Del Mar Council debates requirements to keep short-term rentals neighborly

As short-term rentals have become more popular in Del Mar, some residents have called for regulations.

The Del Mar City Council directed staff at the Aug. 8 meeting to draft an ordinance that will deal with the increasing number of short-term rentals, although council members did not agree on all of the requirements that should be included in the new regulations.

The city’s zoning districts do not define or list short-term rentals as an allowed use, yet residential zones don’t expressly prohibit them either. In some cases, such as code sections related to the housing element, the rental of a residence is permitted.

As defined in the staff report, a short-term rental, also known as a vacation rental, is a residence or part of a residence that is rented out by the property owner for 30 days or less.

“There has been historic use of short-term rentals in Del Mar, but over the past 10 years, there’s certainly been an increase in this community and in other communities as well,” said Planning Manager Adam Birnbaum, who noted that the increase in short-term rentals is partly because of the ease and effectiveness of Internet advertising. Short-term rentals are also regarded as more flexible and less expensive than hotel lodging.

According to the staff report, roughly 130 Del Mar homes are advertised as short-term rentals on the VRBO website, with another 13 homes listed on the Airbnb website.

As short-term rentals have increased in the past decade, so too, have community concerns.

The council agreed to consider adopting short-term rental regulations after a recent increase in resident concerns about the rentals’ impacts on the community, such as noise, trash, parking and an overall change to neighborhood character.

Resident Scott Renner, who wrote an editorial that supported banning short-term rentals, said living next to one is like having a three-bedroom hotel next to his home.

“It has completely changed the vibe of the community,” said Renner, who has lived in Del Mar for 49 years.

“We need some regulations,” agreed resident Robin Crabtree. “We need a good-neighbor policy.”

Nearly two dozen people addressed the council during the 90-minute discussion, with most speakers against banning rentals but in favor of some regulations. The city also received several emails on the subject, including a petition signed by dozens of people in support of the vacation rental industry.

After hearing from the public, the council agreed that residents who rent their homes or rooms within their homes should be able to do so, but regulations should be in place.

Mayor Al Corti, Deputy Mayor Sherryl Parks and Councilman Dwight Worden said that short-term rentals should be limited to geographic areas, with the beach colony being one, but Councilman Don Mosier disagreed. Councilman Terry Sinnott was absent.

“Rather than, say, strictly geographic limits, you may have rules that apply to different neighborhoods with different durations or different time periods,” said Mosier, noting that he knows people who rent their homes during the horse racing season at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. “I have trouble saying ‘no circumstance.’”

“I think that it’s better to have regulations in all the zones,” responded Corti. “They probably should be and need to be different.”

Council members also disagreed on the minimum number of days that should be allowed per rental or whether there should be a limit on the number of days per week, month or year that a home may be used as a short-term rental.

While his colleagues said there should be some time limits, Mosier said he doesn’t want to place limits.

“We get a lot of people from Arizona coming over for the weekend or long weekends,” he said. “If you limit it to three days, I think you limit the rental opportunities.

“I think a lot of people rent for the weekend, particularly on the off-season,” he added. “I think you need to maintain the flexibility. You need to be responsible to people who depend on that rental income for their other properties or for their basic income.”

Council members, however, did reach a consensus on other requirements, including maximum occupancy limits based on the industry standard of no more than two people per bedroom.

Council members also agreed that property owners need to obtain a permit or business license, and violations should result in fines, a hearing for possible revocation of the permit or forfeiture of the right to operate the rental for a specified period.

In addition, council members agreed the city should adopt a good-neighbor policy.

Other measures include requirements that the emergency 24-hour contact information of the owner, operator and manager be posted inside and outside the structure, and that any complaints must be responded to within 45 minutes. Adequate trash collection bins must be available and collection schedules must be observed. There should also be requirements related to the availability of onsite parking spaces, and a prohibition or limitations on oversized vehicles.

“We need a robust enforcement process,” Worden said.

“These regulations will only work if they are enforceable,” Corti agreed.

“Clearly, if we’re going to go through creating a set of ordinances, we want to make sure that they’re enforceable and that we have the means by which to enforce,” Birnbaum said in response.

Staff will present a draft ordinance with alternatives to address some of the issues at a future meeting.