Screenshot 2023 06 06 at 09 09 35 Airbnb Santa Rosa Vacation Rentals Places to Stay CaliforniaVacation-rental availabilities in Santa Rosa  

A marathon session of dueling narratives over vacation rentals yielded no firm conclusions as Santa Rosa's city council Tuesday moved to more firmly regulate the short term rental business.

Though much remained up in the air as the clock neared midnight, one thing is for certain, patience has run out on those considered bad operators. Those running a non-hosted short term rental with three major violations will have their permits revoked and won't ever be able to legally re-apply. City officials had recommended a more lenient approach, allowing operators to re-apply following a one year hiatus.

Both sides of the debate were well represented among the dozens who addressed the council. Some lamented their investments languishing after earlier alterations to regulations created more obstacles to legally operating. Others spoke of the disruption from vacationers over-indulging, and the general loss of a neighborhood feel. Local resident Eric Lindy told the council he wouldn't wish a neighboring non-hosted STR on his worst enemy and said other nearby cities are foregoing them without issue.

"Non-hosted STRs are nothing more than a hotel, devoid of on-site supervision, for which the city collects operational taxes and fees. Sebastopol and Petaluma allow thirty to ninety days to rent respectively, both Healdsburg and Sonoma don't allow non-hosted STRs in residential neighborhoods. Napa only allows forty-one non-hosted permits, and guess what, none of these cities are complaining about tourist shortages," Lundy said. 

But there was little unanimity around many other aspects, setting up another hearing on the topic June 20th. The council will then consider grace periods for those whose permits have expired, including potentially extra wiggle room for new operators. Other issues, including caps, exclusion zones, grandfathering and a limit on how many STRs may be operated by one person, all likely to be refined, were punted to a July 11th second reading.

In the meantime, a moratorium on accepting new applications for non-hosted STRs will remain.

A motion to revoke all permits for non-hosted short term rentals in residential zones, put forward by Councilwoman Victoria Fleming, failed six to one. However, the council left open potentially putting that issue to a city-wide vote next year. 

"Two-thirds of residents said they weren't interested in this being here or we weren't being strict enough. I think that the voters definitely deserve to be heard," Fleming said.

 Another issue--wildfire concerns also prompted discord. Fire department and planning officials recommended a ban on any outdoor burning of any kind. The council moved to permit the use of propane and natural gas grills at non-hosted rentals, prohibiting any wood fires or charcoal-fired barbecue grills.



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