8/19/21 VR AdHoc Report

August 19, 2021 Lower Russian River MAC – Vacation Rental Committee report on the July 20, 2021 Permit Sonoma Vacation Rental Workshop at the Board of Supervisors meeting to update unincorporated area vacation rental regulations. Hosted rentals are excluded from these regulations because someone lives on the property.

Please see our 7/21 report: http://russianrivermac.org/vr-workshop-adhoc-report/ for reference

Please visit the SoCo website for full documentation of the Permit Update documentation so far: https://sonoma-county.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=5028766&GUID=8D2A9DC4-B392-47B9-9404-6D8B696CB155&Options=&Search=

Please see the TEXT of the presentation on 7/20/21: https://sonoma-county.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=5028766&GUID=8D2A9DC4-B392-47B9-9404-6D8B696CB155&Options=&Search=

Please see the VIDEO segment of the Permit Sonoma presentation on 7/20/21 – Item # 40 – scroll down to #40 – click on the item to open to the segment: http://sonoma-county.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=1179

SUMMARY of Permit Sonoma Report provides an overview of Sonoma County’s vacation rental program and several recommendations to improve the vacation rental program: 

(1) A shift from a zoning permit to business license to administer the vacation rental program, 

(2) better tools for reporting and tracking complaints, and 

(3) land use regulations that address concentration, proximity of rentals, public safety, road access, parking, water and wastewater capacity, and wildfire risk. This would allow a uniform program across all of unincorporated Sonoma County.

Permit Sonoma staff will conduct a series of public outreach workshops this summer before returning to the Board of Supervisors on October 19, 2021. Meetings with industry and stakeholder groups, public workshops with local Municipal Advisory Councils and online surveys. A webpage will be developed to inform the public about the Vacation Rental Ordinance update, and opportunities for public participation.

DATES and times for these workshops have not been scheduled as of Sept.2, 2021


First of all, we believe our work had an impact on this initial work by Permit Sonoma. That makes us feel that the LRRMAC is working as it should. Below are some POLICY OPTIONS suggested by Permit Sonoma (attachment #7 of the presentation) that demonstrate Permit Sonoma is taking our requests into consideration. 

ENFORCEMENT:

  • Create automated complaint reporting website: the value of this would be that complaints are recorded and tracked for resolutions. This is a 24/7 PHONE service that has a real person answering. That person has the 24/7 contact information for the property owner/manager to initiate an immediate resolution to the current problem. The complaint would be logged and on the record of the VR permit and if not resolved within 30 -60 minute, it is recorded as a violation of performance standards..
  • Easier-to-find 24/7 contact number for owners/manager of short term rentals for immediate issues/complaints (currently only on the Permit Sonoma website). Rental owner/manager sends out annual contact information to residents in the neighborhood. Posting that contact information by the street for easy visibility (method used in Marin County) is still controversial for fear of making the property a target for theft and vandalism.
  • Finding a better enforcement mechanism. Permit Sonoma suggested that new VRs come under the jurisdiction of Business Licence programs rather than zoning permits. Other counties use this system because these houses are commercial businesses, not residences in a neighborhood.  Currently 5% of permitted properties do not meet required performance standards, therefore lose their permit. At this point the property would move to the business license model which is easier to measure and enforce than land-use policies which rely on certified property managers to self-regulate.
  • Require that all guests be provided with a rule book explaining regulations and their responsibilities to be good neighbors.

CAP ON NUMBER OF SHORT TERM RENTALS

  • Urgency Ordinance 6332 cap on the number of VRs permitted in Sonoma County, especially in the 1st and 5th Districts (5th District cap at 299 permits currently has 291 active permits) EXPIRES in August 2022. As permits expire, new applicants are able to apply up to the cap limits. The cap CANNOT be extended beyond the current deadline so if there is to be a cap, it has to be incorporated into the revised ordinance. 
  • Mapping VRs so we can see the density in neighborhoods. This is something our committee is doing on our website (www.russinarivermac.org) but Permit Sonoma has a mechanism for mapping in reference to Fire Perimeter Areas. That mapping program can be used to identify density in neighborhoods, establish potential limits (separation criteria and concentration). Under Limiting vacation rentals / concentration Adopting a separation criteria between vacation rentals (e.g. 500-1,000 feet) We recommend getting feedback from neighbors in high concentration of VRs neighborhoods as to what distance between VRs they suggest through their experience.
  • Tracking online advertising for VRs that do not have permits and getting them in line with the permit process (5% do not comply). Permit Sonoma has a system for web-scraping (LTAS Technologies) to find advertised VRs with no Permit. Working with the SoCo Tax Collector these properties are fined and brought into compliance.
  • VRs impact on our housing stock – working with the county tax collector and perhaps using 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. This is currently under study and the results of that study are ot ready for review yet.
  • Limiting the number of days a year available for short-term rentals would limit income potential and therefore has the potential to limit interest in the business model. Also limiting rentals during high fire and high flood risk zones and seasons.

PARKING IN TIGHT NEIGHBORHOODS

  • Prohibit on-street parking on roadways less than 20 feet wide. Currently VRs are required to provide parking spaces for guests but there is no rule for guests of guests. This street-width requirement could help in tight neighborhoods with limited parking. We would like to recommend that the street width include fire and emergency vehicle access requirements. ALSO – that the measurement of the road be from pavement edge to pavement edge and does NOT include shoulders or bare earth. IF the VR ordinance applies parking limits for VRs, does that also apply to residents?

EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS FOR VR GUESTS

  • All guests must evacuate for emergencies and an evacuation plan and manual be given to all guests.

So far, so good…we are encouraged by this progress. Please continue to help us identify short-term vacation rentals in your neighborhood (http://russianrivermac.org/community-input/) so we can help Permit Sonoma identify the impact this industry has on our schools, neighborhoods, and housing values.

Lower Russian River Municipal Advisory Council
Vacation Rental AdHoc Committee
Vesta Copestakes
Nic Pereira
Lucy Hardcastle