County moves ahead with vacation rental rules
Posted: 06/23/2010 01:30:05 AM PDT

SANTA CRUZ — County leaders agreed Tuesday to craft rules governing vacation home rentals around Santa Cruz County after frustrated residents asked that something be done to rein in the parties, parking problems and other issues stemming from the influx of tourists to their neighborhoods.

The proposal from Supervisor John Leopold originally was designed to crack down on short-term rentals in Live Oak only, where he said the number of holiday houses continues to grow. But Supervisor Ellen Pirie said neighborhoods in Seacliff, Rio del Mar and La Selva Beach deal with similar issues and should be included in any new regulations.

“Clearly this is an issue whose time has come,” said Pirie, who also asked that landlords pay for the cost of law enforcement to respond to any complaints.

Her request was in addition to Leopold’s proposal to ban events like wedding receptions and business retreats, require stays of at least a week and demand signs on vacation homes that let neighbors know whom to call should problems arise.

Supervisors unanimously agreed to move forward with a committee of county leaders, neighborhood residents, vacation homeowners and others to hammer out details of the new rules. The county’s Planning Department will lead that effort, with proposals first going to the county Planning Commission before reaching the Board of Supervisors for final approval. Pirie said she would like to see them take effect by spring 2011.

About 40 people spoke both for and against the proposed changes at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

“We live in a residential neighborhood and we are surrounded by commercial properties,” said Margaret Macksey of Live Oak.

Other full-time residents echoed her statements, some demanding that vacation homeowners operate as businesses and be licensed and regulated accordingly.

But vacation homeowners, many of whom manage the properties themselves through Internet websites, said the additional income allows them to pay bills despite lost jobs and high property values. Not everyone should be punished for the irresponsibility of a few, they said.

They also protested the seven-night requirement, saying many guests come for a long weekend.

Jim Goudge of Live Oak said he rents the family house on East Cliff Drive as a vacation home for half the year and lives in it the other half. His mother recently died, he said, and the extra income allows the family to hold on to the house.

Goudge objected to Leopold’s suggestion during the meeting that vacation homes operating before 2007 be grandfathered in. Others would be subject to new regulations that might include neighborhood density limits and geographic boundaries.

“I would lose the house. We’d be financially obliterated,” Goudge said.

Chuck Oliver also rents his Live Oak home and said problems should be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

“We need people to start being accountable and we can’t punish 90 percent for what 10 percent are doing,” Oliver said.

Leopold said rules often are crafted to govern that 10 percent.

“I’m not proposing a ban on vacation rentals,” Leopold said. “I think for many rentals that are well-run, there will be no problem.”

Right now Capitola is the only jurisdiction in the county to govern vacation rentals. The city requires a permit and business license and limits where rentals can go. Monterey and Carmel have stricter rules, essentially banning short-term rentals in all residential areas.