Stricter rules on the way for short-term vacation rentals
by DAVE SCHWAB
Published - 06/12/15 - 05:54 PM | 0 0 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The City Council’s Smart Growth and Land Use (SGLU) Committee directed staff to return with a new draft ordinance on short-term vacation rentals (STVRs), better defining and more strictly controlling them while also seeking funding in current city budget deliberations for better enforcement of existing rules governing their operation.

That was the end result of deliberations May 29 among SGLU’s four committee members – Lorie Zapf, David Alvarez, Scott Sherman and Todd Gloria — following hours of public testimony both for and against the vexing STVR issue.

Coastal residents have increasingly come forward complaining that noise, partying, traffic and other problems caused by some troublesome STVRs have become an intolerable disruption that is eroding neighborhood character. Many residents are calling for stricter rules, tighter enforcement and greater accountability over rentals, with some advocating entirely barring STVRs from single-family neighborhoods.

STVR reps and proponents have countered that a few bad operators are giving the entire rental industry a bad name. They insist the answer is to better enforce existing regulations rather than make wholesale changes with them.

SGLU chair and District 2 Councilwoman Lorie Zapf, who represents Ocean, Mission and Pacific beaches, called the committee’s action an “important first step,” adding “this is going to be a long process.”

Alvarez, on behalf of the city, assumed blame for the STVR situation getting out of hand.

“We need to apologize to everybody because the city has not been doing our job, we have been failing by not enforcing some of our laws that exist today,” Alvarez said.

Responding to the SGLU Committee’s deliberation on STVRs, Julie Anderson of Point Loma said, “Although this does not appear to be as large a problem in our area as it is in Pacific Beach, it is still an intrusion on the property rights of people who bought their home with the expectation of living next door to a neighbor – an intrusion even if there is only one STVR within a few-block radius.

“Noise has been the biggest issue, but underlying this is the far more significant problem – the removal of neighbors from neighborhoods.  Neighbors create the character and cohesiveness of a neighborhood – something that is diminished each time a whole-house STVR replaces a long-term neighbor. Anderson believes the City Council needs to come up with a solution that considers the property rights of both sides. 

“Taxation, limiting numbers through permits, creating and enforcing regulations, and revoking permits of offending STVRs are a start,” she said.  “But the council must also consider the negative effect of the loss of neighbors in residential neighborhoods as they are replaced by these businesses. I am afraid, from what I heard at the May 29 meeting, that this most important factor is being overlooked in the rush to get some relief via regulation and enforcement.”

Roseville resident Korla Eaquinta had a similar take on the situation.

“Unfortunately, vacation rentals can bring large groups of people into residential neighborhoods causing congestion, parking, noise, garbage and security issues.

“… These short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods go against the intent of residential zones. The real danger of short-term rentals seems to be harming neighborhoods by displacing long-time tenants in search of fast, seemingly easy money. The results can be fewer places on the rental market, increased evictions and rising rents.”

Eaquinta proposed one possible solution.

“Maybe there’s a way to limit the concentration of short-term rentals within certain areas,” she said. “I believe Roseville, which is already overburdened with high-density development, would be in high demand for vacation rentals while other areas of the Peninsula would not be affected as much.

“Maybe these problems can be curbed by finding a balance between regulation, legislation and reasonable taxation. I understand the city would like a slice of the vacation rental revenue pie, but please do not let that be your entire motivation. Please protect our neighborhoods by limiting and regulating short-term vacation rentals.”

At the May 29 committee hearing, Gloria acknowledged concern about the need for greater code enforcement of STVRs while noting money needs to be included in the current city budget to accomplish that.

Council colleague Scott Sherman said “we need to have clear-cut rules” when it comes to STVRs and their enforcement.

All four council and committee members agreed that any changes to STVR policy in a new city ordinance needs to be vetted with the public via the community planning group process, before ultimately coming back to the SGLU Committee for review and then be sent along to the full City Council for final action.
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