Over a decade in, the county tries yet again to create new short-term rental regulations. – Monterey County Weekly

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For more than 10 years, the County of Monterey has been working to create new regulations around short-term rentals in places visitors desire, like Big Sur, Pebble Beach and Carmel Valley. So far nothing has stuck despite repeated attempts. In 2020, residents’ concerns that vacation rentals could displace them or their neighbors played into why the regulations were kicked back to staff yet again. The Board of Supervisors said they wanted an environmental impact report that answered that question, and a draft EIR is now out for public comment.

As proposed, the county’s regulations would allow up to 6 percent of the total number of single-family residential units in a land use area to be used as a commercial vacation rental, with Big Sur as an exception, as well as low-density residential zoning districts in unincorporated Carmel. With approximately 34,600 units total, that could mean just over 2,000 rentals allowed, according to the DEIR. It reports that in 2023 there were 825 advertised rentals – all but around 30 are operating without permits. There could then be room for just under 1,200 more rentals, the draft report states.

One of the biggest concerns that stymied the process four years ago was the fear that vacation rentals would negatively impact long-term housing. The DEIR states that “relatively limited additional growth” in vacation rentals is expected, around 76 additional rentals per year. They are “not expected to displace a substantial number of residents as a result of the proposed regulations.”

“That is a very surprising statement,” says C.S. Noel, president of the Carmel Valley Association, which has been pushing the county to keep vacation rentals under control. With just over 5,000 housing units, a 6-percent cap could mean up to 300 vacation rentals allowed in the Valley.

The DEIR estimates that converting 50 percent of allowable vacation rentals from long-term to short-term could displace an estimated 1,800 people from long-term housing, if the full 6 percent of vacation rentals are realized. While some would relocate to other rental housing in the county, “it is likely that, due to high housing costs, some would relocate outside of this county,” the DEIR states. But with a 6-percent cap, the DEIR called any impacts “less than significant.”

There are six alternatives listed in the DEIR, including keeping current regulations, which it states could lead to an uncapped number of conversions of housing units and more resident displacement. Other alternatives include: allowing “homestays” where the property owner lives in the home and rents out a portion; implementing a cap lower 6 six percent; or not allowing conversions of long-term housing.

Alternative 6 would prohibit commercial vacation rentals in residential zones in Carmel Valley – it’s the one CVA supports, Noel says, although she says the group will have more detailed comments to share by the deadline, Monday, Jan. 29. Comments can be submitted to [email protected].

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