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PAUL WYATT, former Dana Point Councilmember

The Dana Point Planning Commission (DPPC) is holding short-term rental (STR) workshops. This letter does not favor or oppose STRs in Dana Point (DP); it should help residents make an informed decision.

Although it has been frequently stated that DP has a long history of STRs, they are not and have never been legal in DP, not even during 2014 through 2016, when DP was issuing STR permits. The April 2, 2013 Council Meeting Staff Report entitled “Status of Existing Short-Term Rentals” states: “It is estimated that over 250 short-term rentals are operating in the City, and per Council’s direction … staff has not expended resources taking action against persons operating such uses, even though they are currently prohibited by the DP zoning code.”

Existing STRs operating with DP-issued permits are operating illegally. In January 2014, the DPCC approved sending a zone text amendment to the CCC for approval. Although DP began issuing STR permits at that time, it communicated that STR operation was illegal until the CCC approved the zoning change. Quoting from the April 2, 2013 Staff Report: “Hence, any person desiring to operate a short-term rental prior to all zoning changes becoming effective will be doing so at their own risk, knowing they are violating current City regulations, which may not be changed if the Coastal Commission does not grant its approval.” When the DPCC rescinded the zone text amendment in November 2016, it allowed STRs with permits to continue operating in violation of City regulations.

The STR ordinance approved in 2014 and rescinded in 2016 had all the characteristics of the pilot program currently being discussed. Pilot programs permit STRs to operate in zones where they are illegal while negotiating with the CCC to amend the zoning code. This violation of the DP zoning code puts DP in a questionable legal situation, puts risk on the STR operators, reducing the likelihood of a successful pilot, and cedes control to the CCC.

STRs are businesses, as stated in DP Municipal Code Section 5.38. The zoning code must be changed to allow legal STRs operations. The 34,000 DP residents being asked to give up their right to live in residential-only neighborhoods should have the opportunity to vote on this zoning change. If they are not concerned with STRs in their neighborhood, they should approve the change, but the change should not be forced on them.

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