Del Mar eyes May 2018 to begin new rentals policy

The council agreed that May 2018 is the most logical date to begin enforcing the new rental policies.

Del Mar’s policy on vacation rentals is nearing its final shape to allow casual rentals and clamp down on commercial enterprises — a policy framework suited for residents looking to rent their homes while they’re out of town rather than property owners who use rentals as their primary livelihood.

With the lion’s share of decisions made last month — homes cannot be rented out for fewer than seven days at a time, and not more than four weeks per year – the city council’s discussion carried over Monday, July 17 into two hours of emotional public testimony and detailed discussion.

Many of the details are yet to be decided, but the council did agree that May 2018 is the most logical date to begin enforcing the new policies.

“But that could change for any number of reasons; we could be entangled in litigation, we could be entangled with the Coastal Commission,” said Deputy Mayor Dwight Worden.

A group of residents filed suit in June to challenge the city’s emerging regime constricting short-term rentals (STRs). Monday’s hearing drew more than a dozen homeowners who have watched aghast over the past few months as the city’s policies came together.

Marla Painter grew up on Klish Way and now uses the property as a home for extended family, while renting it out “maybe 40 nights a year.”

“We hope to pass this house on to our grandchildren. But it costs money to keep up a house, and not all of us are as wealthy as some of us in this town are,” she said. “Now, we could sell it, for a lot of money. I can tell you what would happen to it. It’s happened to many of the houses around us, and that is: the house will be torn down. The bluff will be gutted so that a lot more square footage can be built underneath. And it’ll be another drywall and marble palace for the wealthy. I don’t think that’s what you want to see for Del Mar.”

Meanwhile, the group of residents that have mobilized against STRs — Save Our Neighborhood Del Mar — took umbrage Monday night at the thought that they will have to endure STRs for another year. They believe February 2018 — when a city moratorium is set to expire — to be a “suitable and generous” deadline for enforcement.

The council also moved forward on requiring homeowners to register with the city before being allowed to rent, but shied away from requiring a business license. They also agreed to look into exempting time shares as well as a handful of properties that fall into unique zoning circumstances.

Registration would be as minimal as possible.

“One-time only registration, light easy breezy. But once they’re registered, that’s it,” said Councilwoman Sheryl Parks.

But Councilman Dave Druker took issue with the requirement.

“I think you’re making a huge mistake,” he said. “I just see where this is going to bite us back if we sit here and demand that anybody who wants to rent out their place for one week or do a home swap for one week has to come and tell the city that they’re doing that. It’s just unimaginable to me.”

The council found consensus on taking a proactive approach on enforcement and outreach.

“This is going to take a lot of public education and we have to be proactive about it,” Haviland.

The city will also look into hiring an outside company to monitor rentals and enforce the city’s eventual policies.

“There’s no way our staff is going to be able to do that,” Druker said. “If you want people not to rent for more than four weeks a year, you’re going to have to have someone outside looking daily at the Internet.”

Once the full scope of the city’s STR policy takes shape, it will head to the city planning commission for approval before facing a major hurdle with the California Coastal Commission.