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August 5, 2020

Working with vacation rentals in our county

Growing concerns over the loss of housing and the commercialization of neighborhoods led the Board of Supervisors to request staff propose a set of new restrictions for vacation rentals. The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a set of guidelines for new restrictions that County staff recently brought to the Planning Commission and came back to the Board of Supervisors in mid-June for an initial consideration of the ordinance.

What are the current regulations?

Until a few years ago there were no caps, and very limited regulations, on vacation rentals throughout the county. The Board initially instituted per block and per designated area caps (for example, the coastal areas around Seacliff and Rio Del Mar) on vacation rentals and also some permit requirements that must be adhered to in order to renew permits. For vacation rentals that fell outside of these designated zones, there were no limits and no renewal requirements.

What is proposed?

Here is a general overview of what’s proposed with more details provided below:

1) Freezing vacation rentals at current rates in the Seacliff/Aptos Designated Areas and other designated areas in the County. This would mean that new permits wouldn’t be issued unless a permit became available through non-renewal, revocation, transfer of ownership, etc. This provides for current levels of supply but limits additional negative impacts on long-term housing.

2) Adding La Selva into the restrictions (currently La Selva is not folded into the designated areas)

3) Creating new parking requirements (to minimize on-street and neighborhood impacts)

4) Increasing the level of review for new permits so neighborhoods could have a public process to express concerns and receive mitigations (or even denial of an application)

5) Create more formal revocation procedures for rentals that are creating impacts

6) Establish a waiting list program for those looking to apply for permits as they become available

7) Create a moratorium on new permits pending the outcome of this process

The existing vacation rental regulations state that the number of overall vacation rentals cannot exceed 15% of eligible parcels in the greater Live Oak and Seacliff/Rio Del Mar area and 10% in the Davenport area. In January, rates in these areas were below the caps and the Board of Supervisors felt that the current levels were already high enough. Increasing the caps to 15%, the Board felt, would have a continued impact on the housing market and commercialization of neighborhoods. As a result, the Board supported capping the numbers at current rates, which include 12% in the Live Oak area and 5.5% in the Seacliff/Rio Del Mar area. La Selva restrictions are also now being added in (so no new vacation rentals would be allowed in La Selva unless a permit expired, was revoked or forfeited).

Given the number of local vacation rentals, hotels, motels and other options, there are adequate visitor-serving uses locally but significant challenges in our housing market. If the ordinance is approved, no new permits would be issued in any of the designated areas until the number of vacation rentals falls below the applicable percentage cap.

How would a permit waitlist work?

When permits opened up, the Board of Supervisors wanted a program that was administered fairly and impartially. Prospective applicants would submit a Waiting List Request Form to staff and all parcels on the list would be tracked by staff and mapped on a GIS Vacation Rental Waiting List Map. The Planning Commission recommended the program be structured as a first-come, first-served system and that is what will be considered by the Board.

How will the parking requirements work?

Minimum on-site parking requirements will now exist for new vacation rentals. The proposals, which can be changed, state for new 1 or 2 bedroom vacation rentals a minimum of one on-site parking space would be required and for new 3+ bedroom rentals a minimum of two on-site parking spaces would be required.

What public/neighborhood process will be required?

To allow for greater community input in new applications, all new vacation rentals comprised of three or fewer bedrooms will require on-site noticing and mailed notices to the neighbors, and also allows staff to impose conditions of approval applicable to the application at hand. The current requirements for 4+ bedroom applications will remain unchanged (they require a higher level of review).

Can permits be revoked or not renewed?

One of the key parts of the discussion was ensuring that problematic properties have a permit revocation process. For those without any issues, permits can be renewed every five years. Running a vacation rental without a permit, criminal and/or County Code or Health Order violations are proposed as potential reasons for revocation/non-renewal.

What are the next steps?

The Board will have a minimum of two readings of the ordinance (if there are significant changes proposed by the Board during the first reading it requires another first reading of the ordinance) and then the changes, if approved, will be submitted to the Coastal Commission for consideration. If approved, the ordinance changes will then take effect. This public process generally takes a few months (especially in working to get on the Coastal Commission’s calendar) and allows for input throughout.

I appreciate any feedback you may have on this (or any other County issue).

I’m maintaining regular updates on social media at www.facebook.com/supervisorfriend and during the shelter-in-place order I’m hosting weekly tele-town halls with County and community leaders on Tuesday nights from 6-7pm. The call in information for the town halls is 454-2222 with the Meeting ID: 145384# – you are welcome to speak about this issue during the town halls or you can always call me at 454-2200.

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