photo credit: Flickr

Sonoma County is a tourist destination for people from all over. But it's also a place with unpredictable, severe weather and a lack of affordable, permanent housing.

"People are increasingly being priced out," Supervisor Lynda Hopkins said. "We are increasingly seeing the most affordable homes being snapped up for one-hundred or two-hundred dollars over asking price. The home is flipped and sometimes a long-term tenant is displaced."

In 2016, the board adopted an ordinance to regulate vacation rentals in unincorporated Sonoma County. Then in December 2020, the county put a temporary cap on vacation rentals in parts of Sonoma Valley and the Russian River.

This week the board discussed adding more protocols, guidance and possible limitations for vacation rentals, especially around fire safety. During public comment resident Sheila O'Neil said, even though she has a vacation rental permit, she welcomes more rules because of the rental next-door to her house.

"So what I have is a revolving door party house,"O'Neil said. "Somebody comes in for one or two or three days. By the time they need a nap, they are leaving and the next crew is coming in."

Other owners feel the rules on the table are unfair.

"I feel you are punishing your citizens for having businesses that bring taxes to this county," Emilia D’Anzica said.

County officials are unanimously in favor of requiring vacation owners get a business license, tracking complaints, requiring owners provide fire safety information and banning outdoor fire pits. But no action was taken this week; the discussion was intended to provide direction to staff. The board will return to the topic in October to discuss the idea of limiting vacation rentals and instating a moratorium of rentals in fire burned or prone areas.

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