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The Coastal Commission, tasked with ensuring coastal access, considers short-term rentals to be an affordable alternative to pricy hotel rooms, especially in Del Mar. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek
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Council adopts new short-term rental moratorium

DEL MAR — Council members at the Oct. 17 meeting unanimously adopted an urgency ordinance that temporarily bans any new use of a residential property for rent for less than 30 days, essentially allowing an existing moratorium set to expire Nov. 18 to continue for another 500 days.

That gives council members about a year and four months to address ongoing problems, but they said they would repeal the prohibition in February 2017 if a solution is not found.

“We’re getting to the point where council needs to make a decision on this,” Councilman Dwight Worden said. “It’s tearing us up. It’s tearing the staff up. It’s tearing the community up.

“We need to bite the bullet and make a decision,” he added. “(The moratorium) prevents people from doing things that they think they want to do and it also prevents the city and neighbors from enforcing the current rules. … It doesn’t need to go forever.”

“The sooner we reach resolutions … the better,” Councilman Don Mosier said. “I think there’s some fundamental disagreements on exactly how to regulate short-term rentals but there is no disagreement on the fact that they’re a problem and we need to move forward on addressing the problems they’ve been causing for our community.”

Mosier said he has been researching how other cities have addressed the situation.

“All the solutions that I’ve seen have all the characteristics of a poor compromise,” he said. “They have flaws in them, and I was hoping that Del Mar could somehow navigate into a better solution than any other city has come up with. And I’m finding that that’s a tough goal to reach.”

Councilman Al Corti said because Del Mar hasn’t found a solution he and his colleagues had little choice but to adopt the urgency ordinance but he didn’t think they would need another year to solve the problem.

“And even if we did I don’ think we should take it,” he said.

Property owners have been renting out their homes in the beachside city for decades, especially during the summer and thoroughbred horse racing season. With websites such Vacation Rental by Owner and Airbnb making bookings easier, the practice has become more frequent.

Residents have complained that the constant turnover is resulting in traffic, noise, parking and trash problems and changing the character of their neighborhoods.

Property owners support commonsense regulations but say prohibiting them from renting out their homes violates their property rights.

Worden and Councilman Terry Sinnott have been working on solutions that include prohibiting rentals of less than 30 days in residential areas or allowing them with regulations.

Most council members have said they would approve the practice in residential neighborhoods as long as it is limited to only a few weeks per year. They do not support people buying homes in residential areas with the sole purpose of renting them out as short-term rentals.

According to state law a new moratorium can only be in effect for effective 45 days. After that time it can be extended.

On April 4 Del Mar adopted a 45-day moratorium on any new short-term rental properties entering the market. In May it was extended for another six months and would automatically expire Nov. 18.

State law also limits to two consecutive years the amount of time a moratorium on the same item can remain in effect.