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Sonoma County clamps down on ‘over-concentration’ of vacation rentals

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Sonoma County clamps down on ‘over-concentration’ of vacation rentals

(KRON) — The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors voted Monday to change vacation rental regulations, create caps and exclusion zones for vacation rentals, and define fractionally owned housing as timeshares.

Supervisors also voted to create a business license program that standardizes operating requirements for vacation rentals to protect neighbors from nuisances.

“With these new regulations and the cap and exclusion zones, we’re taking steps to mitigate the impacts of short-term rentals upon neighborhoods adversely affected by vacation rentals in Sonoma County,” said Supervisor Chris Coursey, chair of the Board of Supervisors.

Sonoma County officials wrote that the vote “placed caps and exclusion zones in specific neighborhoods in the first, fourth and fifth supervisorial districts to reduce over-concentration of vacation rentals in these areas.”

The business license program will establish standards that:

  • Limit vacation rental occupancy based on number of bedroom or septic capacity, with a maximum occupancy of 12 guests regardless of the size of the home.
  • Establish standards for parking areas and limit use of on-street parking to a single space
  • Establish limits for noise and light.
  • Require a written evacuation plan and require evacuation whenever a warning is issued.
  • Require complaints to be resolved within 30 minutes in the evening and within one hour during the day.
  • Require vacation rental properties to meet requirements for defensible space.
  • Prohibit outdoor burning of solid fuel.
  • Require notifying neighbors when the annual Vacation Rental License is renewed.
  • Limit licenses to one per person and limits ownership to natural persons or family trusts – no LLC or corporate ownership.

With a Vacation Rentals Moratorium due to expire on May 9, the Board of Supervisors voted to place caps and exclusion zones on neighborhoods with high concentrations of vacation rentals.

Communities with new caps placed on the number of vacation rental permits include Fitch Mountain outside of Healdsburg, Hughes Chicken Colony near Sonoma, Austin Creek near Guernewood, among others. 

The neighborhood caps will be reexamined during peak tourism season this summer to see if more caps are necessary.

When combined with the complaint hotline that Permit Sonoma launched last year, the license program provides additional tools to expedite enforcement against violations.

The county also changed a zoning code to clarify regulations for timeshares and short-term use of fractionally owned residential properties. The board also voted to limit commercial and visitor-serving land uses in residential areas.

“It’s important to note that we’re not banning timeshares,” said Coursey. “We’re recognizing them as commercial enterprises and those belong in specific visitor-serving areas.”

For more information, including an interactive map showing where zoning changes were voted upon, go to Vacation Rental Program.

Community outreach meetings will be scheduled countywide starting with meetings in Guerneville, Monte Rio and Forestville, which are planned for July and August. At these meetings, Permit Sonoma will gather feedback at the neighborhood level and tailor restrictions to individual neighborhoods. Feedback from those meetings will help Permit Sonoma determine if restrictions should be changed further.

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