In an impressive display of civic responsibility, the City Council is systematically working its way toward a resolution of one of our most complicated challenges: how and where we will allow short term rentals (STRs) to operate. Guided by the expertise and patience of housing and legal staff members, the Council is piecing together the components of a policy compromise that is unlikely to satisfy either faction but will eventually produce an ordinance that can win the support of the Coastal Commission and the state Housing Department.
Many residents assert that STRs are businesses like mini-motels that should not be allowed in residential zones, and are concerned that STRs effectively reduce our housing stock, making it more difficult and expensive for families who want to live in Del Mar as full-time residents. STR operators assert property rights and historical patterns as justification for their continued use. The City Council has been engaged in a many-month public engagement process to find a compromise.
The effort will continue for several more months but the direction seems to be toward setting a cap of 129 STRS, based on 5% of the City’s total dwelling units; requiring all STRs to get a permit ,collect TOT hotel taxes, and comply with a good neighbor policy, and not allowing ADUs to be used as STRs. New STRs would be limited to the owner’s primary residence (occupied by the owner at least 6 months/year), and permits for new STRs would not be issued for owners who are business entities or who are operating a full-time STR, or for owners with more than one STR. Those currently operating STRs would be issued permits, even if the cap is temporarily exceeded, and even for STRs not meeting these restrictions for new STRs. These nonconforming STRs would phase out over time (e.g., sale of property).
At least some of the tax revenue would be allocated for enforcement, to minimize STR impacts on neighborhoods. Under these provisions, the North Beach zone would experience the largest impact with 60% of existing STRs operating there.
This STR effort is just one piece of a larger puzzle requiring us to deal with our affordable housing challenge and a vacancy rate of at least 24% reducing the number of full-time residents involved in community engagement.
The stakes are high in all of these endeavors for us to continue to make progress in fulfilling the vision of a small town village atmosphere called out in our Community Plan. This STR process is still wide open for public input. If you care about preserving the character of Del Mar, this is a good time get informed and involved.