Humboldt County supervisors postpone decision on short-term rentals – Jefferson Public Radio

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On Tuesday, Humboldt County supervisors continued their discussion about regulating short-term rentals like Airbnbs and Vrbos in the unincorporated areas of the county.

The number of vacation rentals in the county has fluctuated recently between 600 and 790, according to a staff report. “This is the equivalent of between 3 and 5 years of housing production in the unincorporated areas of Humboldt County,” the report reads.

The goals of the proposed ordinances (one for coastal zones and one for inland zones) are to minimize the impacts these rentals have on local housing stock and preserve neighborhood character. The Zoning Code would also be modified in tandem with the two ordinances.

These proposed ordinances would set standards for things like parking and noise and require a two-year administrative permit, among other stipulations. The ordinances would also allow permits to be revoked due to violations and create two rental tiers with different requirements, one for renting part of a unit, now called a homeshare, and one for renting the whole unit.

Short-term rentals would be capped at 2% in the coastal Humboldt Bay area. They currently occupy about 1.66% of the housing stock county-wide, according to research performed by the county’s Planning and Building department. In other county-designed community areas, they would be capped at 5% of the housing stock. Homeshares would not be subject to the cap.

Supervisor Steve Madrone said Tuesday that the difficulty is balancing the need for short-term rentals with the need for housing.

“I think we all know that there are two sides to this and not necessarily sides but varying viewpoints about this. I also think we’re all trying really hard to figure out how to have these [short-term rentals] because they’re absolutely a piece of our tourism economy. They are a very important part,” he said.

The county has held a series of public meetings on this topic and collected over 100 written comments.

In public comments, residents have said they’re concerned short-term rentals are negatively impacting their neighborhoods and limiting housing availability for people who live and work in the county.

“Neighborhood concerns relate to the amount of noise, parking, traffic speeds, not recognizing who is coming and going within the neighborhood and loss of community without full-time residents,” according to the staff report. “The concern is reflected in the complaints received by County Code Enforcement about short-term rentals. During the summer, the frequency was about one complaint per week.”

During public comment Tuesday, resident James Adam Taylor encouraged supervisors to be as rigorous as possible when addressing this problem.

“This is one of the most rent and housing burdened communities in the entire country. Anything that you have the power to do to make it more affordable to live here, with housing stock that already exists, is incredibly important to do,” he said.

In past public comments, some residents have also expressed support for short-term rentals, saying they offer a variety of benefits to the county’s economy, particularly the tourism industry, as well as the community.

After hours of discussion, supervisors postponed making a decision on the ordinances until March 5. The county’s Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval last year.

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