my great neighbors work together to maintain the road out of our own pocket.

I can already see deterioration caused by the rental property.

We, the resident property owners, are the ones left holding the bag for the actions of BNB property owners.

I don’t care who you are, local or not, if you’re gonna earn a profit by selling out the local community - then thats a problem, IMHO.


If folks are interested in a petition I’m happy to facilitate. Let me know!


All, @davesmiller09 asked me to post this document outlining the county’s short term rental standards:

STRApplicationRequirements.pdf (190.3 KB)

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Hi! I would love to be part of this conversation as both a longtime property owner (14 years), and a recent AirBnB convert (1 year).

I’ve been very involved in local issues and desert-preservation causes, donate to local non-profits, buy locally (organic, botanical, zero VOC, etc,) and hire locally (living wages + frequent bonuses), steer guests to local businesses, and foster a respectful and affectionate attitude towards our town and the open space around it. 2 guests, no parties / events - not even a TV - all lights night-sky compliant + on dimmers, no flames inside or outside, including no smoking no propane at all. I also hire and pay for all the roadwork. Sorry for the laundry list but you get the idea.

So, I’m just as interested as you are in seeing only respectful, civically-minded, high-quality hosts, guests and properties in our area… consider me an ally! Thanks!


For us to adequately discuss the impact of short term rentals on Pioneertown, we need to assess the issue from both short and long term perspectives.

The way any given BNB is run by the owner is only a small factor of the long term economic impact of short term rentals on a community.

The Economic Policy Institute released an interesting paper last year which discusses this in detail.

Here’s the gist of what they found:

  • The economic costs Airbnb imposes likely outweigh the benefits.

  • Residents likely suffer when Airbnb circumvents zoning laws that ban lodging businesses from residential neighborhoods.

  • Rising housing costs are a key problem for American families, and evidence suggests that the presence of Airbnb raises local housing costs.

  • The shift from traditional hotels to Airbnb lodging leads to less-reliable tax payments to cities.

  • The potential benefit of increased tourism supporting city economies is much smaller than commonly advertised.

  • Because Airbnb is clearly a business competing with hotel lodging, it should be subject to the same taxation regime as hotels.

  • Airbnb might, as claimed, suppress the growth of travel accommodation costs, but these costs are not a first-order problem for American families.

  • Property owners do benefit from Airbnb’s capacity to lower the transaction costs of operating short-term rentals.

Increased housing costs and reduced local tax revenue in exchange for enriching a few private individuals does not seem like a fair trade for the community to me :grimacing:

Anybody else care to weigh in?


Yes, we are willing to sign a petition. Let us know. Thanks Ben


I spoke to a Sherriff supervisor who called me tonight. He says we must continue to call the sheriff when we hear or witness infractions to the law or rental ordinance. You may be asked to sign a citation but they are determined to help us stem the all night partying and disruptions.d


Totally agree, Matt, but it is helpful to apply context to the study’s findings as well.

In LA, and in some areas near Pioneertown, people converted apartments and tract homes to Airbnbs, reducing available housing, but out in our specific area, many of the homes that are STRs were empty, vacation homes, guest houses, little cabins, open land, or beat up so badly they required major rehab. Those of us making those investments bought from (often local people) who wanted to make money from their property, and didn’t remove housing or increase housing costs for anyone.

For example - my place was a falling down 1-room shack. Toilet (behind shower curtain) flushed into a 55-gallon drum seeping into the yard, gravity fed cold water, no heating/ cooling, no insulation, no shower, leaking roof, debris everywhere, broken windows, etc.

Mid-six figures into this investment and I pay 20 times what the previous owners paid in property taxes which pay for education, infrastructure, county government including pensions, etc. for residents but don’t receive the benefits. I pay a local engineer thousands of dollars a year to proactively maintain and repair the entire road which also “subsidizes” my neighbors…

In our area Airbnb also collects full Transient Occupancy Taxes from every visitor for every night and submits them to the County, even if the property doesn’t have a permit to operate, same as hotels pay.

Those of us paying living wages also contribute to the local economy and tax base again, unlike local motels, and many offer safe, clean, socially-distanced accommodations so visitors not willing to cram into hotels still come and spend time and money.

I won’t make excuses for the lousy behavior of so many guests and hosts, because I agree they are a blight on our beautiful spot, but perhaps we could develop Best Practices protocols and come together to ensure they are followed??


  1. Taxation is a part of property ownership, improving a property increases it’s tax burden. How does this justify a property’s use as a short term rental?
  2. While AirBnB does collect the ToT tax, others such as VRBO and Homeaway do not.
  3. I don’t care if a tourist has socially distant accommodations; particularly if it puts my family and neighbors at risk as a result!
  4. Pappy’s is doing just fine, they don’t seem to need any help in generating local tourism dollars.

Here in Pioneertown, it seems every available property is becoming an AirBnB.

Buildings are going up all around me that are specifically designed to be short term rentals. I’ll soon have more motels for neighbors than I do people!

We’ve even seen proof here on locals that AirBnB is increasing the cost of housing for people in our community.


OK, maybe I can rephrase, but I’m not trying to pick a fight, nor am I suggesting that people should build all around you or anything else. I’m saying that it’s possible to graciously manage properties and be an asset to the community instead of a burden.

  1. say there are 100 AirBnbs, each paying $3,500/year in property taxes and another $5,000 in TOT every year for 5 years. That pours $4,250,000 primarily into local schools and adds zero children to those local schools, a windfall of four and a quarter million dollars.

If those were 100 family homes instead, spent the same in property taxes, they would be pouring $1,750,000 into those schools and putting 150 kids into them, costing roughly $2,250,000, a shortfall of half a million dollars.

Not all properties have the same impacts, in other words, even if they pay the same property taxes, and that doesn’t always weigh against STRs.

  1. I don’t know anything about those sites, this is an AirBnb conversation, and its a LOT of money.

  2. If a tourist has a socially distant accommodation, they are not near you or your family or your neighbors. that’s what socially distant means.

  3. plenty of local businesses are very grateful for the influx of “tourist dollars,” not sure you can speak for them…

There are a LOT of people moving out there because of COVID. Crowding and expense of City living is out of control, and now with remote working, people can earn City salaries but pay desert prices and have desert lifestyles. There has also been an eviction ban and a foreclosure ban which is keeping a lot of people in homes that might have otherwise changed hands. And inventory is low and prices are high everywhere in CA right now, while salaries are low, so there are a lot of reasons it can be hard to find a good property at a good price.

I don’t deny that AirBnB has an impact too, and I agree that a lot of them are not good neighbors…

I can’t think of a single short term rental in Section 19 that has not replaced a permanent resident or long term rental. This is having a huge impact on our community - without a change in the ordinance every other home in Pioneertown is going to be used as commercial lodging and there won’t be a community left.


Of 19 lots sold, 12 are designate STR, the others are spec and could end up STR. Only the beginning.

Can we talk about Garth,s place the noise parties drugs harboring fugitives etc…

I think it is past time to let our county elected official (Dawn Rowe) understand how the short-term rental blight is causing irreparable harm to the fabric of our community. We should demand a phase out similar to what Cat City did. Supervisor Rowe can be contacted at Contact Information – Dawn Rowe Third District Supervisor.

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