EDITOR: Healdsburg has been VRBO’d. VRBO is the acronym for Vacation Rental By Owner. If you go to VRBO.com and type in Healdsburg, you will find more than 170 listings. Rents range from $200 to $1,800 per night, which is five to 10 times higher than market rates. This makes housing in Healdsburg prohibitively expensive. It drives up rents and inflates home values, making it financially impossible for someone to live and work in town.
By city ordinance, vacation rentals are supposed to be illegal. So if the city is allowing them, why isn’t it collecting the transient occupancy tax? How much revenue is lost by not collecting the tax? Let’s do some arithmetic: Figure 170 homes rented at $200 per night for 15 days each month. That’s $510,000 a month in rent, or $6.1 million. At a transit-occupancy tax rate of 12 percent, that makes $734,400 in lost revenue.
The city should enforce its ordinance to better control this activity so the town doesn’t become a hotel. So the next time city government is crying the budget blues, you can point to this source of income.
THOMAS K. RACKERBY
Conservation made easy
EDITOR: An easy way to save a considerable amount of water over a short period of time is to install a water pressure reduction valve on the service line entering your home. The water pressure in Santa Rosa is 70-75 pounds per square inch. Installing a valve that lowers the pressure to 50 psi would save a lot of water over time.
Your washing machine, dishwasher and toilet all use a preset amount of water. There is no savings because the amount of water is fixed. The time to fill would be a little longer because of reduced flow pressure.
Saving water is about the time you spend in the shower, washing dishes in the sink, washing hands, face etc. As an example, say you spend six minutes in the shower, whether the pressure is 70 psi or 50 psi, you will still take a six-minute shower. However long you spend washing the dishes, the time will not change, but the gallons per minute will.
With every minute of water running at a reduced pressure, the savings will add up quickly.
EDITOR: I would like to take this opportunity to thank Shirlee Zane and Francisco H. Vásquez for expressing their shock at Sheriff Steve Freitas’ putting Deputy Erick Gelhaus back on the streets, and for doing so without consulting the Board of Supervisors or the community (“Return of deputy was ‘slap in face,’ ” Close to Home, Friday).
I do not just find it arrogant. I find it a clear sign of disregard of the welfare of the Sonoma County. It will surely add to the divide between the Latino community and the community of the whole. Sad. Sad.
EDITOR: We hear the news reports about how few people have earthquake insurance. For the past 40 years, we have paid for earthquake insurance for our home and a home we rent. Over the years the rates have gone up and the coverage has gone down.
In 2012, we got a letter from our insurer saying it would no longer cover earthquakes, but we could sign up through the California Earthquake Authority. Our insurance company does the billing.
I chose to continue to cover my home only. I actually feel like a fool for having this coverage, as it will never pay for any damage.
The cost of coverage is $1,263 a year. The amount of dwelling coverage is $516,700, and applicable coverage is $77,505.
The California Earthquake Authority also stated that if losses as a result of an earthquake or series of earthquakes exceed its available resources, this policy isn’t covered by the California insurance guaranty association, so no payment will be made.
The state makes money, the insurance company makes money, and the people paying are throwing their hard-earned money down the drain. If there still is an insurance company that covers earthquakes on homeowners policies, I would like to know who they are, and I will switch my insurance to them.
EDITOR: The word that comes to my mind with the loss of Robin Williams is hypersensitivity. Williams appeared to be a man for whom there were no filters on what was outgoing, which implies that there were no filters on what was incoming. That sort of overload can be wearing and, eventually, destructive. It may have been terrific for his creativity and his living (earnings) but ultimately damaging for his living (his actual life). An overwhelming sadness remains the order of the day.
RICHARD PAUL HINKLE
EDITOR: Police shootings and beatings have been in the news lately. Michael Brown shot to death after an altercation with an officer, Kelly Thomas beaten to death, Joseph Jennings shot after behaving strangely, etc. Brown was African-American. Thomas was a homeless person. Jennings was mentally ill.
I see a pattern here. Brown, Thomas and Jennings represent people on the margins of society: ethnic/racial minorities, homeless people, mentally ill people. With few exceptions, it appears that these people perceived to be on the margins are most often the victims of police violence.
We aspire to be a just and humane society, and this present pattern of violence is a stumbling block to these aspirations. We must do a better job of giving our police officers sufficient knowledge and skills to avoid the use of violence as far as it is possible to do so.