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By Andrea Papagianis
Dana Point residents engaged in an open conversation with Assistant City Manager Mike Killebrew about short-term vacation rentals Friday at a Civic Association forum at the Dana Point Harbor.
In November, city council approved measures directing city staffers to draft an ordinance to regulate short-term rentals. Current city code is silent on the issue and does not allow or disallow such rentals in residential areas—as a result these rentals are considered illegal.
For the most part, Killebrew said, the city has received a small number of complaints relating to vacation rentals—but grievances have included excessive noise, trash and parking issues.
According to Killebrew less than one percent of the near 14,000 housing units in the city are used as vacation rentals, but these rentals are not subject to the same Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT)—a 10 percent bed tax placed on revenue generated by rentals of less than 30 days—that hotels, inns and campsites are.
“The way I’ve heard it before is, Al Capone wasn’t necessarily arrested for all the nefarious activities that he did, but they busted him for violating the tax code,” Killebrew said. “It’s the same thing here. We can regulate or not regulate and allow or not allow vacation rental units but our tax code applies no matter what.”
But, as Killebrew noted, short-term rentals not being taxed is a separate issue.
Currently city leaders are focused on exploring what regulating these rentals would entail. As recommended by the Planning Commission, the city is considering implementing a permit program, limiting the number of occupants allowed in units or banning short-term rentals all together, but hasn’t made any decisions as of yet.
Beth Everett, of Laguna Nigel, who owns three rental properties in Dana Point said rental owners must be held accountable. Everett, screens all renters and has never had an issue or heard complaints from neighbors. For three years, Everett has rented to retired federal employee Joanie Smith from the Washington D.C. area. Smith, who accompanied Everett to the meeting, said she’s spent about $42,000 in airfare, lodging and other travel costs in her trips to Dana Point.
Not all agreed.
“It’s important to call these what they are, these are not vacation rentals, these are motels, these are a businesses that people buy into,” said Gary Clark, a 38-year resident of Capistrano Beach.
Although no agenda has been set, Killebrew said the council could vote on the issue at the next scheduled meeting, set for Tuesday, February 5 at 6 p.m. at City Council Chambers, 33282, Golden Lantern St.