OCEANSIDE — The city continued its discussion over how to regulate short-term rentals during the second of three community meetings on Nov. 27 at Oceanside City Hall.
Earlier this year, the city’s Planning Commission appointed an ad hoc committee to provide recommendations on possible STR regulations during these meetings, an issue that has been popping up in coastal towns and other cities popular with tourists.
The recent meeting recapped discussions from Aug. 21 and included revisions on potential regulations as well as additional information, such as how other cities like Santa Cruz and Carlsbad are regulating STRs.
Oceanside is no stranger to STRs. Portions of the city function as vacation areas, such as the Residential Tourist Zone, which is permitted for summer rentals and tourist cottages.
The only regulations Oceanside currently has in place for STRs include registering with the city to pay a 10 percent Transient Occupancy Tax and a 1.5 percent Oceanside Tourism Marketing District assessment, and requiring STRs with five or more units on one property to obtain a city business license.
According to a staff report from the city’s Development Services Department Planning Division, there are currently 812 registered STR operators in the city that pay Transient Occupancy Tax and Oceanside Tourism Marketing District assessment. About 75 percent of those are in the Coastal Zone.
The actual number of STRs in the city is higher, according to Shannon Vitale, a planner with the city, who estimated that number to be somewhere around 1,200. The city-registered STRs generated about $2.74 million during the last fiscal year, Vitale said.
Concerns voiced by the public regarding STRs include diminished parking, property value and general peace in neighborhoods. At the Nov. 27 meeting, many residents described feeling overwhelmed or pushed out by the amount of STRs popping up in their neighborhoods.
According to the staff report, the city has received few complaints regarding STRs considering the number that are currently operating in the city. Several residents took issue with that, explaining that many don’t complain because they don’t know who to contact or have been previously frustrated by the city’s response.
According to Vitale, STRs make up approximately 1.1 percent of the total housing stock in Oceanside. Approximately 4.86 percent of the housing stock in the Townsite neighborhood is STRs, followed by 2.64 percent in South Oceanside and 1.25 percent in Fire Mountain.
In 2016, the city drafted a Good Neighbor Policy for STRs, but no formal regulations have been put in place. The regulative policies currently being considered for STRs would require following such a policy.
In her presentation to the Planning Commission, Vitale provided a list of “key components” of what a Good Neighbor Policy could include:
- Parking for all vehicles on-site to the greatest extent possible
- Number of occupants limited to two adults per bedroom plus two people per unit, excluding children
- Defining what a bedroom is
- A three-strike policy
- Prohibiting commercial activities and special events
General STR regulations as recommended by the ad hoc committee included the two people per bedroom plus two per unit maximum occupancy, a three- to five-night minimum length stay, prohibiting special events as defined by the Parks and Recreation Division, not restricting STRs to a primary residence and not requiring an STR to be owner-occupied. The committee also recommended potential STR business license and permit fees.
Possible exemptions to certain STR regulations would include Homeowner Associations if the properties are self-contained, have a 24-hour on-site manager and have obtained a business license, with each STR operating under one license. Owner-occupied STRs could also be exempt.
Vitale said only about 7 percent of all registered STRs are owner-occupied. The complaints the city has received about STRs are generally not about owner-occupied STRs.
Planning Commissioner Tom Rosales agreed there should be certain exemptions for owner-occupied STRs, but Commissioner Colleen Balch thought differently.
“I think if you treat them all the same, then it’s simpler for staff,” Balch said.
Balch disagreed with excluding children from the occupancy count, noting in cases of emergency when evacuation is necessary.
“Children have to evacuate just like an adult. There is no difference between whether they’re 2 months old or 20 years old or 40 years old,” she said. “You have to start looking at these as small hotels … The city has a ton of liability right now if we have a major incident in one of these homes.”
Commissioners also discussed limiting the amount of STRs per neighborhood.
“We have certain areas like my neighborhood (South Oceanside) that are being inundated,” Balch said. “Our school’s population is dropping because of it, so that’s something else the city needs to be cognizant of.”
Balch said her neighborhood is being “purchased by investors” for STRs. Commissioner Curtis Busk said that point is the “key to this whole discussion.”
“How do you break the cycle of investor-owned, non-hosted short-term rentals, because that to me is what’s happening to our housing stock,” Busk said.
“That’s what zoning is for,” Balch responded.
Rosales said he’s leaning toward capping the amount of STRs per neighborhood, though he isn’t sure what that would look like yet.
In terms of prohibiting STRs in certain areas of the city, Balch said mobile home housing should be off limits.
The final ad hoc committee meeting on STR regulations will be held on Jan. 29, 2019. During that meeting, the committee and staff will present their final recommendations for STRs to the Planning Commission. From there, the commission will offer their recommendations to City Council.
Samantha Nelson covers Oceanside, Camp Pendleton and the decommissioning San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. She earned her journalism degree from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, and has previously reported for The Athens Messenger in Athens, Ohio, and USA Today in McLean, Virginia. Follow her on Twitter: @samm1son