This high-desert gateway to Joshua Tree National Park is in an uproar over what some see as heavy-handed enforcement of a new law aimed at reining in hundreds of Airbnb units and other short-term rentals created during a construction boom.
The controversy erupted in January when San Bernardino County enforcement officers armed with clipboards, cameras and laser measuring devices started prying into the bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchens of once sleepy neighborhoods, where some homeowners had ignored building and safety codes for decades.
The inspections are required under the new law, which took effect in December, in order to obtain a permit to continue operating a short-term rental in this town of about 9,000 residents. Far from wealthy but blessed with an abundance of nature, this community of sun-scorched modest homes and low-slung motels is nestled in an otherworldly landscape of weather-sculpted boulders and spindly Joshua trees, near a national park that receives 3 million visitors a year.
Many property owners figured they had little to worry about. Now, “there’s a perception that inspectors are overreaching,” Peter Spurr, a real estate agent in Joshua Tree, said on Tuesday as enforcement officers were making the rounds in compact vehicles emblazoned with the county logo.
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