Councilmen to develop regulations for vacation rentals

Councilmen to develop regulations for vacation rentals
Two Del Mar councilmen are working to create regulations to address problems that some short-term rentals are creating. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

DEL MAR — With input from a two-hour June 13 workshop and an additional 90 minutes of public testimony and discussion at the City Council meeting a week later, council members for the second time in less than a year agreed to try to create regulations for short-term rentals.

The practice is not new in Del Mar but it has increased significantly because websites such as Airbnb and Vacation Rental by Owner have made it easier to rent out properties for 30 days or less.

Proponents say tenants boost the local economy by spending money at Del Mar restaurants and shops.

Vacation rentals also provide property owners with needed extra income.

Opponents say the constant turnover in neighborhoods is changing the community character and renters often create more noise, traffic and parking problems.

To address an increase in complaints city staff last year crafted some regulations that included permits, fines, floor plan requirements and the adoption of a good neighbor policy, to name a few.

Some aspects of the proposed ordinance were deemed “too onerous” by council members and invasive by the Planning Commission. The regulations never moved forward but the stakeholders didn’t back off.

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.

While some have asked for a complete ban on short-term rentals, others say they should not be allowed in residential zones.

A citywide ban would likely not be allowed by the California Coastal Commission, which views short-term rentals as more affordable options compared to expensive coastal-area hotels so they allow more people access to beaches.

A moratorium on any new vacation rentals entering the market was adopted in April and is in effect until November.

Council members are using the time to find a solution or reach a compromise.

Sinnott described the most recent workshop, which was aimed at prioritizing potential solutions for short-term rental regulations, as a “rough effort” to get a feel for what regulations people would accept.

“Maybe some of the questions that we presented were a little ragged,” he said. “It was an effort to get a community discussion going and I think we achieved that.

“It’s helpful to get groups of people together and wrestle with a very complex problem or issue,” he added. “There are two poles. There’s do nothing or there is an outright moratorium. … We were trying to fill in a little bit more of the possibilities … some sort of regulation as an intermediate step.”

To deal with tenants and property owners who are creating the problems, Sinnott said he would like to use a phased approach, starting with the adoption of loose regulations that were preferred by workshop attendees.

Those include limits on the number of renters per unit based on the number of bedrooms and parking spaces, limits on the number of days per month a unit can used as a vacation rental and a variety of rental operator requirements.

“If step one does not solve the problem … we are going to step two, which would be making sure that short term rentals of a certain duration are not allowed,” Sinnott said. “Ultimately, if we can’t get this problem solved, we will go to much more strenuous regulations.”

He and Councilmen Dwight Worden agreed to work together to “draft some straw dogs, some straw possibilities,” as Sinnott put it, using some of the “reasonableness that we heard from the workshop and try to address” the issues, one of which is that short term rentals go against the community plan.

Worden said he is doubtful regulations would be effective unless they are stricter than those proposed in the past. He also agreed with another proposed solution, which was to let residents vote on the issue.

Sinnott and Worden plan to come back with some draft regulations with a month or six weeks.

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