Vacation rental moratorium extended for 6 months

Vacation rental moratorium extended for 6 months
Council members extended for six months an ordinance prohibiting new short-term rentals to come on the market. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

DEL MAR — Property owners seeking to make some extra money this summer by turning their homes into vacation rentals for the first time will have to wait another season.

Council members at the May 16 meeting unanimously agreed to extend for six months a moratorium on short-term rentals.

In response to complaints from residents about increased noise and trash, a loss of parking and changes in the community character, a 45-day urgency ordinance temporarily banning new rentals of less than 30 days was adopted on April 4.

Owners who were renting out their properties prior to that date can continue to do so, but no new short-term rentals can come on the market.

The temporary ban was enacted to give staff time to conduct research and hold public workshops to develop zoning and operational regulations.

Staff has been collecting data, drafting proposed regulations and working to schedule community meetings but more time is needed to complete these efforts, the staff report states.

State law allows cities to extend such moratoriums for a year but the initial ordinance capped the renewal period at six months.

If council members want to expand the ordinance when it expires in November, they will be required to adopt a new moratorium.

Owners who are currently renting their units don’t need to show proof of prior short-term use unless there is a complaint.

Planning Director Kathy Garcia said only one problem has been reported since the April adoption.

Renting out homes, especially during the peak summer season in a beach community, is not new in Del Mar, nor is the discussion to ban or regulate it. The city has addressed it several times since at least 2010.

Many say the proliferation of short-term rental websites such as Vacation Rental by Owner, or VRBO, and Airbnb has exacerbated the number of vacation rentals and the associated negative impacts.

More than 140 properties in Del Mar are listed on VRBO and Airbnb.

Zoning districts don’t currently define or list short-term rentals as an allowed use in Del Mar, 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.

The majority of comments received by the city — either by email or during public comment periods at council meetings — favor the practice.

Many people who rent out their homes say they depend on the extra income and their tenants contribute to the local economy by shopping and dining in the downtown area.

Most also say they support some type of sensible regulation. Many said they already follow guidelines that require posting emergency 24-hour contact information and adopting a good-neighbor policy.

Brenda Sampiere is one of several people who say there are few problems. She suggested the city work with property owners and managers to craft the regulations to “take the emotion out of those problem areas.”

“We would really like to help solve the immediate problem,” she said. “It just takes that emotion out of that god-awful neighbor that just keeps putting terrible renters in there, and you guys keep hearing about it. And you’re hearing it real loud with a bullhorn.”

“I think we can come up with solutions together,” Councilman Terry Sinnott said. “The people who are in the industry have a lot of ability and knowledge as to how we can improve things, and I really welcome that suggestion.”

While some residents would prefer an outright ban on vacation rentals, that seems unlikely.

Other North County cities have attempted to enact bans but settled for regulating them after the California Coastal Commission weighed in.

The state agency views them as more affordable options to expensive coastal-area hotels that allow more people access to beaches.

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