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Strong Stand
Ann Gardner | Via Latina

These events sponsored by the Del Mar Foundation - the Picnic at Powerhouse
Park and New Earth Day, - show the vibrant residential community that
Del Mar enjoys, and that the Council is seeking to protect by
making sure our neighborhoods are for residents,
and not for mini-hotels.
Photos Bill Morris and Julie Maxey-Allison.
Click to enlarge.

On Monday October 16, after over two years of controversy, the preservation of Del Mar’s core residential character won out over the “ramped up” proliferation of short term rentals (under 30 days) taking root in neighborhoods zoned for one-family dwelling units. On a 4 to 1 (Sinnott) vote the Council approved the introduction of an ordinance that limits short term rentals to a maximum of 28 days total per year, with a seven-day minimum per rental, in all residential neighborhoods. In the end, the decision turned more on the irreplaceable contribution of residents to neighborhood and community life and the loss of long term housing, rather than issues of noise, trash and parking sometimes associated with short term rentals. “Regulating behavior does not solve the problem,” Councilmember Druker commented before the vote. “It is a zoning issue.”

In September the Planning Commission had rejected the Council’s proposed limitations based on an alleged lack of data on the impact of short term rentals. The Council had the option of accepting the Commission’s recommendation to study the issue for another year or moving ahead.

The early testimony of many residents on October 16 was an expression of appreciation for the Council’s efforts to hear both sides of the issue, and the proposed ordinance which allows limited short term rentals without diminishing Del Mar’s essential neighborhood character and community participation. Many saw it as a reasonable compromise. Former Councilmember Abarbanel kicked off public input with comments that were reflected by follow up speakers. “How we use our property is a struggle at Del Mar’s core since we incorporated. I ask that you remember why you moved here. We moved here for the neighborhood, for the life of a community,” he said. Bud Emerson warned against monetizing for profit: “We will lose our soul.”

An equal number of speakers criticized the proposed ordinance, calling out harm to persons who will lose income, the historical precedent, California Coastal Commission cautions regarding the lack of beach access for visitors, and possible loss of visitor revenue. One speaker warned against “urban decay.” Attorney Cory Briggs, who has filed suit against the City on behalf of the Del Mar Alliance over the Council’s earlier interpretation that STRs are not allowed in residential zones under the Community Plan and current zoning, described legal issues with the proposed ordinance. He also accused the community of being WOW, “Well Off and White.” Recognizing the comment as an exception, most speakers acknowledged the general civility of both the public’s comments and City Council discussion.
Several points were emphasized. Councilmember Haviland read a list of California cities with stricter limits on short term rental than Del Mar: Coronado, Santa Barbara, Carmel, Long Beach, Huntington Beach, Hermosa Beach and Imperial Beach. “We are not an outlier,” she said. Haviland also said she had received a number of calls from residents who were worried that the Council was taking away their ability to rent out their homes for a month or six weeks. She made clear that rentals of 30 days or more are allowed in all residential zones without limitation.

There seemed to be a consensus that a “forbearance period” for short-term rentals in operation before the 2016 moratorium should exist until the amendments to the City’s Local Coastal Program allowing short-term rentals under terms of the ordinance are formally enacted, with Coastal Commission approval.

 

 

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