Coastal residents urge crackdown on vacation rentals, county to consider regulation
By Kurtis Alexander
Posted: 06/21/2010 01:30:47 AM PDT

LIVE OAK — David King is no stranger to late-night music, trash strewn across his lawn, or parked cars blocking his driveway.

It’s the downside of life at the beach, King and other coastal residents say. Longtime homeowners share their neighborhoods with visitors seeking a piece of their paradise, and often a party, in one of the county’s numerous vacation rentals.

“Sometimes you get good people coming to town. But sometimes you don’t,” said King, who lives on 21st Avenue.

Weighing in on the age-old concerns about vacation homes, county Supervisor John Leopold is proposing regulations that would cap the number of rentals between Capitola and Santa Cruz as well as introduce new restrictions, like how many people can stay at a home and for what purpose it can be used.

“Vacation homes are changing the residential nature of these neighborhoods,” said Leopold, noting one street that has nearly a dozen rentals, one costing $5,000 a weekend. “If you’re going to go there, you’re not going there to sit and knit.”

But reining in what many see as a viable county business, not to mention a fundamental property right, won’t sit well with everybody.

An effort to regulate unincorporated vacation properties almost a decade ago went as far as producing a “vacation-rental task force.” But opposition from homeowners and many in the business community left it at that, and no new rules were inked.

Rita Law, owner of Kendall & Potter

Property Management Inc. in Aptos, says she and others in her trade have never been aware of chronic problems with vacation rentals. Sure there’s an occasional rental with a problem, she says, but often the issues are best addressed on a case-by-case basis.

“What’s happening is 90 percent of the people are doing the right thing, and now they’re going to be punished for the 10 percent who aren’t doing the right thing,” she said.

At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Leopold will officially ask county planners to firm up details of an ordinance regulating vacation homes in the beach communities of Pleasure Point and the Santa Cruz harbor and everything in between.

Leopold is asking the ordinance include a permitting system for rental properties, a ban on events like wedding receptions and business retreats, required stays of at least a week and mandatory signs that let neighbors know whom to call should problems arise.

Leopold and others say the popularity of the Web, and the ease in which people can now rent homes, has led to more rentals over the past decade and less oversight of who rents them. Owners traditionally used property managers to line up the tenants and oversee the stay.

On the Internet, homes advertised as places for “large gatherings” like bachelor parties and family reunions are abundant.

The Live Oak community isn’t the first to consider an ordinance on vacation homes. The city of Capitola requires a permit and business license and limits where rentals can go. The cities of Carmel and Monterey have even stricter rules, essentially banning short-term rentals in all residential areas.

The Board of Supervisors meeting is 9 a.m. Tuesday at 701 Ocean St., Santa Cruz. Leopold is expected to discuss his vacation rental proposal at 10:45.