Del Mar Council sends short-term rental issue to Planning Commission

The controversial issue of whether short-term vacation rentals should be allowed in Del Mar and, if so, how they should regulated, will go next before the city’s Planning Commission for consideration, under a decision made Tuesday, Jan. 17, by the City Council.

Short-term rentals, such as properties listed on such services as AirBnB, have become an issue in Del Mar and other cities, as permanent residents have complained about noise, trash, parking impacts and other issues related to the vacationers.

On the other side are Del Mar property owners who rely on the rentals for income, and note that such rentals have been happening for decades.

On Tuesday, the council decided to ask the Planning Commission to provide an opinion on whether the city’s zoning and planning rules currently allow short-term rentals in residential areas. The commission’s decision could be appealed to the City Council.

The council voted 4-1 to send the issue to the Planning Commission, with Mayor Terry Sinnott opposed.

This issue has proven controversial in Del Mar over the past year, and came up during the run-up to the November City Council election.

The city has a process in place to deal with “gray areas” in its regulations, such as the short-term rentals, which are not expressly permitted, said Councilman Dwight Worden. That process includes sending such an issue to the Planning Commission for interpretation.

“We sent it to them, hoping that would break the log-jam,” Worden said in an interview.

Based on the commission’s recommendation, he said, the council will decide what the next step should be - such as a prohibition on residential rentals of less than 30 days, or new regulations to protect permanent residents. Currently, a moratorium on new short-term rentals is in place in Del Mar, but that does not affect properties that are now used for short-term rentals.

Sinnott said after the meeting that he did not see the need to send the issue back to the Planning Commission. Instead, he said, the city should work on developing regulations to address resident complaints.

“My position has always been that the short-term rental problem is something that can be solved through careful regulation,” Sinnott said.

The commission will take up the issue at its meeting in February, said Worden. “We’re all hoping they do it pretty quickly,” he said.