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Supes approve ordinance regulating vacation rentals


The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors approved Tuesday the final and most disputed piece of a new ordinance that will govern residential-style vacation rentals in the county.

At issue was what kind of permit to require for new and existing rentals when the ordinance takes effect in January.

Supervisors decided that existing rentals with up to six guest rooms, including up to two structures, will require a basic $150 zoning permit.

New rentals qualifying for a zoning permit will be limited to five guest rooms, including up to two structures.

The remaining rentals, including new units with more than five guest rooms and existing rentals with seven or more guest rooms or more than two structures will require a use permit, which can run up to $3,800.

The rules affect up to 640 rentals in the county but do not apply to units along the coast. Other limits on noise, daytime and nighttime guests and pets were approved at a September board meeting.

The issue has generated controversy and strong opposition from rental owners, managers and real estate interests.

About a dozen speakers voiced their worries about the ordinance Tuesday, with some saying it was too heavy-handed and others saying it would harm the county’s tourism industry.

Supervisors seemed relieved to reach a final decision after working on the issue for more than a year.

It has been a county priority especially since January, when a deck built without proper permits collapsed under a crowd of young people partying at a Guerneville-area vacation rental, seriously injuring a teenage girl.

Vacation rentals currently in business but not registered with the county will have until Jan. 1 to register.

Contracts signed before Jan. 1 and extending through Sept. 1 of next year will not be subject to the ordinance.

9 Responses to “Supes approve ordinance regulating vacation rentals”

  1. bear says:

    Kay, this is NOT a property rights issue. This is a greed issue, and the only problem I have is that the BOS exempted the Coast. Especially Sea Ranch and Bodega Harbor.

    Greedy vacation rental owners have been disrupting their neighborhoods and violating building, septic and fire codes for decades. These are business operations in residential areas. Sorry you can’t grasp that point.

    Reality check: if you overload your septic system, you are likely polluting your neighbors’ groundwater. No septic system lasts more than 30-40 years, and figure way less time if you overload it. So at the core, this is a public health issue. I assume you wish to protect public health?

    Or do we have to take each individual violator to court at great public and private expense?

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  2. KEVIN says:

    Kay, The vacation home industry should not get a free ride under the banner of “Home Ownership” or “Devalued Investment Return.” It’s an industry just like any other. I don’t think you can compare those losing their primary homes to those who are renting out a vacation home for profit. I believe home ownership is paramount to the American dream. I’m just not sympathetic to people that rent out vacation properties. I believe that the county has the right to regulate this industry and to know who and where these properties are. It’s a commercial venture. The fee is not unreasonable and is less than the average vehicle registration fee. The + 7 bedrooms and 2 structures amount to a resort and should be considered one. The only question I have to all of this is what is the county going to do with the monies? Is it going to go into the general fund or will it be used to promote tourism in Sonoma County? I vote for tourism.

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  3. Kay Tokerud says:

    @Kevin Are you saying that imposing regulations and fees on property owners are of no effect? Both residential and commercial property owners have already taken a big hit by greatly diminished property values. Many have lost their properties altogether. Like other businesses, the lodging business is struggling too. It seems some people either have no knowledge of current conditions or just have an idealogical opposition to private property ownership in general.

    The problem with some people doing poor quality work or without permits won’t be solved by the new ordinance. It just requires payment by owners who rent out their property, that places an additional financial burden on them.

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  4. KEVIN says:

    Sorry Kay, you can’t get away with arguing economic compromises just because there are new rules to a non regulated industry. There are plenty examples of “Single Family Dwellings” in this county that just happened to sprout 7 bedrooms (3 bedroom perc) in the middle of established neighborhoods that have brought it traffic, parties, weddings etc., that have destroyed the tranquility of the neighborhood. I know of several resorts in the river area that advertise on the internet but won’t give out the physical address so as not to alert the county of it’s actual use.

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  5. Kay Tokerud says:

    @Notutoo What is your evidence that property owners are irresponsible? Was it the fault of the property owner that their tenants violated their agreement? If you recall the articles, the partiers were trying to get the deck to fall down. Of the hundreds to thousands of vacation rentals in Sonoma County, there was one incident resulting in injuries that I know of.

    This ordinance unfairly targets all property owners who are not irresponsible because of a freak accident not caused by a property owner. Regulations such as these place a burdon on property owners that is not warranted.

    Vacations rentals are an important element of our tourism industry. Making it more difficult for owners to have successful businesses will not help the economic recovery in Sonoma County.

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  6. NOTUTOO says:

    @ Kay Tokerud… I disagree Kay. The facts as I see them are related to irresponsible property owners. The deck is just a glaring example. To think that you can do ANYTHING with your property is naive. When you enter into a business proposition you have to expect regulations. I’m not arguing SO CO’s strict property regulations one way or the other, just that there has to be regulation for what is actually a cottage industry. I couldn’t imagine buying a property in Bodega Harbour or The Sea Ranch and have it over run by vacationers, ab divers, after prom parties etc…

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  7. Kay Tokerud says:

    Little by little they are eating away at private property rights. Now, because too many people collapsed one deck, all property owners that would like to rent out their home as a vacation rental have to pay and REGISTER with the county.

    What if people only rent their house for a few months a year or a few weeks? Are they going to have to register and pay too? How will they be able to enforce this ordinance?

    Sonoma County has some of the most anti-property rights regulations in the country. Ever read the land use section of the Sonoma County General Plan? It pretty much dictates what all land can be used for. It eliminates choices for the property owner and mandates what is allowed if anything.

    Sonoma County has recently increased setbacks for all waterways, has made septic tank regulations more stringent, water use regulations have increased, there are all sorts of easements and corridors that don’t allow any use.

    This misguided effort is just one more step in the dismantling of private property rights in Sonoma County.

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  8. coral says:

    Sounds like some sort of ‘permit’ discrimination. Building inspections should be enough to rate the weight load of decks etc. Post the weight load on the deck. If 50 idiots want to ignore the warning then they should absorb the accountability. Terrible reasoning by the board….I guess it’s time to get a permit to remove decks. I better check out the fees for that.

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  9. Dogs Rule says:

    This fee will prevent zero decks from collapsing in the future. I feel sorry for the folks who have to pay this tax because that’s what it is. A tax with a big excuse of “safety.”

    If you live near a vacation home where there are parties going on night and day, how will a $3,800 permit solve that? The permit gets yanked after a year of wrangling and court fights? Why is this the model for everything we do in Sonoma County?

    The Supervisors control all our lives in one way or another and it’s getting damn scary.

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