In response to growing complaints from local residents, Santa Cruz County Planning Department are getting together next week to devise a new set of regulations for owners of vacation rentals located between Santa Cruz Harbor and Pleasure Point.
A Committee including Planning Department officials, residents and vacation home owners will propose a set of recommendations to be reviewed and approved by the Board of Supervisors. They are hoping to have this wrapped up and in place by spring 2011.
The problem started when real estate in a primarily residential area experienced a growing conversion of vacation rentals resulting in a large population of tourists. Most tenants are just fine, but there is a small percentage that have become such a nuisance that the neighborhood is frequently being disrupted. There have been growing incidents of loud partying, drunkenness, street fights, littered properties, cars blocking driveways, and resulting police calls - at least 10 in the last six months.
The difficult part is devising a plan that will satisfy both long term residents and rental home owners, and that will establish some sort of regulation without going overboard. Some of the recommendations include:
landlords to pay for cost of police action after an incident
ban on large events such as stag parties, wedding receptions, business retreats
guests should be required to stay a minimum of 1 week
signs posted displaying contact information of landlord in the event of problems
Resident, Margaret Macksey of Live Oak, complains, "we live in a residential neighborhood and we are surrounded by commercial properties." Others describe the area as fraternity row, and feel that if these short term rentals are going to operate as businesses, they should be licensed and regulated as commercial establishments. Some of these homes cost as much as $5000 for a weekend, and on some streets there are almost a dozen rentals.
Most of the rental home owners claim they are renting just to pay the bills as a result of lost jobs, or increased mortgage payments - if it wasn't for the rent payments, they may lose their homes altogether.
This area is highly dependent on tourism, and many felt that cutting back on vacation rentals would do more harm than good, especially since there are no hotels in the immediate area.
Resident Chuck Oliver feels each case should be addressed individually, "we need people to start being accountable and we can't punish 90 percent for what 10 percent are doing." Unfortunately, most rules are instigated because of that disruptive 10 percent, says Supervisor John Leopold.
The suggestion that rentals be restricted to a minimum 7 days was met with strong disapproval from landlords. In fact, most rely on weekends and 2 or 3 day rentals for the majority of their business. In this economy, not all families can afford to vacation for extended periods.
Originally, new regulations were to apply to only the Live Oak community, but Supervisor Ellen Pirie suggested it should include Seacliff, Rio del Mar and La Selva Beach as well. All of these neighborhoods are seeing a steady growth in short term rentals.
Other communities that regulate vacation rentals include Capitola which requires a permit and business license, and puts restraints on rental locations. Monterey and Carmel address the issue by banning short term rentals in all residential areas.
Once these businesses become regulated, and order is somewhat restored, one has to wonder if long time residents will ever feel comfortable. After all, the face of their quiet neighborhoods is evolving, and it will be up to them to decide whether this is a place they still want to call home.
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