Del Mar Council ready to regulate short-term rentals

Rules could soon be in place for short-term rentals in Del Mar.

The city’s zoning codes do not define or list vacation rentals as an allowed use, yet they are also not specifically prohibited.

After hearing concerns from some community members, council members brought the issue to the dais during the July 20 meeting.

“This is something that many communities are wrestling with at this moment,” said Kathleen Garcia, the city’s planning and community development director.

It is estimated that as many as 250 units, or roughly 10 percent of Del Mar’s housing stock, are used as vacation rentals.

“There have been numerous homes being operated as short-term rentals,” Garcia said. “That may be for the rental of full facilities. It also may be just the rental of rooms or portions of houses.”

Although short-term rentals are located throughout Del Mar, the highest concentration is in the North Beach area. The city has received complaints regarding noise, trash and parking.

Kimberly Jackson, who owns a short-term rental unit and vacation rental business, noted that Del Mar has a long history of vacation rentals because of the racetrack.

“Nationally, this is a new movement,” Jackson said regarding the regulation of rentals. “The laws haven’t quite caught up with the Internet of the vacation rental market.”

“We are definitely in favor of some common sense regulations,” she added.

Jackson said she would, however, oppose a requirement that defined vacation rentals as more than 30 days or regulated how many days a person can rent a home per week.

“That would kill a lot of businesses in town,” she said.

She does, however, support adding the transient occupancy tax to rentals to help fund city services such as lifeguard and police services. Visitors to Del Mar’s hotels have to pay the tax.

“Nobody really wants a tax, but that’s kind of the way this industry is moving,” Jackson said. “We are in support of working together to get some rules in place because currently there are no rules in place. This industry is moving in a direction where we need some kind of rules.

“We look forward to working with the community,” she added. “We definitely hope to find some way to meet in the middle and work together.”

Steve Scola, who rents out his Del Mar home, agreed, “Something does need to be addressed.

“But I wouldn’t suggest that we do it with a sledgehammer,” he said.

Robin Crabtree, a longtime resident of Del Mar’s beach community, agreed that regulating rentals that go for less than 30 days would “kill” the industry as well as the beach community.

However, she is in favor of restricting the rentals to at least seven days or one rental per week.

“I just want to be able to co-exist with everybody,” Crabtree said. “A good-neighbor policy, I think, is something that we need in Del Mar for short-term, long-term and everybody and especially at the beach.

“We live so close together that if you’re out on your second-floor deck at 10 o’clock at night, I can tell you word for word what you’re saying,” she added. “We all want to open our doors and enjoy the fresh air, but when you’ve got kids screaming or people smoking outside, it can’t quite do it.”

She suggested business licenses and “quiet hours” among other regulations.

KC Vafiadis, a local business owner and Del Mar Village Association board member, agreed.

“Yes, we need to have short-term rentals,” she said. “Yes, there needs to be regulation. Yes, they need a business license. Yes, you should have TOT taxes on them — all of that is money to the community that is necessary to cover the costs of having them here.”

After hearing from the public, the council directed staff to come back with information on how to put rules in place to address the problems that have stemmed from short-term rentals.

“I think it’s about time,” said Councilman Terry Sinnott. “You see this is the tide coming in, or the big wave coming in. You know that it needs to be dealt with, so it’s better to be proactive and anticipated. I’m anxious to really understand the problem.”

“I don’t think it’s a little thing,” added Mayor Al Corti. “I think it’s a big problem and we need to do something about it.”

First, Del Mar needs to decide whether to allow short-term rentals, Corti said. Then the city needs to define short-term rentals, clarify zoning, and come up with solutions to the problems, he said.

“From my perspective, the zoning didn’t envision it, it doesn’t really allow it in most cases, yet it’s going on and doubling and quadrupling every year,” he said.

Councilman Dwight Worden suggested referring the matter to the city’s planning commission.

“I think there’s a fair amount of work that needs to be done to do this right,” he said. “I don’t see that happening by jamming it on a City Council agenda or even in a special workshop. We selected planning commissioners because of their land use expertise.”

Corti, however, said that the council needs to look at the situation now.

“I believe it’s a big problem in our community,” he said. “Our citizens are screaming loud and clear that it’s causing a problem and I don’t think we can turn our head and say, ‘Let’s just get an opinion from the planning commission,’ or ‘Let’s give it some more thought.’ I’m ready to take some action on it.”

In response, Worden said he would allow short-term rentals “provided we can manage the neighbor conflicts and impacts in a way that works, provided they have a business license and provided we get TOT.

“Can we manage those impacts in way that’s going to work in Del Mar?” he asked. “To figure that out, I think there’s some homework.”

Corti said staff should be responsible for the study. “I think it’s time to take some action on it,” he said.

“There is agreement that the status quo is not acceptable,” Worden said. “We’ve got to fix it in some way. What the fix is needs some homework. Whether staff takes that on or (the) planning commission is OK with me.”

With the council in agreement that rentals should be allowed but with regulations in place, City Manager Scott Huth said he could present additional information and some solutions at the council’s next meeting Sept. 8.