By Matt Cortina and Kristina Pritchett

After the Dana Point City Council passed an ordinance to approve short-term rentals in the city, two actions—one from the Coastal Commission and one from residents—figure to extend the debate.

Opponents of the city’s ordinance, which allows homeowners to rent all or portions of their home for between two and 30 days after getting a permit and home inspection, have started collecting signatures for a referendum. The referendum would ask Council to reconsider and repeal short-term rental regulations, or send it to a vote of the people, possibly during a special election.

The city had been working on the regulations for years, and a pilot program has been in effect since 2013. If approved, the referendum would require the city to restart the process of enacting short-term rental rules from the beginning.

One of the opponents’ major complaints with the ordinance is that it cedes too much control to the Coastal Commission. Though the Commission only has jurisdiction over coastal access, and development (which short-term rentals are considered) in the coastal zone, opponents say the language in the ordinance is so broad that any future move the city makes to limit or prohibit short-term rentals would have to pass through the Commission.

Councilman Carlos Olvera, who voted for the ordinance, said the city has “reestablished a positive report with the CCC,” and so the Commission may be amenable to accommodating any additional moves to regulate short-term rentals.

“In this new ordinance is language that any changes needed would also be negotiated and not automatically mandated,” Olvera added.

There is precedent for how the Coastal Commission might respond to cities or HOAs moving to block short-term rentals.

The Commission recently sent a letter to a homeowners’ association in Oxnard that banned short-term rentals. The letter claims short-term rentals are a critical piece to providing coastal access, and fines of over $11,000 per day could be levied against the HOA if it persists. However, the Commission recommended regulations the HOA could enact, and said it would work with the city and HOA to avoid fines and litigation.

Councilman Joe Muller, who voted against the ordinance, said he was concerned from the beginning about the Commission’s level of control.

“Is that going to become an issue in Dana Point considering the new ordinance does not state HOAs have control of short-term rentals?” Muller said.

The Commission’s jurisdiction is solely within the coastal zone, according to the Noaki Schwartz, public information officer for the Commission, and so, ostensibly, future regulations enacted outside the zone would not require major Commission action.

The referendum to repeal the ordinance is currently seeking signatures.

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comments (3)

  • Jason Colaco, Dana Point Resident Reply

    Its actually quite scary what could happen if this referendum passes. People need to be educated before signing anything. A repeal of this ordinance could dramatically change the Dana Point we have grown to know and love. The referendum folks make it sound simple, put it to a vote. In reality if we wanted that to happen, it should have happened 3-years ago before the ordinance was put in place. Today 100’s of people are operating Short Term Rentals peacefully in our community. It has become a significant revenue source for our city and our local businesses. It also provides flexibly, a right that we as property owners should not want to relinquish. For people renting, home sharing for short periods of time in the summer is a great way to make living at the beach affordable.

    Probably the most concerning aspect of a repeal is what it would do to our communities in the Coastal Zone. 1/3 of Dana Point (All of Monarch Beach and the neighborhoods west of PCH) are in the Coastal Zone and most are in an HOA. A key aspect of the ordinance requires that permit applicants show proof that their HOA’s CC&Rs allows Short Term Rentals before a permit will be issued. It took our city a full year to negotiate this clause with the Coastal Commission. They were not in favor of allowing our HOAs to prohibit Short Term Rentals, but in the end caved on this issue. All of these communications between our city and the Coastal Commission are readily available online and validate what I am saying. Should this ordinance go to a vote, as those in favor of the referendum want, we would likely put ourselves at severe odds with the Coastal Commission and its highly unlikely they would allow us to prohibit Short Term Rentals in HOAs again. Fact of the matter is today we have mechanisms to limit and prohibit Short Term Rentals in all parts of the city. If this referendum succeeds we would likely lose this ability in our Coastal Zone forever.

    Please do your homework before signing anything this referendum. Keep Dana Point Friendly!.

  • Mr. Colaco claims that “100’s of people are operating Short Term Rentals peacefully in our community”. According to Ted Harris, there are about 140 active short term renters who are licensed, not hundreds. Many Dana Point residents, including many of my own neighbors, are bothered greatly by the short term rentals, which bring noise and parking congestion, not to mention permanently alter the character of many of our neighborhoods.

    To my knowledge the City Council obtained no studies of the overall impact on the community of STRs. Studies elsewhere have shown that STRs bring many negatives, and that the purported financial gain is outweighed the costs associated with STRs.

    The claimsthis this ordinance provides “the fact of the matter is today we have mechanisms to limit and prohibit Short Term Rentals in all parts of the city” are simply false. The Amendments sought by the Coastal Commission require its approval for any modification or limitation or prohibition. The Coastal Commission has made it clear in other contexts that it will not permit any ordinance which limits coastal access. This “flexibly” (sic) just got frozen. “We”., or rather 3 councilmen, two of whom are lame duck, just gave away that power to limit or prohibit STRs in the coastal zone.

    If this ordinance were put to a vote, as it should be for such an important issue, it is quite possible that the vast majority of Dana Point residents would reject the ordinance completely.

  • Mark,

    If you were at the meeting, or watch the video, you will see Ted Harris state that there are 189 STRs operating in Dana Point and approximately 40 who do not have permits, which he is working to address. So approximately 200.

    If you so many of your neighbors are bothered by Short Term Rentals, why haven’t they told anyone? No calls to the police, no calls to code enforcement, no calls into the city council, few letters into the city and a small turnout at the vote, where it was well publicized all residents would have an opportunity to voice an opinion. In the same video you can see Ted Harris and the Sheriff state that there have hardly been any complaints in 3-years. Less then 5, three of which were determined to be false.

    Regarding studies, what I can tell you, is the city had numerous town hall meetings and working sessions before putting the ordinance in place 3-years ago. Most residents in Dana Point were overwhelmingly in favor. Not sure what would have changed since then, since the number of STRs operating has cut in half, and there have been less then 5 documented complaints. Its an ordinance that is working well.

    Outside of the Coastal Zone, there is nothing that prohibits our City Council from prohibiting or limiting STRs, a fact stated by our City Attorney and City Mangaer. Video evidence is available. Within our Coastal Zone, our HOAs are free to adjusting their CC&Rs, another fact backed up by video evidence. Without this ordinance our HOAs would lose this ability in all likelihood.

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