CARLSBAD — Short-term vacation rentals are one of the hottest and most controversial topics in San Diego County.
On July 25, the Carlsbad City Council voted to amend its short-term vacation rental ordinance, which only allows uses in the Coastal Zone. The changes include defining a bedroom, excluding timeshares and recreational vehicles and incorporating an Impact Response Plan, which requires a homeowner to notify neighbors their property is a short-term rental.
In addition, the changes also include no commercial use, parking on site and a three-strike permit revocation, according to Carlsbad Senior Program Manager Kerry Jezisek. The revocation of a short-term vacation rental license will occur if three or more violations are accumulated in a 24-month period, and the homeowner will be prohibited from a short-term rental for 36 months.
“We are encouraging people to be a good neighbor,” Jezisek said.
About one dozen residents spoke to the council, with all but one in support of short-term rentals. However, most called for the city to expand the Coastal Zone, which does not include portions of the Village and Barrio. Much of the Coastal Zone boundary is west of El Camino Real, so residents called on the council to change the boundary.
The problem, though, is the California Coastal Commission drew the lines and would be the entity able to change the boundary. Other residents, though, said the ordinance should be citywide and not just for homeowners in the Coastal Zone.
They said it is only fair for every resident to have the same opportunity to engage in short-term vacation rentals. Those residents called on the council to add to a future agenda an item about expanding the ordinance citywide.
“I think a ban on short-term rentals outside the Coastal Zone is like the old adage, ‘throwing out the baby with the bath water,’” resident William Ball said. “We’re throwing out a lot of benefits for a few nuisances.”
The council, meanwhile, has a variety of positions where Councilmen Keith Blackburn is staunchly against short-term rentals, and Mark Packard does not want to revisit the issue of a citywide ordinance.
The council, however, made no decision whether to place the matter on the agenda.
“I am not a fan of short-term vacation rentals and I think they are disruptive to existing neighborhoods,” Blackburn said. “We cannot prohibit them in the Coastal Zone, only outside the Coastal Zone, but we can regulate them.”
“I’m not going to advocate to revisit this,” Packard added. “I think we found very good balance that seems to be working well. I don’t want to turn it over and undue all the good things that are happening.”
Mayor Matt Hall, meanwhile, said he does not have an issue with short-term vacation rentals, while Councilwoman Cori Schumacher said the issue affects affordable housing options.
Councilman Michael Schumacher (no relation) also said short-term vacation rentals affect the supply and demand of housing, as one more rental means one less option to buy. The council agreed one major problem is investors who buy multiple properties specifically for short-term vacation rental use, which cuts into housing options for potential residents.
Currently, city code does not cite a limit on the number of units an individual or investor can own.
The council passed its ordinance in May 2015 and has seen a rapid increase in licensed short-term vacation rentals, including a 42 percent increase from Fiscal Year 2016-17 to FY 2017-18. The city has recorded a total of 257 licenses.
Transient occupancy tax, which short-term rental owners must pay, topped $775,000 in FY 17-18, a 15 percent increase from the previous year.
However, Jezisek said enforcement is a challenge as there are more than 50 websites dedicated to short-term vacation rentals plus individuals renting illegally outside the Coastal Zone. The city contracts some of its enforcement with Host Compliance, which monitors and tracks short-term vacation rentals through its software.
Jezisek said the company’s software “crawls” through those sites to locate any listings in Carlsbad, which are then cross-checked for compliance.