Council starts process to regulate vacation rentals

Council starts process to regulate vacation rentals
Despite a lawsuit, council members moved forward June 19 to allow but regulate short-term rentals in residential zones on a limited basis. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

DEL MAR — Having previously determined short-term rentals are prohibited in most residential areas, council members at the June 19 meeting began the process of regulating and allowing the use on a limited basis.

Property owners will be able to rent out their homes for less than 30 days at a time for a maximum of 28 days per year. Each rental must be at least seven days long and a permit will be required.

Under the proposed new regulations, rentals will be limited to two people per bedroom, and owners must provide off-street parking and adopt a voluntary good neighbor policy. Contact information to report problems 24/7 must also be made available.

The stipulations apply to home sharing, during which the primary resident or owner remains in part of the house, and whole-home rentals, during which only visitors paying for occupancy are in the unit.

Home swaps, which don’t involve any monetary compensation, will be allowed with no rules. The city has budgeted money to hire a company to help monitor vacation rental advertising.

Council members crafted the rules after about 75 minutes of public testimony, during which all but one of the 18 speakers urged them to reconsider their action.

“This hasn’t gone the way I thought it would go,” resident Hershell Price said, adding that he believed vacation rentals would be allowed with regulations, reasonable limits and a permit requirement.

“What about the good people who haven’t done anything wrong?” he asked. “Why should everyone suffer because of a few bad apples?”

“This is going to suck the rest of the life out of Del Mar,” Ken Assi said.

Del Mar property owners have been renting their homes for less than 30 days for more than 50 years, mostly during summer and the horse racing season at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

Many say it provides needed additional income, helps them afford their homes and increases business for Del Mar shops and restaurants.

Opponents say the high turnover rates, which have increased in recent years because online sites such as Airbnb making booking easier, are changing the community character and causing more traffic, parking, trash and noise problems.

But according to research by one resident, the majority of problems — possibly more than 95 percent — are caused by long-term residents.

“Where are the problems?” Kimberly Jackson asked. “Where the heck is the data?”

She said most property owners want to work with the city to create commonsense regulations, including fining violators.

“It weeds out the bad apples,” Jackson said, adding that there are ways to circumvent the monitoring process. “If you put a ban on this industry it’s going to drive it underground.”

The city recently received a Commencement of Action notice from Cory Briggs announcing his intention to file a lawsuit. He said he expects the city to be served any day.

Briggs is representing a group called the Del Mar Alliance for the Preservation of Beach Access and Village that believes the council’s determination that short-term rentals are not an allowed use in all but one residential zone violates the California Environmental Quality Act, California Coastal Act and property rights.

Briggs said alliance members support paying transient occupancy taxes, a permit registry, compliance with all laws, limiting the number of cars per unit and ensuring onsite parking is available for their guests.

He said they will also take measures to minimize “party houses” that result in excessive noise, disorderly conduct and overcrowding.

“They’d be happy to be part of an effort to bring those things about,” Briggs said.

Additionally, he noted that once a party has been served, a 45-day mandatory settlement conference is scheduled.

“My experience is that those often go nowhere but it would be nice in this instance if the city came to that settlement conference knowing in advance what my client would like to see done,” he said.

Despite the lawsuit and public input, council members moved forward with the first of two discussions to allow but regulate short-term rentals.

That prompted one man to leave the meeting, but not without first speaking his mind.

“You didn’t have even the courtesy to listen to one person and go, ‘Maybe we are doing something wrong here. Maybe we should reconsider this,’” he said.

“I’m just as fed up with you people as I can possibly be,” he added before being asked to leave or be escorted out. “This is not over.”

The next hearing is scheduled for July 17 and will focus on the permit process, enforcement and potential exceptions.

With input from those meetings, staff will prepare a draft ordinance that will go to the Planning Commission for its Sept. 12 meeting. The document could be presented to council members for a first reading Oct. 2 and adoption Oct. 16.

If all goes as planned, it will be submitted to the California Coastal Commission for a coastal permit amendment. There is a possibility an environmental review will be required under the California Environmental Quality Act.

Council members hope to have regulations in place before a moratorium on any new short-term rentals entering the market, adopted in April 2016, expires in early February 2018.

 

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