Santa Rosa’s new draft vacation rental rules dissatisfy landlords and neighbors


Santa Rosa officials this week unveiled draft rules for short-term rental properties in response to concerns from police and firefighters and waves of complaints from neighbors living next to properties that frequently host parties.

A subsequent public meeting and interviews with relevant parties suggest that neither the town’s vacation rental owners nor the neighbors who say some of these properties have turned life upside down in their quiet neighborhoods are happy with the draft rules.

The reaction came as no surprise to city officials, who said full consensus was not possible when it came to regulating such a controversial issue as vacation rentals, which have proliferated over the past decade. the last decade on popular websites like Airbnb and Vrbo.

“We are trying to make everyone happy, which is probably impossible here,” said Shari Meads, town planner.

Short-term rental property owners criticized the ordinance as both harsh and in some cases unenforceable. They also bemoaned what they said was a lack of input from industry players, though an online city survey garnered 2,369 responses.

The rule-making process was a “bad faith effort” carried out without transparency, opponent Eric Fraser said at a public meeting Wednesday on the draft rules.

A number of landlords have said the rules are unfair for those who have managed short-term rental properties with care for their neighbors, and could stifle an industry that provides another source of income for some, in an area where the cost of living is high.

But for residents who have seen homes on their streets converted to party sites for visitors, the new rules might not come soon enough. If anything, the regulations must go further, he said.

“The draft order is a good start,” said Rick Abbott. He came across a neighboring property that frequently hosts large, noisy gatherings on its quiet street in the eastern hills of Santa Rosa.

“The standards it sets address many of the issues creating nuisance in our neighborhoods,” Abbott said of the city’s proposal. However, enforcement mechanisms were weak, he said, and the rules should be accompanied by a moratorium on new short-term rentals until more permanent regulations are defined.

After falling behind other Sonoma County cities and the county in regulating vacation rental properties, city officials announced this summer they would use an expedited policy-making process to adopt an “emergency ordinance” regulating properties.

Santa Rosa City Council will adopt the draft rules on October 12. Five of the seven board members will need to vote in favor of adoption.

The draft ordinance is available for public review and comment at srcity.org/str.

Officials have repeatedly reminded parties on all sides that the emergency ordinance is only a first step and will be followed by a longer process to develop permanent regulations.

The ordinance would create a new “short-term rental license,” allowing the city to regulate and track which properties are legal rentals.

Earlier this year, a tech company alerted city officials that the actual number of short-term rental properties in Santa Rosa could be more than double the number of officially registered properties. If the number is correct, officials say, the city is missing up to $ 1.2 million in revenue a year thanks to accommodation taxes and trade fees that go unrecognized.

Short-term rental properties should also adhere to occupancy limits that cap the number of guests at 10 per property. Parties are restricted by rules allowing only four “day guests” who can visit between 8:00 am and 9:00 pm

The draft ordinance would also impose quiet hours on seasonal rentals from 9 p.m. to 8 a.m.

The ordinance requires contact for the property to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To the alarm of a number of vacation rental owners, the ordinance would require that person to correct any problems brought to their attention by neighbors or officials within 45 minutes.

“It’s just ridiculous,” Allen Thomas, a Santa Rosa resident who owns and manages three short-term rental properties in the city. “What if you’re on a plane or in the hospital?” “

Overall, Thomas said the ordinance would not have a dramatic impact on his business and hopefully resolve the concerns of neighbors dealing with less responsible rental landlords. But he was frustrated with the city process.

“I paid a lot, a lot of (accommodation) taxes to the city of Santa Rosa and after all of that I didn’t have a voice at the table,” he said.

You can contact editor Andrew Graham at 707-526-8667 or [email protected] On Twitter @ AndrewGraham88

About Michael B. Billingsley

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