Coastal Commission seeks compromise on Del Mar short-term rentals

The California Coastal Commission sought to reach a compromise regarding Del Mar's short-term rental ordinance at a meeting on Thursday, June 7, striking a middle ground between the city's tight limits on vacation rentals and the looser guidelines proposed by the commission's staff.

After listening to testimony from city officials, supporters of short-term rentals and those who backed the city's strict approach, the commission unanimously voted to recommend a 3-day minimum for rentals in the city's residential neighborhoods, and a maximum 100 rental days per calendar year.

Commissioners said they took that option to balance the need for affordable access to accommodations near the beach, with the city's desire to protect the character of its residential neighborhoods.

Del Mar's City Council passed an ordinance last year establishing a 7/28 plan, meaning that homes in residential areas can be rented for a minimum seven-night stay, for a maximum of 28 days per year.

In response, commission staff recommended a three-night minimum and a 180-day cap on rental days per year. The commission must approve the ordinance because it would amend Del Mar's local coastal program, a planning blueprint.

Commissioners said that generally, they would prefer to allow local government agencies to set such rules, but in this case they were concerned about the availability of affordable lodgings for coastal visitors.

"We shouldn't have to be doing this. The problem is your policy is too restrictive," commission Chair Dayna Bochco told Del Mar officials present at the hearing.

Since the commission rejected the city's ordinance as submitted, the law won't take effect for now, said Amanda Lee, principal planner with the city. Instead, the city will have six months to either accept the commission's modifications, or pursue other options that the city will explore.

The city took its strict stance on short-term rentals in response to complaints from residents, who said the rentals were operating like mini-hotels in residential areas, causing such problems as noise, litter and parking shortages.

Owners of the properties, however, said vacation rentals have been happening in Del Mar for decades, that homeowners rely on the income, and that many families consider them an affordable option for a beach vacation.

Mayor Dwight Worden wrote in an email that the City Council and staff will be reviewing options for the city before deciding how to proceed.

"The Commission's suggested modifications are not what we requested, but they did change their position at the hearing, moving in our direction. Beyond that, how their decision changes the lay of the land and what Del Mar's options are is what we will be evaluating," Worden wrote.

In addition to needing Coastal Commission approval, the city is also facing three lawsuits from a group of homeowners opposed to the city's short-term rental ordinance.

Until an ordinance is approved, homeowners who have operated their properties as short-term rentals since before the city enacted a moratorium on new rentals in April 2016 can continue to do so.

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