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Commission Kicks Back
Ann Gardner | Via Latina

Planning Commissioners (from left to right) Don Countryman, Nate McCay, Vice Chair; Ted Bakker, Chair; Philip Posner
and Carmel Myers vote at February 14 meeting.
Courtesy City of Del Mar.   Click to enlarge.
From the 1997 Sandpiper
Click to enlarge.
On February 14, the Planning Commission voted 3 to 2 that they could not interpret, as requested by City Council, whether or not short term rentals were allowed by the City’s Municipal Code. The majority cited the lack of a definition in the Code for short term rentals versus the minority position that short terms rentals are allowed by historical precedent, by lack of code enforcement, and by recognition of transient housing in the Community Plan. Commissioners Countryman and Mckay supported a finding that “pursuant to a review of the Municipal Code STRs are a permitted use.” The motion failed and Chair Bakker with Commissioners Myers and Posner approved a motion stating that the lack of a definition in the code does not allow them to decide if STRs are allowed or not allowed in Del mar’s residential areas. The issue was sent back to the City Council “to figure it out.”

Underlying the discussion by both positions was the implication that it was the City Council’s responsibility to decide whether STRs should be allowed and regulated. “It is a policy issue,” Commissioner McKay said. There is a “tension between residents versus tourists that requires the Council to address how to handle that isn’t addressed by us interpreting the code. Thankfully it is not our job.” Speaking for the majority Commissioner Myers said “it (the definition for an STR) is just not there. Let the Council decide this.”

The vote followed testimony from 20 speakers who were reminded to speak to the interpretation, not the merits of STRs. Del Mar’s zoning ordinance was defined by the City Attorney as “permissive,” i.e. listed uses only are permitted and if not specifically listed are prohibited. Countryman said he found using that definition in interpreting the Code “imperfect.” He cited uses listed in some residential areas that are similar enough to STRs such as a child care facility that allowed him to find STRs acceptable in residential areas. The zoning definition for the north beach residential area where there are a high number of STRs is “designed for one family residential” with a small day care facility or small community care facility also allowed.

With few exceptions the public speakers and numerous red dot letters supported an interpretation to allow STRs in residential areas. The exception was a letter signed by over 90 residents stating they believed the correct interpretation was that STRs are transient visitor-serving businesses that are allowed in all zones where hotels, motels, boarding houses and lodging houses are allowed and disallowed in all other residential areas.

Readers can listen to the Commission discussion by going to the City’s website and accessing the February 14 video-on-demand beginning at approximately one and a half hours into the three hour meeting.


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