Ann Gardner | Via Latina
After months of research, public input and discussion, City Council continues to dodge making a decision on the short term rental issue. Council subcommittee members Terry Sinnott and Dwight Worden presented two reworked options at the September 19 Council meeting after a four-step approach beginning with a two-day minimum stay was rejected in August as “too lenient.” New Option A, supported by Sinnott, would allow short term rentals for a minimum of 7 days from June through August (“peak season”) and a minimum of 29 days the rest of the year (“off season”). Option B, supported by Worden, would disallow short term rentals in residential zones with a 14-day exemption modeled on the IRS rule that treats rentals totaling 14 days or fewer per year as a non-business activity, so that the income does not need to be reported.
Staff presented an advisory review of legal and enforcement issues that had also been requested at the August 1 meeting. The report included a summary of short term rental (STR) policies in other coastal cities and noted that any new ordinances regulating STRs would need California Coastal Commission approval. The report did not address Worden’s contention that Option B could be implemented without any new ordinances, avoiding CCC review. Staff recommended that Council consider both options as a pilot program during an extended moratorium for any new short term rentals. Speakers, asked to speak specifically to the two options, were divided sharply between support for Option B and those who spoke against any restrictions.
Seeking clearer guidance on whether Del Mar could take enforcement action against STRs under current law, Mayor Parks asked City Attorney Leslie Devaney whether Councilmember Worden’s statement that Del Mar’s Community Plan, Zoning Code and Local Coastal Program do not allow STRs in Del Mar’s residential areas was a legally defensible interpretation of the Community Plan and zoning code. Devaney said “Yes, that is a legally defensible position.” She added, “In fact we told Councilmember Worden that his whole memorandum was legally defensible. It would be a good argument to make - one argument.”
ouncilmember Sinnott asked what the other argument was. Devaney responded that there were risks associated with either side of the issue. “We can defend any way you go. It is a policy call of yours. We will defend whatever you decide.”
“I still don’t know,” Councilmember Corti said citing his ongoing concern about litigation. Corti has indicated he would prefer to enforce existing law that STRs are not allowed in residential zones if that were legally possible, but evidently was not reassured by the City Attorney’s statement that that would be a legally defensible approach. In fact, individual councilmembers generally were sticking with their original positions: Councilmembers Parks and Worden object to allowing STRs in residential zones while Sinnott prefers an “allow but regulate” approach and Mosier said he preferred a distinction between “full-time, year-round STRs” and residents who occasionally rent out their homes. Some asked specifically for more data on what changes are taking place in residential neighborhoods because of the increase in short term rentals, for instance how many long term rentals have converted to short term.
By unanimous vote the Council agreed to submit their lingering questions to the City Manager who will research consultants available to answer those specific questions, come back with a budget and a scope of work. There seemed to be a consensus that the Council did not support year-round short term rental businesses in residential zones: “short term rental businesses do not have a place in our neighborhoods.” They also agreed that short term rentals were not significant enough in the seventies to be covered in the Community Plan. “It is a missing chapter,” Sinnott said, “a new activity.”
In the meantime a motion to enact a second one-year-and-a-half moratorium on any new short term rentals is on the October 3 Council agenda, and the issue promises to be a hot topic for candidates in the November 8 City Council election for three seats. One candidate in the audience suggested the Council postpone the decision until after the election.