2/17/22 UPDATE: Vacation Rental Ordinance DRAFT REVISION

LRRMAC Vacation Rental Committee Report February 17, 2022

Revisions to the Sonoma County Short-Term Vacation Rental ordinance (ORD21-0005) are in review by the Planning Commission and County Counsel. This ordinance applies to UNHOSTED rentals where no responsible party lives on the property.

PUBLIC REVIEW is scheduled for March 17, 2022 at a Planning Commission hearing that will include the Vacation Rental Ordinance. Sign up for email updates for dates, times, copies of the agenda, and revised ordinance to review prior to the hearing. Next, the Planning Commission has tentatively set April 19th to present the final revised ordinance to the Board of Supervisors

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Current regulations and policies can be found at: https://sonomacounty.ca.gov/PRMD/Regulations/Vacation-Rentals/

Top among the concerns is enforcement of rules that make sharing our residential neighborhoods with this business tolerable. Density of vacation rentals vs. homes, parking limitations, emergency preparedness, noise, lights, and more are identified and addressed.

ENFORCEMENT: Sonoma County is in the final stages of contracting for a 24-hour Complaint Hotline that will be operated and maintained by a third-party vendor. This eliminates the confusing search for who to call to report an infraction and creates a record of action taken to respond to complaints. One simple phone number starts the process of addressing a problem then follows through on getting it resolved quickly and reporting back to the complainer on what has, or has not, been accomplished. Complaints include noise, lights, parking, etc.

VACATION RENTAL LICENSE: In addition to obtaining a Zoning Permit allowing a property to have a Vacation Rental, operation will require a Vacation Rental License that gets renewed annually. This license may be temporarily suspended for violating operating standards or subject to nonrenewal where the operator has a history of non-compliance. Licenses may also be revoked in more serious cases of non-compliance. If a license is revoked, a new license for the parcel will not be issued for a period of 2 years.

PROPERTY MANAGERS: Rentals must have a certified property manager who lives within 30 road miles of each rental and respond to complaints within 60 minutes during the day and 30 minutes during quiet hours (10pm-7am) whenever the property is being rented on a transient basis. Property managers must meet standards of performance in order to keep their business license/certificate.

PROPERTY SAFETY INSPECTION AND CODE COMPLIANCE: Vacation rental licenses will not be issued to any parcel with open code enforcement complaints and/or building permits that have not received a final inspection. Prior to issuing a vacation rental license, the property will be inspected by the County fire marshal or local fire protection district for compliance with building and fire safety codes, including but not limited to smoke/CO2 detectors, adequate egress from all bedrooms, adequate defensible space, proper vents on gas-fired appliances, compliant wood stove appliances, and chimneys, etc.

NEIGHBORHOOD DENSITY: Caps may be applied in neighborhoods where high concentrations of vacation rentals are adversely impacting neighborhood character, or have inadequate parking or emergency access, or local housing stock is at risk from conversion to visitor-serving uses. Caps are set at 10% of the local housing stock and no new vacation rentals may be licensed until the number of active vacation rentals is less than 10% of the local housing stock. The initial 10% cap may be lowered if found to be inadequate to preserve neighborhood character and protect public safety.

Density areas for VR caps

PARKING: Off-street parking is required for all vacation rentals with more than one guest room. The width of roads will also identify if on-street parking can be accommodated or not. Emergency vehicle access must be maintained, and blocking an emergency vehicle may result in license revocation.

OCCUPANCY: Maximum occupancy is limited to 12 guests regardless of the size of the home (current ordinance allows up to 18 during the day and unlimited guests on specific holidays). Vacation Rentals served by septic systems are limited to the number of bedrooms associated with the septic system. If the system capacity cannot be verified or the owner is unwilling to provide a septic findings report, vacation rentals occupancy is limited to not more than 4 guests at any time.

EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS & PROCEDURES: Vacation Rentals must provide an evacuation handbook to guests that explains the Sonoma County emergency notification system, evacuation zones, and evacuation routes associated with the rental. Guests must evacuate at the WARNING stage in emergencies. The property manager is responsible for verifying guests have left and is required to report the guests to law enforcement if a mandatory evacuation notice is issued and the manager is unable to contact the guests, cannot verify the guests have vacated the premises, or if the guests refuse to leave.

FIRE SEASON: Outdoor fires, pits, and charcoals or wood-burning BBQs are prohibited during designated fire seasons and Red Flag Warnings.

4 thoughts on “2/17/22 UPDATE: Vacation Rental Ordinance DRAFT REVISION”

  1. Thanks for all your work on this. Kudos especially for the parking and emergency evacuation regs.

    Should we be requiring short-term rental owners to abide by defensible space requirements? In our communities, neighborhood peer pressure is a powerful tool to convince reluctant neighbors to get with the program. Absentee owners are not subject to that pressure, nor are they likely to engage in community activities such as chipper days.

  2. My understanding of the Lok hotel is that it has to follow the “guests leave at warning mandate” as well. It is also slated to be a center for communications and housing/shelter for people evacuated out of other areas (not Guerneville). I’ll pass your comment to the LRRMAC Land Use committee which is monitoring this project. Thank you

  3. I’m happy to see that vacation rentals must provide guests with a detailed evacuation handbook, and that during emergencies guests in vacation rentals must evacuate at the WARNING stage. Hopefully, these naive vacationers will have the extra time they need to pack and get out ahead of the rest of us. Do these provisions currently apply to guests in motels? and would they also apply to guests at the LOK hotel at Dubrava, if it is built? I am becoming increasingly worried about congestion on our two-lane roads.

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