Saturday, October 1 2022

Some Santa Rosa vacation rental owners planning to expand their business or register with the city will have to wait until next year to begin operating under new emergency rules approved Tuesday.

In a 5-2 vote, the Santa Rosa City Council supported limiting the number of short-term rentals where the owner does not live on the property — called non-hosted rentals — to 198 citywide. The board also barred new requests until permanent rules are passed, essentially establishing a moratorium on new unhosted rentals.

The cap represents the number of non-hosted rentals that have already been approved by staff and the 100+ requests under review.

“We clearly haven’t figured that out yet and we need to make sure we come up with some rules before we get too many people in the process and change too many things,” Mayor Chris Rogers said. “Until we have our long-term rules in place, I think it’s reasonable for us to put a cap in place now. It’s one nuance away from calling it a moratorium.

Council members Tom Schwedhelm and John Sawyer voted against the emergency ordinance, which required the support of five of the seven council members to pass. Schwedhelm said he supported the staff’s recommendation for a higher cap while Sawyer said the new rules did not address residents’ concerns and were too restrictive.

Self-catering rentals where the owner lives in the house or on the property are not affected by the new rules.

The council also backed expanding enforcement to operators in good standing who were grandfathered before the city passed short-term rental regulations last October. The council also imposed an annual renewal fee for registered vacation rentals.

The changes went into effect immediately after council voted, at the end of a three-and-a-half-hour discussion in which dozens of residents spoke during the public portion of the meeting.

The rules have left residents who say short-term rentals are a nuisance and impacted the character of their neighborhoods demanding tougher action from city officials. But the cap has angered operators who say the vacation rentals help sustain tourism and bring in thousands of dollars a year for the city.

“I personally think you should limit the number of unhosted short-term rentals to zero,” said Marie Piazza, a 35-year-old resident of northwest Santa Rosa, who said the house next door to hers had been converted into a vacation rental a few years ago. .

Santa Rosa has issued 120 permits for short-term rentals and nearly 150 applications are under review, the majority being for non-hosted rentals.

Vacation rentals generated just under $1 million — $970,000 — in lodging taxes in the 2021-22 fiscal year, which ended June 30, and brought in about $300,000. $ in permit fees, depending on the city.

Countywide, there are about 2,459 short-term rentals, including about 1,485 in unincorporated areas governed by Sonoma County, which last week passed a more sweeping set of regulations, expanding the areas where they are banned and capping the number in other areas outside of cities.

Proponents, including rental property owners, note that they help sustain a local tourism economy valued at around $2 billion a year.

But vacation rental complaints have continued to pour into City Hall since the council in October adopted a framework for short-term rentals to operate in Santa Rosa.

The ordinance was intended to reduce the risk of fire, preserve the housing stock, and protect the residential characteristics of the neighborhoods. The new rules govern where rentals can operate, who can own these properties and how many, set capacity and noise limits, prohibit rentals from being used for events and set fire safety requirements.

Planning staff hope the cap and other changes will help cope with a rush in applications filed and an increase in complaints.

Council members expressed support for more comprehensive changes to the ordinance that would address noise and public safety concerns and for more effective enforcement efforts to crack down on bad actors. Other changes are expected to come back to the board next spring.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

You can reach editor Paulina Pineda at 707-521-5268 or [email protected] On Twitter @paulinapineda22.

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