Del Mar residents divided on how to regulate short-term rentals


Just as the council appears to be divided, the community, too, is divided on how to regulate short-term residential rentals in Del Mar.

In an effort to prioritize potential solutions for the regulation of short-term rentals in the city, about 80 people participated in a collaborative workshop June 13 at the Powerhouse Community Center.

Led by Deputy Mayor Terry Sinnott and Councilman Al Corti, residents worked in small groups and discussed how short-term rentals should be regulated by location, occupancy limits, minimum length of stay, frequency and rental operator requirements. Every council member was in attendance and they, along with city staff, helped facilitate discussion at nine different tables.

Although the community failed to reach a consensus on many of the items, council members said the public input was still helpful.

“Obviously, this issue leads to a variety of opinions and we appreciate everybody showing up and voicing theirs,” Councilman Don Mosier said. “The council has an interesting task to sort through this. But I do want to say that all options are still on the table, and that includes no short-term rentals. The whole point of having these workshops is to see if we can reach some consensus on a way to regulate so we don’t have to take that step, but we still might.”

With city staff needing more time to develop new regulations, the council on May 16 voted unanimously to extend a moratorium on short-term rentals. Under the temporary ban, current short-term rentals can stay in operation, but no new rentals can open.

However, the council voted 3-2 to move forward with amending the city’s municipal code to allow and regulate short-term rentals.

This was the first workshop held to gather input from the public on the controversial topic.

The city’s zoning code does not define or list short-term rentals as an allowed use, yet another section of the code allows residents to rent rooms in their homes for undefined periods of time. Although the existing code is unclear, a number of residences in Del Mar have been used as short-term rentals, with the practice likely predating the city’s incorporation.

Because the city’s zoning code lacks clarity and some community members have called for change, the council originally put the 45-day ban on new rentals in place in April.

“It’s obvious that everybody was working hard to come up with and discuss everybody’s perspective,” Sinnott said at the end of the workshop. “As you can tell, there’s a lot of possibilities and it’s going to take a lot of community debate and discussion, and hopefully, we come up with something that is going to be workable.”

Representatives from each of the nine small groups shared their table’s top priorities for regulating short-term rentals. Although each group was tasked with choosing two top priorities, they were often split and selected multiple options or suggested their own ideas.

By the end of the workshop, the majority of the small groups said they would regulate short-term rentals the same citywide, when asked how they would regulate rentals by location. The community’s clear second choice was to regulate rentals by zoning designations. None of the groups picked the option to define a number within a geographic area. Other suggestions included allowing no short-term rentals, having no regulations citywide and regulating rentals in the commercial zone only.

When exploring occupancy limits, the community’s top choice was to regulate rentals by the number of people per bedroom. A few of the groups, however, selected regulating rentals by the number of people based on the presence of the owner or the number of people based on onsite parking availability as their first and second priorities. One group said there should be no maximum occupancy limit and another group selected regulating rentals by the number of people per rental type as their second priority. None of the groups opted to regulate rentals by the number of people per residence.

When looking at minimum length of stay, several of the groups said rentals should have a 30 day minimum stay. About the same number of groups said it was their second priority for rentals to have a seven-day minimum stay. A couple of the groups selected a five-day minimum stay or different peak and non-peak minimum stays as their second priority. Three groups said it was their top priority that rentals have no minimum stay. None of the groups picked no minimum stay if the owner is present as an option.

As for the frequency of rentals, five groups said it was their top priority for rentals to have no limit on the number of rental days allowed. A few of the groups said rentals should either be regulated by the number of rental days allowed per month, the number of rental days allowed per year, or that only seasonal rentals should be allowed. As their second priority, one group the limit on the number of rental days allowed should depend on the presence of the owner. Other suggestion included no limit for 30-day rentals, limiting rentals to 90 days per year and limiting rentals to only four weeks per year.

Finally, when looking at rental operator requirements, most of the groups picked many or all of the listed options, including that operators should be required to post local property management contact information in a visible exterior location; post short-term rental details, such as maximum occupancy listed, on exterior location; provide renters with a rules and regulations manual; have a minimum response time for property managers to respond to complaints; have minimum liability insurance of property manager; and verify the number of days the unit is rented per year. Other suggestions included obtaining a business license and notifying neighbors within 300 feet. Some said that rentals should not post property information because it could negatively affect property values.

“I appreciate all the comments. There’s going to be a lot more deliberation on it,” Councilman Al Corti said.

As for next steps, city staff will compile the responses and present a report on the workshop to the council during the next meeting on June 20.

“It’s really an idea of trying to narrow the perspective and make sure we have a clear understanding of what the community’s thinking about the issues,” Sinnott said.