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Council delays decision about vacation rentals

DEL MAR — With the defeat of Proposition J, a measure that would have extended the transient occupancy tax to short-term vacation rentals, council members must now decide whether to regulate something Del Mar residents have been doing for years that is technically not allowed in the city.
Some property owners regularly rent out their homes or condominiums during peak tourist times to generate extra income. But doing so is not considered an allowable use in any of the city’s zoning districts.
Tenants who stay in private homes for 30 days or less are also not subject to the 11.5 percent transient occupancy tax, which hotel visitors are required to pay.
City officials estimated that extending the TOT to vacation rentals could add nearly $200,000 to the general fund, which helps pay for city services such as police, fire and lifeguards. Before broadening the tax, which was subject to voter approval, council members began the process to amend zoning laws to define and allow short-term rentals.
Three ordinances to do so were introduced during council meetings in February and May. The measure to expand the TOT failed in the June primary election.
Council was scheduled to discuss final adoption of the three ordinances at the June 21 meeting, however, the item was continued after the city received several letters and e-mails indicating residents believed the discussion was going to be about Proposition J.
Councilman Mark Filanc asked why the issue wasn’t just dismissed since residents clearly indicated they didn’t support the tax or codifying vacation rentals.
“Personally, I would just as soon have this thing just go away,” Filanc said.
“The intention of the continuance, frankly, was to get a lot of the people who wrote red dots to read the thing so they knew what they were talking about,” Mayor Richard Earnest said.
He recommended the city separate the ordinance discussion from Proposition J “with some time so everybody can just cool down a little bit, try to understand what we’re really trying to propose here and then at some point we’ll bring it back.”
The city attorney said a position needs to be taken to clarify what is currently a vague municipal law and avoid possible problems in the future.
Councilwoman Crystal Crawford agreed. “We recognized during that discussion (of Proposition J) that there was a deficiency in our existing code that we were going to need to fix,” she said.