City supports vacation rentals, but with rules

DEL MAR — Short-term rentals should be allowed, but only if rules are in place to address the problems they are currently creating in residential neighborhoods.

With that consensus at the July 20 meeting, council members directed staff to come back with information on how best to do that.

Council requested that a public discussion be scheduled based on an increase in complaints about short-term rentals.

“This is something many communities are wrestling with at this moment,” Planning Director Kathy Garcia said.

Del Mar laws are confusing at best. Zoning codes don’t define or list vacation rentals as an allowed used, although they are not specifically prohibited either.

In some cases, such as code sections related to the housing element, the rental of a dwelling is an allowed use.

It has been estimated that approximately 250 units — roughly 10 percent of Del Mar’s housing stock — are used as vacation rentals.

“Over the past few months, a number of community members have expressed concerns about the impacts of short-term rentals on the character of their respective neighborhoods,” the staff reports states.

Issues include noise, trash and parking. Although short-term rentals are scattered throughout the city, the highest concentration is in the North Beach area.

“I just want to be able to co-exist with everybody,” Robin Crabtree, a beach community resident, said. “And a good-neighbor policy, I think, is something that we need in Del Mar for short-term, long-term and everybody and especially at the beach.

“We live so close together that if you’re out on your second-floor deck at 10 o’clock at night I can tell you word for word what you’re saying,” she added. “And we all want to open our doors and enjoy the fresh air but when you’ve got kids screaming or people smoking outside it can’t quite do it. I really do want some regulations.”

“We are definitely in favor of some kind of common-sense regulations,” said Kimberly Jackson, who owns a short-term rental unit and vacation rental business. “The laws haven’t quite caught up with the Internet of the vacation market.”

Jackson said she would oppose a requirement defining vacation rentals as more than 30 days or regulating how many days a person can rent a home per week.

“All those people would go to La Jolla or Coronado,” she said.

But she supports applying the transient occupancy tax to the rentals, which is currently not the policy.

“Nobody really wants a tax but that’s kind of the way this industry is moving,” Jackson said. “It would help fund things like police force and lifeguards, and we absolutely could use more of those things, especially in the summer months when our business is flourishing.

“We look forward to working with the community,” she added. “We definitely hope to find some way to meet in the middle and work together.”

“Something does need to be addressed,” said Steve Scola, who rents out his Melanie Way home. “But I wouldn’t suggest that we do it with a sledgehammer.”

“I don’t think it’s a little thing,” Mayor Al Corti said. “I think it’s a big problem and we need to do something about it.”

Corti said the city needs to decide whether to allow short-term rentals, define them, clarify the zoning and create solutions.

Suggestions to tackle the problems included requiring property owners to have business licenses and an emergency contact so complaints can be dealt with within an hour.

“Our citizens are screaming loud and clear that it’s causing a problem and I don’t think we can turn our head,” Corti said. “I’m ready to take some action on it.”

“I’m OK to allow short-term rentals … provided we can manage the neighbor conflicts and impacts in a way that works, provided they have a business license and provided we get TOT,” Councilman Dwight Worden said.

“Can we manage those impacts in way that’s going to work in Del Mar?” he asked. “To figure that out I think there’s some homework.”

“I think it’s about time,” Councilman Terry Sinnott said. “You know that it needs to be dealt with so it’s better to be proactive. I’m anxious to really understand the problem.

“It’s a problem and we can’t let it drift,” he added. “We need to move it as expeditiously as we can.”

City Manager Scott Huth said he could present more information and some solutions at the next meeting Sept. 8.

Garcia said zoning code amendments, which would be required, typically take six to nine months to implement.

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