(CNS) – The Board of Supervisors Tuesday tentatively approved new regulations for short-term rental properties in unincorporated areas of Riverside County, reaching compromises on occupancy limitations and requirements on sprinkler systems inside homes.
It was the board’s second hearing regarding amendments to the Short- Term Rental Ordinance, No. 927, with testimony and dialogue on the dais lasting nearly five hours. A previous hearing on July 26 ran slightly longer.
“My feelings on personal freedom make me want to say, `Hands-off, leave this alone,”‘ Supervisor Kevin Jeffries said. “But we have an obligation to protect property rights on both sides of the fence.”
One of the main concerns was related to occupancy in short-term rentals. The ordinance reviewed and approved by the county Planning Commission earlier this year would have mandated a maximum of two persons to each bedroom and one person per dwelling unit.
The supervisors on July 26 leaned toward a baseline maximum, regardless of bedroom count, of 10 people per residence under the first “tier” of the multi-tier system in the proposed revised ordinance.
During debate Tuesday, the board changed direction after hearing hours of testimony, preferring a ratio that would allow one person for every 200 square feet to a maximum of 10 people where residences occupy an acre or less. For residences on lots of one to two-and-a-half acres, up to 16 guests would be permitted, and acreage above that amount would mean up to 20 people could stay in a short-term rental in a given period.
Higher tiers and larger spaces, such as ranch-style properties, would enable short-term rental operators to accommodate even larger groups, pending approval by the county Department of Planning.
The Transportation & Land Management Agency inserted a regulation that caused numerous property owners concern, leaving open the possibility that residences in higher tiers might have to install fire sprinkler systems costing between $30,000 and $100,000 in order to receive a short-term rental permit.
One owner said the stipulation would put him out of business.
“We should only recommend sprinklers,” Supervisor Karen Spiegel said.
Jeffries agreed, asserting, “We’re not going to mandate fire sprinklers. That’s a recommendation for whoever can afford it because that would involve a major remodel to a home. There has to be a point of common sense coming into this.”
Discussion of whether “accessory dwelling units,” such as guest houses or garage-type living spaces, should fall into the regulatory framework was temporarily tabled until TLMA could figure out how to make ADUs pass muster with state standards established a few years ago.
The board kept a provision for outdoor noise monitors, which would have to be installed to ensure disturbances are minimized. The county’s “quiet time” rules, specifying no loud noises between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., would additionally need to be observed.
Rental operators would also have to notify neighbors within 300 feet that a property will be utilized for rotating rentals, and signage would have to be posted on the exterior of a property with the contact information for operators in case of problems.
Previously, the signage would had to have been visible from a roadway, but the supervisors decided that was unnecessary. The revised provisions state that the sign only be “clearly visible” on the property.
The revised ordinance would mandate that a “responsible operator” be clearly designated before a short-term rental certificate is issued by the Department of Planning. The operator could be the owner of a property, or someone selected by the owner to act as his or her representative.
Rentals would also need to have a “responsible person” on-site during the time the property is leased.
Short-term rental certificates would be good for a year. Units defined as short-term rentals would provide temporary living space for a maximum of 30 days, but not less than two days and one night, according to the proposed revisions. The properties would be subject to a 10% transient occupancy tax, much the same as hotels and motels.
The application fee to establish a short-term venue would be $250 to $740, depending on the size, and annual renewals would run $100 to $540.
The revised ordinance would mandate that an operator respond within 60 minutes to complaints or emergencies; otherwise, he or she might be subject to civil penalties, and the short-term rental certificate could be revoked.
The county has already established a “special enforcement team” of code enforcement officers dedicated to policing “party house” complaints on weekends and during nighttime hours.
Noise, health and other violations could result in citations of between $1,500 and $5,000, depending on the circumstances.
In February, the board approved a $346,240 contract with San Diego- based Deckard Technologies Inc. to manage the registration of short-term rentals, keep track of tax payments and handle the production and distribution of brochures for operators.
Ordinance No. 927 was approved in January 2016, establishing basic criteria by which short-term rental property owners and agents are supposed to abide.
It was in direct response to “adverse impacts to surrounding neighbors and properties (from) unpermitted large-scale events, excessive noise, disorderly conduct, traffic congestion, illegal vehicle parking and accumulation of refuse.”
Officials said there are roughly 1,100 registered short-term rental businesses in unincorporated communities, but they believe the unregistered number could be three times that amount.
The board is slated to hold a final hearing on the proposed amendments to the ordinance in the next month.
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