11/18/21 Planning Commission Workshop UPDATE Presentation

Vacation Rental Ordinance Update (ORD21-0005)

The LINK to the January 20th public hearing on updating the VACATION RENTAL ORDINANCE has now been posted: https://sonomacounty.ca.gov/…/Planning-Commission…/

Members of the public can watch or listen to the meeting by calling in or by using the Zoom application:
Telephone: 1 (669) 900-9128
WebinarID: 951 1671 1151
Password: 404867

November 18,  2021
STAFF: Gary Helfrich
Supervisorial District(s): All
Location: Countywide

VIDEO of full presentation: https://sonomacounty.zoom.us/rec/play/XhPpcM8iNXRPnCbl0RElykI3JQEwpF30Wbje16srPH8YAdS1JUTUBlbFTOOtvYD3zGrhl17a9rUVUldD.FcpWuTYa-KoM1SLE?continueMode=true&_x_zm_rtaid=qvVJR1MqSKKDlhFACRKoJw.1641441493526.25eda5f49a68865182d980ae178df59d&_x_zm_rhtaid=412

READ this presentation by Gary Helfrich that gives you the most comprehensive education on the difference between our CURRENT ordinance and the PROPOSED REVISIONS:
SEND your comments to Permit Sonoma PRIOR to the January 20, 2022 Public Hearing
EMAIL to: Gary.Helfrich@sonoma-county.org and/or Email: PRMD-VacationRentals@Sonoma-County.org.
Permit Sonoma
Vacation Rentals
2550 Ventura Avenue
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
PLEASE SHARE so the commission gets as many letters as possible to help them make decisions that impact the future of our neighborhoods.


This report provides background, describes current efforts and identifies next steps to develop an updated Vacation Rental Ordinance (Section 26-88-120). This is an informational item to provide information and policy options for consideration by the Planning Commission as directed by the Board of Supervisors at their July 20, 2021 workshop. Staff request that the Planning Commission receive public comment and provide direction to staff for preparation of a draft Vacation Rental Ordinance tentatively scheduled to be heard on January 20, 2022.

The agenda will be posted 3 days prior to the meeting.
Meeting will be conducted via Zoom.



On March 15, 2016, the Board of Supervisors adopted Ordinance 6145, establishing the current regulations of vacation rentals in unincorporated Sonoma County outside of the Coastal Zone. Regulation of vacation rentals in the Coastal Zone would require amendments to the Local Coastal Plan and Coastal Zoning Ordinance. Ordinance 6145 also established the Vacation Rental Exclusion Combining District (X-Zone), which prohibits vacation rentals in certain areas to preserve housing stock, protect neighborhood character, and avoid adding vacation rentals to areas with access limitations and high fire severity.

The current ordinance can be found BELOW and Attachment 1:
Sec. 26-88-120. Vacation rentals.

Direction from the Board of Supervisors:

On December 15, 2020, the Board of Supervisors adopted an urgency ordinance extending a more refined temporary cap on vacation rentals in specified locations within the unincorporated areas of the 1st and 5th Supervisorial Districts, as well as directed Permit Sonoma staff to return to the Board on July 20, 2021 with additional data and recommendations to improve the Vacation Rental program. After considering staff recommendations and input from stakeholders at the July 20, 2021 meeting, the Board of Supervisors directed staff to:

(1) Conduct public outreach and informational workshops with stakeholders to help inform policy development.

(2) Study the potential impact that Vacation Rentals may have on housing prices and housing availability.

(3) Identify process that will shift from a zoning permit to business license program that will apply uniform standards countywide, including the Coastal Zone.

(4) Improve tools for applications, reporting and resolving complaints, neighborhood notification, and enforcement of standards.

(5) Improve standards for parking, road access, emergency response, water and wastewater capacity, and wildfire risk.

(6) Develop land use policies to address Vacation Rental proximity and concentration in areas where high levels may adversely affect public health and safety, or neighborhood character.

Staff has developed policy options and process improvements based on a 3-month long public outreach program and research into best practices in other jurisdictions for consideration and recommendation by the Planning Commission. Based on direction received at this workshop, staff will prepare a draft ordinance and conduct additional public outreach in anticipation of bringing a draft Vacation Rental Ordinance to the Planning Commission on January 20, 2022.

Policy options materials from the July 20, 2021 Board of Supervisors meeting, including staff report and video of the hearing are available at: https://sonoma-county.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=5028766&GUID=8D2A9DC4-B392-47B9-9404-6D8B696CB155. Policy options, and summary of regulations in surrounding areas is also provided.


The Board of Supervisors adopted the current Vacation Rental Code in March of 2016 (Ordinance 6145, Section 26-88-120 of Sonoma County Municipal Code) (SEE BELOW for full text of current ordinance).

Key provisions are:

1. Defines “vacation rental” as the short-term rental of homes for less than 30 days at a time where the primary owner is not in residence;

2. Establishes performance standards that include limits on occupancy and guestrooms; maximum number of guests and daytime visitors, parking, trash facilities, amplified sound, and neighborhood notification; · Allows only one rental per parcel;

3. Does not allow vacation rental permitting of accessory dwelling units, multi-family units, affordable housing units, farmworker housing, farm family units, or on lands under a Williamson Act contract; Tents, yurts, RVs, and other provisions intended for temporary occupancy are not allowed as a part of a vacation rental; and

4. Rentals must have a certified property manager who lives within 30 miles of each rental and must respond to complaints within 60 minutes during the day and 30 minutes during quiet hours during any rental period.

Fiscal Year 21/22 fees for a vacation rental permit are $638 with an annual monitoring fee of $224. Property managers pay a one-time $67 certification fee, and changes in property management is subject to an $88 fee. Per County Municipal Code Section 12-11, permitted vacation rentals must remit payment of Transient Occupancy Tax, which is 12% of lodging revenue paid quarterly.

Ordinance 6145 also established Vacation Rental Exclusion Combining District that prohibits vacation rentals in the following areas outside the Coastal Zone:

1. Areas where there is inadequate road access or off-street parking;

2. Areas where the prevalence of vacation rentals is detrimental to the residential character of neighborhoods;

3. Areas where the residential housing stock is to be protected from conversion to visitor-serving uses;

4. Areas where, because of topography, access or vegetation, there is a significant fire hazard;

5. Areas where residential character is to be preserved or preferred; and

6. Other areas where the board of supervisors determines that it is in the public interest to prohibit the establishment and operation of vacation rentals.


The current County practice to regulate vacation rentals through land use would require amending the Local Coastal Plan and Coastal Zoning Code, then have these amendments certified by the Coastal Commission as being consistent with the provisions of the Coastal Act. The Coastal Commission considers lodging provided by vacation rentals to be an important component of coastal access, and Commission staff has indicated that a Coastal Zoning Code amendment restricting vacation rentals on the basis of protecting housing or preserving neighborhood character would be difficult to certify. Commission staff indicated that a business license program establishing and regulating performance standards, without limiting location or number of Vacation Rentals, would likely be consistent with the Coastal Act, allowing inland performance standards to be applied in the Coastal Zone.

As there are not currently any provisions in the Coastal Zoning Ordinance regulating vacation rentals, the only current requirement to operate a vacation rental in the Coastal Zone is to obtain a Transient Occupancy Tax certificate and pay taxes on a timely basis. The County has no other regulatory mechanism at this time in the Coastal Zone.


Public Outreach

Permit Sonoma Staff has presented workshops at meeting of Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission, Springs Municipal Advisory Council, Lower Russian River Municipal Advisory Council, Sonoma Coast Municipal Advisory Council, Geyserville Planning Committee, The Sea Ranch Association, Mission Highlands Homeowners Association, and Gehricke Rd Fire Safe Council. Outreach to industry stakeholder groups included North Bay Association of Realtors, Sonoma Coast Vacation Rental Owners, Sonoma County Coalition of Hosts, and The Sea Ranch Hosting Coalition.

Topics and comments raised during public outreach include:

1. Support for a licensing program was high among all groups, as was improved enforcement of standards. Industry groups were especially strong in support of a limiting Vacation Rental license to no more than two licenses per person.

2. Establishing a 24- hour complaint hotline, similar to the system used in Marin County, enjoyed near universal support from the public and industry stakeholders.

3. The public and industry stakeholders expressed concern regarding businesses that own and operate multiple Vacation Rentals. There was support for strengthening the existing policy prohibiting corporate operation of Vacation Rentals and limit licenses or permits to two per person.

4. The public and industry stakeholders support better enforcement of current Vacation Rental standards. Industry stakeholders also supported creating additional performance standards for property managers.

5. Industry stakeholders felt that the application process could be streamlined and simplified.

6. Process for neighbor notification of a Vacation Rental is inconsistent.

7. Vacation Rentals may interfere with evacuation during emergencies, especially during wildfires in areas with limited access. Renters should be provided with an evacuation plan, and property managers should be responsible for making sure that guests have left the premises when an evacuation order is issued.

8. The term “business license” may create problems with interpretation by home owners associations and CC&Rs that restrict business use of homes.

9. Regulation of vacation rentals by location, proximity, concentration, and rental days remains controversial. Residents who live near Vacation Rentals were strongly in favor of additional limits on vacation rentals, and industry stakeholders are skeptical that limits can be fairly implemented and are necessary in most situations.

Vacation Rental Impact on Housing

Through a Department Head authorization, staff has selected the services of Economic Forensics & Analytics to conduct a study of the impact of vacation rentals on the County’s housing stock. An administrative draft has been prepared, but gathering data necessary to generate actionable recommendations has proved more difficult than anticipated, as data sources with similar spatial boundaries are not available in all cases. Additionally, the housing market is influenced by multiple inputs, making it challenging to isolate the impact of Vacation Rentals on the housing market.

Economic Forensics & Analytics is in the process of gathering and analyzing additional data and report is still under review by County staff. It is anticipated the draft report will be released later this year.

Business License Program

Sonoma County remains the only jurisdiction in the Bay area that lacks a comprehensive business license program, and the only license program currently operating in Sonoma County is the Sonoma County Tobacco Retail License (Attachment 2 below). The significant advantage a license offers as compared to a Zoning Permit is streamlining enforcement and providing additional tools, such as progressive civil penalties, license suspension, and administrative revocation that are not available with a Zoning Permit.

Permit Sonoma Staff is proposing to use the Tobacco Retail License program as a template, and is recommending that the license be referred to as a “Vacation Rental License” rather than “Business License” to clarify this is a residential use.

Permit Sonoma staff recommends that a Vacation Rental License program be a component of the Vacation Rental Ordinance update with the following provisions in addition to those found in the current Vacation Rental Ordinance:

1. Vacation Rental Licenses automatically expire one year after the date issued and must be renewed. Renewal may be denied for Vacation Rentals with more than three violations within 12 months of the renewal date.

2. Vacation Rental Licenses are limited to one license per parcel

3. A Vacation Rental License shall not be issued to property owned by a corporation, as defined in Section 100-195 of the California Corporation Code.

4. No more than two Vacation Rental licenses shall be issued simultaneously to an individual.

5. Zoning permits issued for vacation rentals will automatically convert to a business license at least one year, but not more than two years from the effective date of the ordinance. Conversion will be on the same calendar day and month as the Zoning Permit was issued. Permits issued on February 29 of a leap year will convert on March 1. No fee is associated with the initial conversion, but fees will be required upon renewal.

Monitoring, Performance Standards, and Enforcement

Complaint Hotline

Permit Sonoma is currently evaluating vendors to provide a 24/7/365 complaint hotline. This is a process improvement that can be implemented under the current ordinance. The Vacation Rental hotline is a staffed central point of for all short term rental complaints and provides a simple easy to use reporting system. The hotline will log the call or text, contact the property manager, record the action taken, and contact the complainant to verify that problem has been resolved. Information collected will go into a reporting database, allowing Permit Sonoma to monitor performance of both Vacation Rentals and property managers.

Property Manager Performance Standards

Under the current ordinance, the property manager has limited accountability for resolving complaints. While Vacation Rental owners may have their permit or license revoked for non-compliance with standards, there is not a similar mechanism in the current code to revoke certification of property managers that fail to meet standards for responding to and resolving complaints. Staff recommends adding a performance standard section for property managers. This section would establish thresholds for suspension or revocation of a property manager certificate for repeated failure to adequately respond to and resolve complaints.


Hazards and Evacuation

Staff recommends the following additions and modifications to the Vacation Rental Standards found in the current ordinance:

1. Evacuation plan: Vacation Rentals shall provide guests with a written evacuation plan identifying the Vacation Rental evacuation zone, evacuation route, and the Calfire Evacuation Checklist. Guests shall be informed that they are required to leave the property when a Voluntary Evacuation Order is issued by Calfire for their evacuation zone. The property manager is responsible for verifying that guests have been evacuated.

2. Emergency evacuation: Vacation Rental license or permit holders and Certified Property Managers of a Vacation Rental that does not comply with a voluntary or mandatory evacuation order are subject to permanent revocation of the Vacation Rental license and/or permit, and/or and permanent de-certification of the Certified Property Manager.

3. Additional restriction on outdoor fire areas: Outdoor burning, other than gas-fired appliances and gas-fired barbecues, is prohibited during Calfire Declaration of Fire Season and during Red Flag warnings outside of the Declared Fire Season.

Proximity and Concentration

The only regulation currently available to limit vacation rentals is the Vacation Rental Exclusion Zone. Staff has found this to be a limited tool, and often has the effect of concentrating Vacation Rentals in nearby areas. At this time there are also temporary caps on Vacation Rentals in the burn zones, and specific areas of Sonoma Valley and the Lower Russian River. Evaluating the success of these measures has been difficult due to the impact of COVID-19 on the tourism industry, but staff feels that other tools, such as limits on proximity, concentration, and rental days, are better suited at balancing the needs of Vacation Rental owners and the neighborhoods where they are located.

Proximity is the distance between vacation rentals, concentration if the percentage of homes within a given area being uses as Vacation Rentals, and rental days is a limit on how many days per year a Vacation Rental may operate. Staff is not recommending specific guidelines at this time, but review of other jurisdictions show the following standards:

1. Proximity – A proximity standard is generally applied in areas with high residential density, with the intent to prevent individual residents from being surrounded by Vacation Rentals. Proximity is not an effective policy in areas with large parcels. Staff recommends a proximity limit of 300-500 feet between Vacation Rental represents an effective distance.

2. Density – A density of 10% was used by Permit Sonoma staff to establish the recent Vacation Rental Cap in the Guerneville area. Density is an effective tool for managing Vacation Rentals in areas where Vacation Rentals are distributed evenly and the goal is to preserve neighborhood character.

3. Rental Days – Many jurisdiction limit all Vacation Rentals to a specific number of days per year, and the most common limit is 90 days per year. Rental day limits reduce the intensity of Vacation Rentals and may be an effective alternative to proximity or density limits.


Off street parking is limited in many areas of Sonoma County, and often these areas are served by extremely narrow roads where on-street parking may interfere with emergency response. Additionally, the current ordinance is not clear on how a parking space is defined. Staff recommends the following standards for parking:

1. One on-site parking space for a Vacation Rental with up to two guestrooms or sleeping rooms

2. Two on-site parking spaces for a Vacation Rental with up to four guestrooms.

3. Three on-site parking spaces for a Vacation Rental with up to five guestrooms.

4. Off-street parking areas shall conform to standards of Sonoma County Code Section 26-82-030(q) Where on-site parking is limited or unavailable, one on-street parking space may be substituted for the required off street parking. Vacation Rentals with no on-site parking are limited to four persons.

5. Vacation Rentals may not block or obstruct parking on public streets, and signs may not be posted that “reserve” on-street parking for Vacation Rental guests or in any way indicate that parking on a public right of way is reserved for private use.

6. Vacation Rentals using on-street parking must demonstrate that adequate space is available on the public road for vehicles to be parked at least six feet from the road centerline, and provide a space that is twenty-four feet long by eight feet wide, consistent with Section 26-82-030(q). Where the roadway is less than twenty feet wide, evidence of adequate on-street parking area, in the form of photographs and/or drawings, shall be provided as part of the license application. Vacation Rentals are not permitted where no on-site parking exists and on-street parking is prohibited, or road width is inadequate to allow vehicles to park at least six feet from the road centerline.

Recommendations and Next Steps

1. Provide staff with direction on incorporating policy options identified in this memo to develop a Draft Vacation Rental Ordinance

2. Staff will review the Draft Vacation Rental Ordinance scope and conduct environmental review consistent with the requirements of CEQA

3. Public outreach will continue throughout development of the Draft Vacation Rental Ordinance.

4. Staff anticipates bringing the Draft Vacation Rental Ordinance back to the Planning Commission on January 20, 2022 for public hearing.

The agenda will be posted 3 days prior to the meeting.
Meeting will be conducted via Zoom.



Attachment 1. Current Vacation Rental Code Section 26-88-120
Attachment 1 Current Ordinance.

Attachment 2. Ordinance 6149 Tobacco Retail License
Attachment 2 Ordinance No. 6149

Attachment 3. July 20, 2020 BOS Regulation Summary and Policy Options
Attachment 3 Regulations in surrounding jurisdictions – Policy Options

Sec. 26-88-120. Vacation rentals.

(a) Purpose. This section provides requirements and standards for the operation of vacation rentals. These standards are intended to ensure that vacation rentals are compatible with and do not adversely impact surrounding residential and agricultural uses.

(b) Applicability. The provisions of the section shall apply to all vacation rentals except where there is a primary owner in residence. This section does not apply to legally established hosted rentals or bed and breakfast inns, which are regulated by Section 26-88-118. As used in this section, “primary owner” does not include residences or condominiums owned as a timeshare, limited liability partnership or corporation, or fractional ownership of six (6) or more interests. Vacation rentals shall not be permitted in non-habitable structures, nor on parcels where the AH Combining Zone or the X Combining Zone have been placed. Vacation rentals shall also not be permitted within second dwelling units, nor in structures or dwellings with county covenants or agreements restricting their use including but not limited to affordable housing units, agricultural employee units, farmworker housing, farm family units, or on lands under a Williamson Act contract. Tents, yurts, RVs, and other provisions intended for temporary occupancy are not allowed as a part of a vacation rental.

(c) Permits Required. Vacation rentals that meet the standards outlined in this section shall be allowed as provided by the underlying zone, subject to issuance of a zoning permit. Vacation rentals that do not meet the standards in this section may be permitted, subject to the granting of a use permit.

(d) Term of Permit. Zoning permits shall run with the landowner and shall automatically expire upon sale or transfer of the property. Use permits shall run with the land but may be issued for limited term, as specified by the decision-maker. Both types of permits may be revoked for failure to comply with adopted standards, subject to the administrative and revocation procedures of Article 92 unless otherwise specified by this section.

(e) Permit Requirements.

1. Maximum Number of Guestrooms. Vacation rentals may have a maximum of five (5) guestrooms or sleeping rooms. Vacation rentals with more than five (5) guestrooms or sleeping rooms may only be allowed if adequate sewage disposal capacity exists and neighborhood compatibility can be demonstrated, subject to the granting of a use permit. For purposes of determining the appropriate level of permit required, the actual number of bedrooms in the structure plus any additional rooms intended or used for sleeping shall be used.

2. Maximum Overnight Occupancy. Maximum overnight occupancy for vacation rentals shall be up to a maximum of two (2) persons per sleeping room or guestroom, plus two (2) additional persons per property, up to a maximum of twelve (12) persons, excluding children under three (3) years of age. Vacation rentals with larger overnight occupancies may only be allowed subject to the granting of a use permit. For homes on a conditional or non-standard septic system, or those with capacity limited by a voluntary repair, the maximum overnight occupancy for vacation rentals shall be equal to the design load of the septic system. The property owner shall ensure that all contracts and online listings and advertisements clearly set forth the maximum number of overnight guests permitted at the property.

3. Maximum Number of Guests and Daytime Visitors. The maximum number of total guests and visitors allowed at any time in a single vacation rental shall not exceed the maximum overnight occupancy plus six (6) additional persons per property during the daytime, or eighteen (18) persons, whichever is less, excluding children under three (3) years of age. Daytime visitors shall not be on the property during quiet hours. Vacation rentals with larger numbers of guests and visitors may only be allowed subject to the granting of a use permit. Notwithstanding, maximum guest limits may be exceeded on the following national holidays: Easter, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve

Created: 2021-10-15 11:07:21 [EST] (Supp. No. 56) Page 1 of 5

Created: 2021-10-15 11:07:21 [EST] (Supp. No. 56) Page 2 of 5

and Christmas, so long as the holiday event does not otherwise trigger the requirement for a special or cultural events permit.

4. Limit on Number of Residences or Structures per Parcel. Only a single family residence, and a legally established guest house meeting current standards shall be used as a vacation rental. Only one (1) tenant shall be allowed on-site at any given time: Only one (1) transient rental is allowed per parcel. Parcels containing multiple residences or habitable structures may only be used as vacation rentals subject to the granting of a use permit, except that two (2) residences or structures may be used when the total number of guestrooms does not exceed five (5).

5. Parking. Parking shall be provided as follows: a minimum of one (1) on-site parking space for a vacation rental with up to two (2) guestrooms or sleeping rooms; two (2) on-site parking spaces for a three (3) or four (4) guestroom vacation rental. Larger vacation rentals must demonstrate adequate parking with a minimum of three (3) spaces. On-street parking may be considered for up to one (1) of the required parking spaces; otherwise, the number of vehicles allowed for overnight guests shall be limited to the off-street parking available, as demonstrated by the application materials and the property checklist, but shall not exceed one (1) vehicle per bedroom. This maximum number of vehicles permitted for guests shall be clearly set forth in all rental agreements and in all online advertisements and listings.

(f) Performance Standards.

1. Noise Limits. All activities associated with the vacation rental shall meet the general plan noise standards contained below. Quiet hours shall be from 10:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. The property owner shall ensure that the quiet hours and limits on outdoor activities are included in rental agreements and in all online advertisements and listings. Hourly Noise Metric1, dBA

Activity hours 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Quiet Hours 10:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.

L50 (30 minutes in any hour)



L25 (15 minutes in any hour)



L08 (5 minutes in any hour)



L02 (1 minute in any hour)



(1) The sound level exceeded n% of the time in any hour. For example, the L50 is the value exceeded fifty percent (50%) of the time or thirty (30) minutes in any hour; this is the median noise level. The L02 is the sound level exceeded one (1) minute in any hour.

If the ambient noise level exceeds the standards above, adjust the standard to equal the ambient level, up to a maximum of five (5) dBA above the standard, provided that no measurable increase (i.e. one and one-half (1.5) dBA or more) shall be allowed.

Reduce the applicable standards above by five (5) dBA for simple tone noises, noises consisting primarily of speech or music, or for recurring impulsive noises, such as dog barking.

2. Amplified Sound. Outdoor amplified sound shall not be allowed at any time associated with a vacation rental.

3. Pets. Pets, if allowed by owner, shall be secured on the property at all times. Continual nuisance barking by unattended pets is prohibited.

4. Trash and Recycling Facilities. Recycling and refuse storage bins shall not be stored within public view unless in compliance with neighborhood standards. Recycling and trash receptacles shall be returned to screened storage areas within twenty-four (24) hours of trash pick-up.

5. Outdoor Fire Areas. Outdoor fire areas, when not prohibited by state or local fire bans, may be allowed but shall be limited to three (3) feet in diameter, shall be located on a non-combustible surface, shall be covered by a fire screen, and shall be extinguished as soon as it is no longer in use or by 10:00 p.m., whichever is earlier. No fire or fire area shall be located within twenty-five (25) feet of a structure or combustible material.

6. Septic Systems and Sewer Connections. The owner shall maintain a properly functioning septic system or sewer connection. In some cases, a per-room sewer fee may be applied.

7. Transient Occupancy Tax. The vacation rental owner or authorized agent shall maintain a transient occupancy tax certificate and remain current on all required reports and payments. Owner or authorized agent shall include the certificate number on all contracts or rental agreements, and in any advertising or websites.

8. Certified Twenty-Four-Hour Property Manager. All vacation rentals operating within unincorporated Sonoma County must have a certified property manager who is available twenty-four (24) hours per days, seven (7) days per week during all times that the property is rented or used on a transient basis. Certified property managers may be professional property managers, realtors, property owners, or other designated person provided that the individual has successfully completed a training course and achieved a qualifying score on a county-administered certification test. Certification shall be granted by the county and may be revoked by the county. Once certified, a property manager must continue to comply with all provisions set forth in this section, including timely reporting of all complains and their resolutions, in order to remain certified. Certified property managers must be located within a thirty-mile radius of the vacation rental and must be available to respond to complaints at all times during the rental period. Any requested change to the certified property manager for a vacation rental property shall be made through submittal of a new vacation supplemental application or similar form provided by the department, and shall include the signature of the certified property manager and the desired effective date of the change. In no case may a vacation rental operate without a current certified property manager. Operation of a vacation rental without a valid certified property manager shall be considered a violation of this section. The name and twenty-four-hour contact information of the certified property manager shall be provided to any interested party upon request.

9. Emergency Access. The owner of any vacation rental located behind a locked gate or within a gated community shall provide gate code or a lockbox with keys (“Knox Box” or similar) for exclusive use by the sheriff and emergency or fire services departments.

10. Posting and Neighbor Notification of Permit and Standards. Once a vacation rental permit has been approved, a copy of the permit listing all applicable standards and limits shall be posted within the vacation rental property. The owner shall post these standards in a prominent place within six (6) feet of the front door of the vacation rental, and include them as part of all rental agreements. At the permit holder’s expense, the County shall provide mailed notice of permit issuance to property owners and immediate neighbors of the vacation rental unit using the standard three hundred feet (300′) property owner mailing list. All advertising handouts, flyers, internet listings, or any other information provided for vacation rentals shall conform to the approved occupancy limits and standards as stated on the vacation rental permit. Advertising may only be conducted for properties operating under a valid permit. Advertising for a particular property inconsistent with the approvals for that property shall be considered a violation of these performance standards.

11. Requirements for All Internet Advertisements and Listings. All online advertisements and/or listings for the vacation rental property shall include the following:

a. Maximum occupancy, not including children under three (3);

b. Maximum number of vehicles;

c. Notification that quiet hours must be observed between 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.;

d. Notification that no outdoor amplified sound is allowed; and,

e. The transient occupancy tax certificate number for that particular property.

(g) Enforcement Process.

1. Initial complaints on vacation rentals shall be directed to the certified property manager identified in the zoning permit or use permit, as applicable. The certified property manager shall be available twenty-four (24) hours during all times when the property is rented, and shall be available by phone during these hours. Should a problem or arise and be reported to the certified property manager, the certified property manager shall be responsible for contacting the tenant to correct the problem within sixty (60) minutes, or within thirty (30) minutes if during quiet hours, including visiting the site if necessary to ensure that the issue has been corrected. The certified property manager shall complete the online reporting form to report any such complaints, and their resolution or attempted resolution(s), to PRMD within twenty-four (24) hours of the occurrence. Failure to respond to complaints or report them to PRMD shall be considered a violation of this section, and shall be cause for revocation of certification status.

If the issue reoccurs, the complaint will be addressed by PRMD code enforcement section who may conduct an investigation to determine whether there was a violation of a zoning or use permit condition. Sheriff reports, online searches, citations or neighbor documentation consisting of photos, sound recordings and video may constitute proof of a violation. If code enforcement verifies that a zoning or use permit condition violation has occurred, a notice of violation may be issued and a penalty may be imposed in accordance with Chapter 1 of the Sonoma County Code.

At the discretion of the code enforcement officer or the director, the zoning permit or use permit may be scheduled for a revocation hearing with the board of zoning adjustments. If the permit is revoked, a zoning or use permit for a vacation rental may not be reapplied for or issued for a period of at least one (1) year.

2. Three Strikes Penalty. Upon receipt of any combination of three (3) administrative citations, verified violations, or hearing officer determinations of violation of any of the permit requirements or performance standards issued to the owner or occupants at the property within a two-year period, the vacation rental zoning permit is summarily revoked, subject to prior notice and to appeal, if requested within ten (10) days. Should such a revocation occur, an application to reestablish a vacation rental at the subject property shall not be accepted for a minimum period of two (2) years.

3. Violation of Performance Standards—Administrative Citations.

a. In addition to all other legal remedies, criminal or civil, which may be pursued by the county to address a violation, a violation of this section may be subject to an administrative citation under Section 1-7.6.

b. Violations of the following permit requirements and performance standards may be deemed infractions for the purposes of an administrative citation:

1. Conduct of a cultural event, special event, party, wedding or other similar activity exceeding the allowable maximum occupancy;

2. Exceeding the maximum permitted occupancy, not including children under three (3) years of age;

3. Noise violations, as set forth in (f), above, including the use of outdoor amplified sound;

4. Violations of quiet hours (10:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.);

5. Exceeding maximum number of vehicles;

6. Exceeding fire limits, including lighting fires during bans;

7. Unsecured pets and/or nuisance barking;

8. Operation of a vacation rental without a certified property manager;

9. Failure of the property owner to include the specified limits in rental agreements and online listings or advertisements;

10. Failure to include the individual property’s transient occupancy tax certificate number in all contracts, advertising and online listings;

11. Failure of the property owner to maintain current transient occupancy tax status.

(h) Monitoring and Enforcement Fee.

1. An annual fee may be adopted by the board of supervisors and collected by PRMD or the county tax collector to pay for monitoring and enforcement of vacation rentals.

( Ord. No. 6322 , § III(Exh. C), 9-1-2020; Ord. No. 6319 , § III(Exh. C), 8-18-2020; Ord. No. 6145, § IX(Exh. E) , 3-15-2016)

Editor’s note(s)—Ord. No. 6145, § IX(Exh. E) , adopted March 15, 2016, amended § 26-88-120 in its entirety to read as herein set out. Former § 26-88-120 pertained to similar subject matter and derived from Ord. No. 5908, § II, adopted Nov. 9, 2010.

One thought on “11/18/21 Planning Commission Workshop UPDATE Presentation”

  1. INPUT for UPDATE to Vacation Rental Ordinance Planning Commissions:

    As 2021 chairperson of the Lower Russian River MAC Vacation Rental Committee, I have been part of a survey of residents and businesses serving this industry, have received feedback from residents, have engaged in social media discussions, and as a private citizen, live on a street with two VRs and two more recent purchases that plan to become VRs. The closer this issue gets to home, the more I see the personal impact it can have on both my home community as well as my neighborhood.

    From the MAC committee’s perspective, I’d love you to read our survey results, reports, and Comments on our website created specifically to address the revamping of this ordinance: http://russianrivermac.org/vacation-rental-research-committee/

    Our survey was conducted in 2020 – this was our first report after that survey. Scroll down for survey results: http://russianrivermac.org/vr-community-reports/

    We attempted to map VRs so we could SEE density in neighborhoods based on licensed VRs, but pulling data from the Permit Sonoma webpage proved to be difficult. This mapping program by Google makes it easy to download a spreadsheet into their mapping program to identify these businesses, but Permit Sonoma has numerous designations for VRs. We never learned all of them to make the mapping accurate: http://russianrivermac.org/vacation-rental-maps/

    We also tried to get input from residents with this form: http://russianrivermac.org/community-input/, but people accused us of spying on neighbors. We did get about 60 responses but not with enough information to use for the mapping.

    To keep people impacted by this industry informed, and to inspire them to learn enough to give your commission input, we posted Gary Helfrich’s most recent presentation and a copy of the current ordinance. We are hoping people provide input for your decision-making process: http://russianrivermac.org/11-18-21-planning-commission-workshop-update-presentation/

    From my personal perspective, I find it difficult to come to terms with a business model that depends upon personal residences in neighborhoods to sustain their business. I understand that the tourism industry brings millions of dollars into our communities – BUT – the vast majority of us who live here have zero benefit from this industry (other than better restaurants). What we do experience is traffic jams, noise, bright lights from people who live in cities and are afraid of the dark at night in our rural communities, crowds, and a feeling that at least half the year our home towns are run over by strangers. These are annoyances that come from living somewhere so beautiful that others want to visit here. We understand and feel lucky to LIVE here.

    I moved to Sonoma County in 1972 and for the majority of those years have lived in Russian River communities. “Vacation Wonderland” is in an unincorporated part of our county and therefore relies heavily upon the efforts of volunteers who love where we live. Visitors are not part of what it takes to build community alliances and work on behalf of the benefit of all. They are not picking up trash on streets and riverbanks, feeding homeless people, supporting local charities, and volunteering on committees for the benefit of those who live here.

    Losing residential homes in neighborhoods for the financial gain of those who do not live here erodes the place we call home. So far the VRs in my neighborhood have been reasonable with the exception of bright lights at night, strangers walking by, and the occasional rude partier who claims that they are on vacation and don’t care that neighbors need to sleep so they can work in the morning. But with the recent sale of two more homes for VRs, we have now lost four homes out of 100 that used to provide housing for families. That hurts the character of our neighborhood and even the number of people who support our neighborhood swimming pool (must live on our street & help maintain the pool in order to be a member).

    Proposed ordinance changes that I applaud:

    24 hour hotline. If there is one item that came up over and over in our committee research, it’s that there really is no enforcement of the current ordinance. People think they need to call the sheriff who tells them it’s not their jurisdiction. Finding the owner/manager on the Permit Sonoma website for a direct call to a person who could actually solve a problem, is nearly impossible. Even as I became familiar with the site I still found it a serious challenge to find a property then find information that would give me someone to call. This HOTLINE will totally solve that impasse.

    Business Licenses for VRs. Wonderful. This is a business…call it what it is. Make the license renewable every year based upon protocols/standards. Renew or deny renewals according to their record of conduct (Property Manager Performance Standards) – THANK YOU!

    Parking. Yes, PLEASE limit on-street parking and require off-street parking. It’s horrible to come home to find the parking space in front of your home occupied. Our streets are narrow ( 9 – 12’ wide) and many of us have carved out parking space street-side by placing our fence inside our property line the width of parking spaces. That’s our land (our lots are small) not public parking. And because our streets are narrow, when people block part of the street with their vehicle (half on the road/half on the shoulder) some for our streets no longer have room for emergency vehicles.

    Evacuation & Emergencies. Our committee heard too many times that people felt responsible for banging on the doors of VR renters to inform them of emergency evacuations. That takes time out of their own preparations. All visitors need Nixle alerts and emergency requirements managed by the owner/managers of these properties. THANK YOU

    Fire pits, etc: Watching people have BBQs and fire pits with sparks rising into our trees is frightening. These people will not live with the consequences of burned out homes in our neighborhoods. Ban them completely for VRs rather than just restrict them to fire season. Most people don’t know how to build and maintain a fire. Ignorance is destructive.

    Lights & Noise. These are neighbor’s most frequent complaints. Lights that are on 24/7 that invade resident’s homes at night where neighborhoods don’t even have street lights. We live in a rural area for a reason, love stars at night, and natural habitat. Light pollution is offensive. We can talk with a neighbor and come to an agreement but it’s unreasonable to have to talk to new people every weekend to explain our neighborhood desire for dark nights. Noise is the same. Why should we have to knock on a door to convince people that neighbors like quiet weekends, evenings, and nights. We live here and weekends when guests arrive is the same time that most residents need to be relaxed at home. Spelling out light and noise rules – in addition to the hotline for complaints, could help us live in harmony with visitors.

    Proximity and Concentration. I know this is challenging and it’s why our committee tried to create VR maps. We want to SEE how many homes in a neighborhood are VRs and therefore off-limits to neighbors. When respondents to our survey and social media posts tell us that they are literally surrounded by VRs, they are distraught. Yes, this is a lot more work than just issuing a license, but knowing where that property is and how many other VRs are close by makes the difference between a commercial zone and neighborhood. YES, this is an IMPORTANT item to consider when issuing a license. The two new VRs in my neighborhood are right next to each other. Neither new owner knew the other was intending the same business next door. How can people who are purchasing homes for themselves or a business know in advance that there is a VR next door, up the street, on the property behind, etc.?

    Limiting VR ownership. When one party owns multiple VRs, it’s a franchise, not a way for someone to make a living. It takes too many homes off the market for residents. Not only is our school student body, and therefore budget, impacted, the businesses who rely upon year-round residents suffer as well. The grocery store, convenient mart, retail store, and restaurant cannot survive on seasonal traffic. They need us who LIVE here to support their businesses all year.

    LOCAL Property Managers. We are hoping the revisions to this ordinance will place an emphasis on property owners and managers who live here so they respond to emergencies, nuisance calls, etc. in a timely manner. The 30 – 60 minute response rule would imply that the manager needs to live nearby. The more LOCAL managers the better this industry is served, and the better the relationship between neighbors and business owners.

    I APPLAUD the work that has gone into revising this ordinance to better serve our communities throughout Sonoma County. This is our HOME. We need this industry to understand that we LIVE here and are willing to share our home with visitors that respect our home. The revisions in this ordinance support the balance of living in a location that attracts visitors so that we can function harmoniously.


    Vesta Copestakes
    Lower Russian River MAC – Forestville

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