Del Mar to create new short-term rentals rules

DEL MAR — Residents who rent their homes, or rooms within them, for 30 days or less will soon be able to do so legally, although potentially with a few more rules in place.

Council directed staff at the Aug. 8 meeting to begin working on code amendments that will allow the practice.

Zoning districts don’t currently define or list short-term rentals as an allowed use, although residential zones don’t expressly prohibit them either. In some cases, such as code sections related to the housing element, the rental of a dwelling is permitted.

Council members generally all agree on many of the requirements that should be included in the new regulations.

Emergency 24-hour contact information of the owner, operator and manager must be posted clearly on the inside and outside of the unit. A response to any complaints must be responded to within 45 minutes.

A good-neighbor policy that will be adopted by the city must also be posted and distributed to owners, leasing and booking agents, operators and tenants.

Additionally, there should be requirements related to the availability of onsite parking spaces and a prohibition or limitations on oversized vehicles.

Adequate trash collection bins must be available and collection schedules observed. Tenants will be required to comply with city noise regulations.

Owners will need to obtain a permit or license and violations of any of the rules could result in fines, a hearing for possible revocation of the permit or forfeiture of the right to operate the rental for a specified period.

Council members all said there should be maximum occupancy limits based on the industry standard of no more than two people per bedroom.

What they couldn’t agree on was whether short-term rentals, also referred to as vacation rentals, should be allowed citywide or in specified areas.

Mayor Al Corti, Councilwoman Sherryl Parks and Councilman Dwight Worden said they should be limited to certain geographic areas, with the beach colony being one.

“For me it’s much more difficult to get a grip around the hillside,” Worden said.

But Councilman Don Mosier disagreed, saying he knows people in that area who rent their homes during the summer when they are on vacation and specifically during the horse racing season at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, something many see as a tradition in the seaside village.

“You may have rules that apply to different neighborhoods with different durations or different time periods,” Mosier said. “I have trouble saying (under) no circumstance.”

They also didn’t reach consensus on the minimum number of days that should be allowed per rental or if there should be a limit on the number of days per week, month or year that a home may be used as a short-term rental.

“I don’t like the time limits,” Mosier said. “I think you need to maintain the flexibility and you need to be responsive to people who depend on that rental income.

“For the city to impose a rule saying you can only rent three days out of seven I think doesn’t accomplish much,” he added. “To start setting arbitrary limits on duration of rents I think penalizes people who are trying to earn income and are responsible landlords or property owners and doesn’t help much with the problems.”

Council members did see eye-to-eye on making sure people follow the new rules.

“We need a robust enforcement process,” Worden said.

“Clearly if we’re going to go through creating a set of ordinances we want to make sure that they’re enforceable and that we have the means by which to enforce,” Planning Manager Adam Birnbaum said.

Council agreed to consider adopting a short-term rental policy after a recent increase in resident concerns about the impacts they were having on the community, including noise, trash, parking and an overall change to the feeling of an area.

The city received several emails on the topic, mostly from people who either rent out their homes or work in the vacation-rental industry. Included was a petition signed by more than 110 people — about 70 of them Del Mar residents — supporting the temporary rentals.

Nearly two-dozen people addressed council during the 90-minute discussion. All but about five said they opposed banning the practice but most said they support “common-sense regulations.”

Many said if the rentals weren’t allowed, people would stay in neighboring cities and local restaurants and retail businesses would suffer. The speakers who rent out their homes said they have had few if any problems and nearly all have adopted the use of a good-neighbor policy.

Scott Renner said he once wrote an editorial that supported banning short-term rentals.

“Obviously that’s not the way we need to go,” he said, adding that the home right next door to his is a rental. He said it has “completely changed the vibe of the community” and it’s like having “a three bedroom hotel next to my home.”

He described the renters as nice people. “I don’t belittle them,” he said, and homeowners should be able to use their property as they want “but short-term rentals are severely impacting my life.”

It was noted that most vacation rentals are in coastal cities, which are overseen by the California Coastal Commission.

Birnbaum said the Coastal Act has provisions on accommodating coastal visitors and the commission has determined that regulations that flatly prohibit short-term rentals or require unduly long minimum stays are inconsistent with the Coastal Act.

Birnbaum said he present at a future meeting a draft ordinance that includes a number of alternatives for the issues council didn’t agree on, as well as one that will “guard against the egregious bad behavior.”

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