The Coastal Commission, tasked with ensuring coastal access, considers short-term rentals to be an affordable alternative to pricy hotel rooms, especially in Del Mar. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek
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Del Mar takes legal action against Calif. Coastal Commission

DEL MAR — The city took the first step in legal action opposing the California Coastal Commission’s recommended modifications to its vacation rental policy, filing a writ Aug. 6 in San Diego Superior Court.

“It challenges the commission’s attempt to refuse a specific level of short-term rental use in the city,” City Attorney Leslie Devaney said at the Aug. 6 council meeting.

Council members in November adopted an ordinance that would limit rentals of less than 30 days in nearly all residential zones to minimum seven-day stays for no more than 28 days a year.

Because the new rules are considered an amendment to Del Mar’s local coastal program, Coastal Commission approval was required before they could be enacted.

The state agency, tasked with ensuring coastal access, considers short-term rentals to be an affordable alternative to pricy hotel rooms, especially in Del Mar.

The panel in June deemed the proposed ordinance too restrictive and approved a plan that would allow vacation rentals for a minimum of three consecutive days for no more than 100 days a year.

The following month Del Mar voted 3-2 to reject that decision and opted to let the courts determine who has land-use authority in the county’s smallest city.

Councilmen Terry Sinnott and Dave Druker opposed the legal action, as did many of the people who weighed in at the time.

“Only 13% of public comment received for that meeting supported the City Council majority’s 28/7 ban,” resident Laura DeMarco wrote in an email to the city manager. “The vast majority, 87%, opposed the 28/7 STR ban. In addition, only 11% supported suing the Coastal Commission.”

Devaney said once the complaint is served the commission will have 30 days to respond. After that it will take about 60 days for a hearing to be set by the court for briefing schedules and other administrative action.

“So, we’re looking at around six months to a year for that to go fully through the court,” Devaney said.

Short-term rental proponents say the practice has occurred in Del Mar since long before cityhood. Owners see the limits as an infringement on property rights. Many have said they depend on the extra income and contrary to what has been said, there have been few problems.

Opponents disagree, saying the vacationers create trash, noise and parking problems. But most importantly, the constant turnover in residential neighborhoods is negatively impacting community character.

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