CARLSBAD — The City Council received an update on the conflicting policies and practices regarding short-term vacation rentals in the city at a meeting Tuesday.
Staff also presented the city with a draft for zoning changes to allow for short-term vacation rentals.
Assistant City Manager Gary Barberio called the current rules unclear, hard to follow and difficult to enforce.
Short-term vacation rentals, which are rentals offered for 30 days or less, are not addressed in the city’s municipal code or in zoning regulations.
Anything not allowed in the municipal code is generally considered prohibited.
That hasn’t stopped the rentals from operating in the city.
About 400 short-term rentals are operating in Carlsbad, mostly in the coastal
During the last fiscal year, the city collected $333,000 in transient occupancy tax from 43 rentals.
“While were saying they’re not allowed, we do have business licenses for 43 vacation rentals who are actually remitting (transient occupancy tax) because they’re renting for less than 30 days, and we’re cashing those checks,” Barberio said.
The city is working to develop regulations by this summer.
Barberio credited online vacation sites like VRBO and Airbnb for increasing the rentals in the city.
If the councilmembers wanted to ban vacation rentals, they would face difficulties from the state’s Coastal Commission.
In the past, Encinitas met resistance from the commission when the council tried to ban vacation rentals.
The reasoning the commission supports the rentals is because they increase coastal access to more people by providing a cheaper alternative to traditional vacation options.
Barberio said he didn’t expect Carlsbad having much success with an outright ban.
Deputy Mayor Keith Blackburn said he was in favor of an outright ban but because of the Coastal Commission, he doesn’t have a choice.
“I don’t support vacation rentals outside of the area we’re absolutely forced to do it,” Blackburn said.
He said he felt like a hypocrite by allowing vacation rentals.
“I could not face any of my neighbors if they asked me the question ‘would you want a vacation rental next door to you?’ My answer would be no. What a hypocrite for me to say I’m going to put it next to you in your neighborhood.”
Since the Coastal Commission only regulates the coast, the city is looking into banning vacation rentals throughout the rest of the city.
However, there is one exception for a coastal vacation rental ban. Communities with homeowners associations are able to ban short-term rentals.
City Attorney Celia Brewer told the council that the city and the commission can’t use public resources to regulate private contracts, like that of an HOA.
Dozens of people spoke to the city council, with the majority being against vacation rentals because of parking problems, noise, partying, high turnover rates and a decrease in property value.
“There is a loss of sense of security in an established residential neighborhood with strangers coming and going,” Jess Hinrichs told the council.
A handful of property managers spoke out in favor of a new ordinance because they said they are already following the rules laid out in the draft.
They said the ordinance would help the city get rid of the rentals that continually have problems.
City Management Analyst Steve Didier presented staff’s recommendations for the code change.
He recommended vacation rentals require proper permitting, with an annual renewal so the city will have the option to revoke permits.
As part of the permit, the owner must follow “Good Neighbor Guidelines” and agree to the guidelines in writing.
Another recommendation is to have the owner’s contact information posted in plain view so neighbors can reach them if there is a problem.
Council asked for something to be included in the new draft which allowed the transient occupancy tax and permit fees to fund new code enforcement officers.
Many of the speakers asked the city to be more responsive on weekends and some said their complaints fell on deaf ears.
Barberio told the council that five complaints were made last year on short-term rentals and they largely related to homes that were being used for events, like wedding receptions, graduation and corporate parties.
Staff will present their updated draft to the council in late April or early May. The public has the opportunity to speak at the next meeting or write in comments.