DP logoToni Nelson, Capistrano Beach

Like most Dana Point residents, I’m interested in preserving the long-term residential nature of our neighborhoods. Recently, group homes, congregate-care facilities and short-term vacation rentals have been popping up in coastal cities, many of which (including Laguna Beach, San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano) have taken steps to restrict such transient uses. In Dana Point, a Short-Term Vacation Rental Ordinance with far-reaching effects could be set for final approval at the Sept. 20 City Council meeting.  The proposed ordinance permits rentals of 29 days or less with two-day stays allowed in all residential neighborhoods.

This issue has been before the Council for some years, and most are happy with the safeguards put in place by Chapter 5.38.080 in Dana Point’s municipal code.  The ordinance sets out a process for permitting such uses, subjecting owners to inspections and regulations, restricting parking and providing a process for shutting down homes that permit unruly tourists to hold parties or create other nuisances. The ordinance does not, however, limit the number of days of transient use or prohibit the proliferation of vacation rental businesses throughout residential areas.

The Dana Point ordinance does not address other categories of transitory accommodations and does not restrict such uses to particular areas of the City.

As it currently stands, the ordinance prohibits short-term rentals where HOAs (often) or CC&R’s (rarely) specifically preclude them, but does not extend such protections to ordinary residents unless they organize their tracts and incur legal fees.  It is unclear whether the City Council or the Coastal Commission can legally overrule an HOA’s prohibition of such uses.

The problem is the process of amending municipal zoning to allow this use has to go to the California Coastal Commission.  The CCC praised this ordinance, in fact calling it a “model” for other cities.  Unfortunately, in suggesting amendments, the CCC extended its reach much further than we anticipated, requiring the ordinance to allow short-term vacation rentals in all residential areas—far beyond the coastal zone in which the CCC normally has jurisdiction.

The other issue is that once the ordinance is in place, future amendments or cancellation will be extremely difficult.  The Coastal Commission’s stated goal is to enhance coastal access for all.  It would be highly unlikely they would do anything in the future to restrict such access, even if we experienced a huge proliferation and changed our minds.

So, Dana Pointers, if you live in a residential neighborhood, and you don’t have an HOA or CC&Rs that prohibit such uses, you just may wake up one day and have a mini-hotel or two operating next to you.

In the end, this is a controversial issue, pitting those who want to make money by renting their properties as short-term rental businesses via VRBO, Airbnb or other sites, against the majority who prefer to retain the long-term residential nature of their neighborhoods.

My recommendation?

Get educated on this issue and speak out at upcoming Council meetings or email kward@danapoint.org to put your views before Council.  Otherwise, three Councilmen may pass an ordinance that has the potential to change your neighborhoods in significant ways.

To submit a Letter to the Editor, send us an email at letters@danapointtimes.com.

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