Tag: Cap

Sonoma County supervisors extend vacation rental cap to December

Sonoma County will keep in place at least through the end of the year a cap on the number of vacation rentals allowed to operate outside of cities, as county supervisors Tuesday sought to buy time before potentially imposing a longer-lasting limit.

The measure, adopted on an emergency basis, extends the temporary countywide cap of 1,948 vacation rental properties enacted by the board Aug. 18, but it does so on a shorter timeline. A proposal by staff would have kept the limit in place for up to 22 months.

The limit also has some wiggle room, part of what Supervisor Lynda Hopkins called “a very messy compromise,” that could have the board revisit the cap if it is reached between now and the end of 2020.

Hopkins spurred the wider discussion, with support from Supervisor Susan Gorin, the board chair. The two represent opposite sides of the county, the west and east, with the highest concentration of vacation rentals outside of cities.

The measure is intended to prevent transformation of a wider share of existing housing into short-term rentals, ensuring more homes remain for residents.

Industry groups have generally bristled at such limits and the board has balked in previous years at setting a hard cap on vacation rentals, wary of their value for property owners and the tourism-dependent local economy.

The full board was split over a cap and eventually settled on a compromise crafted by Hopkins: a shorter-term limit and the option of revisiting it before December if necessary to accommodate new applicants.

County staff, however, have pointed to at least 400 idle permits that could potentially be purged to open up more slots. They said it was unlikely new applicants would be denied in the next three months due to any constraints imposed by the cap.

The short-term limits are the first step in a planning effort expected to take at least a year. Staff members also promised to come back with more data in March before being able to craft a comprehensive strategy in the fall of 2021 at the earliest.

Gore said he would not support extending the cap beyond the first of the year. Zane said the county should be welcoming tourists back into Sonoma County, and a cap sends the wrong message. Rabbitt questioned whether the new regulation would resolve any of the long-standing issues with housing.

“I’ve never been a fan of moratoriums,” Rabbitt said. “I think they’re the absolute last nuclear option when it comes to land use. It’s the wrong way to go. I think the duty when a moratorium is brought forward is to move expeditiously forward to help solve the problem. But we haven’t identified what the problem is.”

For Hopkins and Gorin, the problem is two-fold: First, a dense concentration of vacation rentals along the lower Russian River and in the Sonoma Valley, leading to complaints of noise, traffic and general decline in quality of life; and second, their concerns about the proliferation of vacation rentals and

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Vacation Rentals In Sonoma County: Supervisors Extend Cap

By Jeremy Hay, Bay City News Foundation

SONOMA COUNTY, CA — Sonoma County supervisors on Tuesday reached an agreement to extend for three months a cap on the number of vacation rentals in the county, a far cry from the 22 months staff had sought. The unanimous vote kept the ceiling for the number of vacation rentals at 1,948 — the number of existing permitted rentals — until mid-December.

The cap was adopted as an urgency ordinance that the board approved Aug. 18 and that was to expire Oct. 2. The cap applies only to the unincorporated areas of the county, not its cities.

The Tuesday vote came about through a last-minute compromise that overcame the objections of three supervisors who were leaning against extending the cap at all.

Under the proposal fashioned by Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, the countywide limit expires in December but at that time, county staff is to present a new proposal addressing only those areas of the county most impacted by vacation rentals, the Russian River and Sonoma Valley.

The board on Tuesday at first appeared poised to reject entirely on a 3-2 vote the proposal to extend the cap.

“I want to help you solve your problems within those distinct areas in your district but I don’t think a moratorium and the extension of a moratorium is the answer,” Supervisor David Rabbitt said to Hopkins and Supervisor Susan Gorin, the board chairperson, whose district includes Sonoma Valley.

But one last attempt by Hopkins — whose district includes the Russian River communities of Guerneville, Forestville, Monte Rio and Rio Nido — to fashion a short-term solution won out.

“This isn’t a black and white issue,” she said, responding to complaints that the proposed cap could hurt the local economy, especially the tourism sector, was unfair to individual property owners, and was a blanket solution to a problem impacting only certain parts of the county. Both she and Gorin — whose Sonoma Valley district has the most vacation rentals in the county —acknowledged that a countywide cap was an imperfect tool.

“We do have a problem,” Hopkins said. “How do we go about approaching that problem in a more targeted way.”

She described the lower Russian River as being once a place of holiday cabins and vacationing San Francisco residents but that has evolved into a year-round “live and work” community that is starting to “erode” under the pressure of vacation rentals.

Gorin said, “I’m not necessarily supportive of this approach, never have been, it’s an urgency mechanism to tackle some of the issues … I would be looking for a way to put a cap on those areas that we have identified temporarily.”

A Saturday party at a vacation rental in Gorin’s district led to gunfire that hit five homes; no one was injured. But the other supervisors made clear they wouldn’t be on board with the countywide cap for much longer.

“Coming back, I’m not going to be voting to keep my district in a

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