The Cambrian

Advisory panel to offer vacation rental plan

A roomful of people turned out Oct. 20 to learn how the county may revise regulations for vacation rental homes in Cambria and Cayucos.

After more than two hours of comments and discussion, North Coast Advisory Council members postponed for a month making any recommendations on the ordinance.

They are to make up their minds, section by section, at their meeting that begins at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 17, at Rabobank, 1070 Main St.

County planners, supervisors and the California Coastal Commission would have to approve any changes to the ordinance, including the addition of Los Osos and Avila Beach.

Cambria has about 350 licensed vacation rental homes.

Short-term rental of homes in residential areas has been a contentious issue, and the Oct. 20 discussion was no exception. The council has debated about vacation-rental policies numerous times, and consensus has been elusive at best.

Sharlene Silva, who vacation-rents her Marine Terrace home, told council members “vacation rentals are really crucial to this town,” especiallyduring the economic downturn. “They’re an excellent option for families and people with pets. I’ve never had a complaint about a vacation rental,” and there are four or five others near her home, she said. “Every time there’s a vacation rental family near me, theyremind me why I live here.”

Few vacation-rental related complaints have been filed with county enforcers since the original ordinance was put in place adecade ago. County planner John Busselle said, “We don’t get a lot of complaints. I don’t know if it’s because there aren’t a lot of problems or because people don’t think it will do any good.”

County records show a total of four complaints have been received in the last year about vacation rentals in Cambria and Cayucos.

Scarce official grievances also could be because some Cambrians take a more neighborly approach by complaining directly tothose renting the homes, or to those who manage the properties.

However, some neighboring homeowners feel that, at very least, the temporary nature of renting a private home for short periods of time changes a neighborhood’s atmosphere. Others say vacationers renting a private home can cause noise, parking, trash and other problems. One couple even took their complaints to court.

Property managers at the Oct. 20 meeting stressed that solving such issues is their job, and people who have problems with a nearbyvacation rental should call the managers immediately.

Management agencies have banded together to deal with neighbors’ problems and unlicensed rentals.

The Central Coast Management Association’s Web site is at www.sloccma.org.

Martin Verhaegh wrote in an e-mail to The Cambrian that revisions are needed in the existing ordinance. “(It) grandfathered in a large number of rentals who are not in compliance with the applicable planning rules,” Verhaegh wrote. “And ... additional planning rules were needed to assure the life quality essential to our residents.”

Among the changes proposed for the ordinance is making it easier for neighbors to know who thosemanagers are, through notification and signs on the buildings.

Some at the meeting, however, said such signs would degrade the neighborhood and be an invitation to vandals and burglars.

Some other proposed changes involve different licensing rules for new rentals, firming up how many times a home could be rented in a specific period of time and expanding the buffer zone between rentals.

During public comment, most of the 18 speakers were in the vacation-rental business. The one woman who spoke out against them asked that her name not be published because she feared retribution.

That may have been why more opponents didn’t speak up, according to Joyce Renshaw, NCAC chairwoman. “They may have felt outnumbered,” she said.

Cheryl Bullock said she’d rented her home to vacationers for about eight years, and contrary to what some people think, she said,

“We did not make a lot of money . If people are making a lot of money on their vacation rental, it’s probably because they’re doing something illegal.”

Rental agent Richard Watkins said he’s been involved with vacation rentals since the 1990s. He said “the elephant in the room is illegal vacation rentals,” which aren’t licensed and for which property owners do not pay proper occupancy taxes. Those owners usually handle the rentals themselves, rather than hiring a property manager.

Watkins said increasing the restrictions for licensed vacation rentals will drive more owners of those homes to operate outside the rules. “The ordinance doesn’t have anything to do with the illegal vacation rentalthere’s no contract, no way to know if the person in the house is a friend ofthe owner or an illegal renter.”

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