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Short Term Innate Debate
Coastal Commission Checks In
Dwight Worden | Seaview Avenue

The Coastal Commission does NOT have any formal policy, guidelines, or regulations on short term rentals (STRs). What we have , often mischaracterized as the “Commission’s position” are a handful of letters from coastal staffers, but these do not make formal policy.

The Commission now has called for public input and a workshop that could lead to adoption of formal policy guidance. In a 50+ page memo the Commission staff is providing information ranging from the rates for hotels, motels, and hostels in the Coastal Zone statewide, to what the “affordability” standards should be to determine if STRs can qualify as “lower cost” under the Coastal Act to meet their mandate ito promote lower cost visitor access only.

Here are a few nuggets from the report.

• Four types of overnight coastal accommodations are discussed in detail:: (1) campgrounds and cabins, (2) hostels, (3) STRs, and (4) hotels/motels.

• A lack of comprehensive data on STRs , but it notes there are about 200 in Santa Monica, 300 each in Santa Cruz and Pismo Beach, with nightly rates ranging from $34 to $3,000.

• The Commission has collected more than $24 million in in-lieu fees for lower cost accommodations and has spent $10 million on acquisition and construction.

• Using a complex formula, in 2015 “lower cost” rates for hotels were $87.54 in Pismo Beach and $126.32 in Santa Monica.

• A recommendation to require new high end hotel/motel projects to provide at least 25% lower cost units or to pay equivalent in-lieu fees.

On STRs the report says:

Staff recommends that the Commission continue to support provision of short term vacation rentals in the coastal zone. The Commission should continue to discourage bans and other broad prohibitions on vacation rentals, and it should continue to support local governments in developing reasonable and balanced regulations through LCP updates and/or new LCPs that address neighborhood and affordable housing issues while allowing for regulated short term vacation rentals in residential and other zoning districts.

What does it all mean to Del Mar? Here’s my take:

1. We should be involved in this ongoing process to make sure the Commission and its staff recognize the unique aspects of Del Mar’s situation—if the Commission adopts a one size fits all STR policy it is unlikely to work in Del Mar.

2. Studies to date show that Del Mar’s STR rates are unlikely to be justified as “lower cost.”

3. The Commission is likely to adopt guidelines opposing applications for Coastal Development Permits or LCP Amendments to impose outright bans on STRs, preferring a more comprehensive regulatory approach.

4. Del Mar’s Community Plan and zoning allow STRs in the Visitor Commercial, Residential Commercial, and other Commercial zones, as well as in the Ocean Windows condominiums governed by the Del Mar Hotel (L’Auberge) Specific Plan. Under no scenario is a total ban in Del Mar proposed nor is one under consideration so the Commission’s concern about bans would not appear to apply to Del Mar.

5. Lowering the cost of visitor accommodations in Del Mar is a goal we can all support, something I will continue to investigate and support. But, to date, I am not convinced that opening the residential zones to STRs beyond where STRs are currently allowed furthers that goal.

6. What Del Mar decides to do about STRs should remain primarily a local decision. Because Del Mar already has a certified LCP, Coastal Commission approval is only required if Del Mar seeks to amend that LCP or acts in violation of the LCP.

7. Whatever your perspective on the issue, I encourage you to let me and the Council know. A copy of the Commission’s report is on my website.  www.dwightworden.com/PDFs/CC-Memo



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