Del Mar wants to create a short-term rental registry

Del Mar City Hall
(Jon Clark)

The registry is designed to guide local STR regulations that the City Council wants to enact after years of conflict in adopting one


Del Mar wants to form a registry of short-term rentals that have operated within the city to help guide the terms of a new set of local regulations, based on City Council direction during a Sept. 5 meeting.

“I want to make really clear, this is not for any exercise of collecting data for enforcement,” Del Mar City Manager Ashley Jones said. “This is for collecting data to develop regulations to ensure people’s units are recognized and can be accommodated through whatever regulations are identified by the council and ultimately approved.”

But council members were also skeptical about whether STR hosts would participate in the city’s outreach efforts.

“I think the database collection is super important, it would be great to have it,” Del Mar City Councilmember Dwight Worden said. “I’m just not sure you’re going to get a lot of volunteers.”

The City Council will discuss parameters of the potential short-term rental ordinance at its Oct. 2 meeting (rescheduled from the Sept. 18 agenda). Some of the provisions could include specifications for STR activity based on certain zones within the city, special regulations for STRs that are hosted (meaning the owner also resides in the property while renting), the permitting process, and charging transient occupancy tax.

The city’s current short-term rental law is a “forbearance” policy that allows properties to operate as STRs if they can prove they were in operation before April 2016.

Since the city of Del Mar is in the coastal zone, the California Coastal Commission would also have to approve the ordinance. According to city staff, the commission has considered STR ordinances for cities throughout the state on a case-by-case basis, meaning there aren’t strong precedents in place for what would be acceptable. Del Mar has been evaluating short-term rental policies that are already in effect in comparable cities.

Other coastal cities have enacted short-term rental policies, including Solana Beach, Encinitas, Carlsbad and Oceanside. But code compliance records have shown unpermitted short-term rentals have persisted.

Del Mar’s past efforts to approve short-term rental regulations have faced legal challenges, disputes with the Coastal Commission and, more recently, delays from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Del Mar resident Jennifer McDowell, who is also a short-term rental operator in the city, mentioned the local history of STRs during public comment. For decades, they have served vacationers, horse racing fans and students.

“We like to have reasonable, good-neighbor policies in place through the city of Del Mar,” McDowell said.

But short-term rental sites such as Airbnb and Vrbo have revolutionized the practice in recent years, causing concerns ranging from neighborhood nuisances to housing units essentially being erased from the market if they are used exclusively for STRs.

According to a city staff report, the potential STR policy would reduce vacancy rates in units that do not have long-term tenants.

“The intent is to protect the residential character of neighborhoods in residential zones by creating new opportunities for STRs in commercial zones and maintaining the majority of dwelling units in residential zones for long-term housing,” the report said.


3:31 p.m. Sept. 11, 2023: The city rescheduled the next short-term rental discussion to an Oct. 2 council meeting. The city had initially said it would be on Sept. 18.