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Alan Bell, Capistrano Beach

Well, at least they’re consistent. Our city council majority (Joe Muller, Richard Viczorek and Jamey Federico) voted in lockstep yet again to put the interests of outside investors over citizens. Last Tuesday, the council voted on a proposed resolution that staff develop a three-year pilot program for short-term rentals (STRs). California Coastal Commission (CCC) staff had worked with the STR subcommittee of Debra Lewis and Paul Wyatt to negotiate a homestay STR program that might be acceptable to both residents and the CCC. Homestays provide affordable rentals while preserving long-term rental housing and recognizing the city’s wide range of hotel rooms at all price points.

A city-sponsored, statistically valid survey showed a clear majority preference for homestays (rental of rooms in residents’ primary homes). It also showed that 60% disapproved of STRs owned by investors, with 45% strongly opposed. Ironically, 72% of Dana Point’s current STRs are actually owned by investors, with 64% from out of town.

The majority didn’t care. They voted to include STRs of any kind in the pilot program. Worse, they struck a key section calling for the city to process an LCPA and zoning text amendment to formally adopt new zoning through the CCC.

Muller and Viczorek decided the ordinance should remain in the business code and never be brought to the CCC. Paul Wyatt pointed out that this would be illegal, and the city attorney agreed. They struck it anyway.

Dana Point has a “permissive” zoning code.  Unless something is specifically permitted, it is deemed prohibited.  STRs have never been legally permitted in our zoning. A total of 150 STRs have operated for the past seven years with the understanding that their permits are subject to ratification by the CCC. That has never happened.

The icing on the cake was when Muller and Viczorek voted no to Lewis’ motion to at least allow residents to vote on an eventual ordinance.  Shamefully, Federico joined them.

And, by the way, these men represent Districts 1, 2, and 3, which are filled with HOAs. Capistrano Beach and Lantern District, with few protective HOAs, are sitting ducks. They have no recourse against the three people who allowed 73% of current STRs into their communities—and more are sure to come. Enforcement is a joke. Illegal STRs continue to proliferate, and in the past three years, only 22% of $122,000 in fines was ever collected.

The bottom line is, we have a council majority that ignores staff recommendations, Coastal Act zoning laws and, despicably, the desires of its residents. And now they say you can’t vote on zoning for your most valuable asset. Is this OK with you, Dana Point?

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