CARLSBAD—City Council members denied short-term vacation rentals in more than half the city Tuesday night, after hearing robust public comments, largely in favor of an outright ban.
Currently, rentals are not legal in the city but more than 400 operate using travel sites like VRBO and Airbnb and the city collected more than $330,000 in transient occupant tax on the rentals last fiscal year.
Short-term vacation rentals will be allowed in the coastal zone, which makes up 37 percent of the city and extends east from the coast to roughly El Camino Real.
The California Coastal Commission has fought other coastal cities in the past that tried to ban vacation rentals, which is why city staff recommended the approval of the coastal zone.
The commission is in favor of the rentals because they increase coastal access for visitors and tourists.
Councilmembers were given four options, ranging from a citywide allowance of the rentals to permitting them solely in the coastal zone.
Staff recommended a citywide approval because it would be easier to regulate and punish property owners through permit revocation and daily fines.
“It certainly is a lot harder to shut down an operator who’s not supposed to be there. It’s a lot harder to do that than to bring an operator into the program who’s allowed to be there,” said Assistant City Manager Gary Barberio.
Mayor Pro Tem Keith Blackburn said he understood staff’s philosophy but disagreed.
“In this particular case, I’m kind of hearing ‘It’s illegal, people are doing it anyway so let’s legalize it so we can better manage it.’ I kind of heard the same thing about drugs, prostitution and now I’m hearing about short term rentals,” Blackburn said to much applause from the crowd.
He said there are enough hotel and motel rooms throughout the city to accommodate visitors.
There are 4,060 hotel rooms, with an additional 300 currently under construction. There are also 1,500 timeshare rooms.
Many of the speakers against vacation rentals said they moved east of the coastal zone for peace and tranquility from traffic and tourism.
“We deliberately selected to live in this residential estate neighborhood outside of the coastal community so we would not have to deal with late nights, transients coming and going, noise, trash and the lack of security in not knowing who is living next door to you,” La Costa Estates resident Tracy Teregis said.
She and her husband Greg said their next-door neighbor converted a home into two vacation rentals, which has caused them to consider selling their home.
“I would hope that the city would stick up for homeowner rights versus businesses that want to run homes as motels,” said Greg Teregis.
Former real estate agent Joe Donnaghan spoke in favor of the rentals because he believes the city is missing out on a huge revenue source.
He has attended multiple council meetings pleading for the city to speed up the process of legalizing them.
“I hope the council will expedite this, we’ve already missed spring break and Easter and summer is going to be upon us, let’s not drag our feet,” Donegan told the council.
Councilmembers unanimously passed the ordinance, which will go for a second reading in two weeks and go into effect 30 days after that, in early June.
Short-term rental owners in the coastal zone will need to apply for a business license, which is accompanied by a yearlong permit.
They’ll have to post a 24-hour contact number to a local property manager in a window so surrounding neighbors can resolve conflicts.
The property manager will need to respond within 45 minutes, although Councilmember Michael Schumacher said there’s no way the city can regulate that.
Owners and each tenant will need to sign a Good Neighbor agreement, which outlines noise and trash rules.
The maximum amount of people allowed will be two people per bedroom plus one additional person per unit. For example, a two-bedroom rental would be allowed to accommodate five people.
Also, Homeowner Associations trump city and state ordinances so if an HOA doesn’t allow rentals, they are not allowed in that residential area.
City staff will come back to council in a year to review the ordinance and change it if necessary.