'Desert Modern' Airbnb Battle

Palm Springs' rental ordinance sends 'fun vacation compound' to market with fallout
Fridays on the Homefront
Victim of a new, strong vacation rental ordinance is The Amado (above), a mid-century modern five-unit, six-bedroom rental property in Palm Springs. It features five wood-and-brick structures surrounding a pool, all with bathrooms and cumulatively totaling 3,300 interior square feet. With reluctance, the owners
recently listed it for sale for $1.8 million. Photos: Jaime Kowal
Fridays on the Homefront
Fridays on the Homefront
Fridays on the Homefront
Jaime Kowal: battle for the soul of Palm Springs.

A classic yet unusual 'desert modern' property is reluctantly on the market, hostage to an Internet-era controversy brought to full boil in torrid Palm Springs.

"We're really being punished for no good reason," says Jaime Kowal, a Canadian-born photographer cum restorationist. In 2013 and '14, in the midst of a two-decade career behind the camera, she bought, restored, decorated, and named The Amado, a five-unit, six-bedroom rental property listed for $1.8 million.

Since reopening in December 2014, The Amado has housed rock stars, been on the cover of Sunset magazine, and generally been a hit in the Coachella Valley.

"There's a real battle for the soul of Palm Springs," says Brian Wilson, who listed the property a month ago for Bennion Deville Homes. Call it the Battle of Airbnb.

"Palm Springs has enacted a very strong vacation rental ordinance," Wilson explained, and Kowal said it is the reason she is selling.

"It's just been a very bustling place," she said, stating that many weeks in the peak winter and spring seasons were fully booked. That includes when rockers Florence and the Machine rented the compound for their visit a few years ago to take in the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

"It suited their needs, and they loved it," Kowal said proudly. "It's an incredible property. I really have enjoyed every minute."

Kowal described what she termed "a pretty heavy renovation," including replacement or repair of all mechanical systems, new cabinets, and either laminate flooring or return to its original polished concrete. Each unit has a different color scheme, and Kowal said buying it furnished "could be a point of negotiation."

The listing features five wood-and-brick structures built in 1955 surrounding a pool, all with bathrooms and cumulatively totaling 3,300 interior square feet. Despite research efforts, the architect is unknown. It hits the market 16 months after the 11-unit, modern-style Hideaway hotel in Palm Springs was listed for $2.75 million.

"I'm pretty disappointed that Jaime is having to sell it," said realtor Keith Markowitz, selling agent for the Hideaway last winter for slightly more than asking price. Regarding short-term rental properties like The Amado, he observed, "Those are not going to be allowed going forward."