Category Archives: Vacation home rentals

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San Clemente considers more limits on vacation rentals

A spike in vacation rentals near the coast is leading San Clemente to look at permitting the businesses in designated visitor-serving districts, while limiting them elsewhere to owner-occupied properties.

City planning commissioners, at the direction of the City Council, have been meeting weekly to draft a proposed zoning ordinance governing vacation rentals. The concept discussed Wednesday night could remove many of the vacation rentals now operating in residential neighborhoods, leaving only ones that are owner-occupied.

The commission will meet again next week – 6 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall – to consider sending a recommendation to the City Council, which could take it up March 15.

Commissioners’ consensus so far is to permit vacation rentals in four designated visitor-serving parts of town — the Pier Bowl area, portions of downtown that allow mixed-use buildings, a section of North Beach and a strip of buildings along El Camino Real at the south end of town.

Elsewhere, existing short-term rentals would be required to shut down two years after adoption of the new zoning code, except for owner-occupied ones. Those would be governed by rules yet to be defined. The commission also is looking at imposing density caps. Parking requirements could affect the potential for vacation rentals as well.

San Clemente, like other Orange County cities, is seeing a proliferation of residential properties, many of them bought up by investors who turn homes or apartments into vacation rentals. The industry is flourishing with worldwide online marketing.

Besides investors, some locals have opened their homes or apartments as short-term rentals, either for profit or to supplement their retirement. Some, on limited incomes, say that short-term rentals pay the mortgage and keep them in their home.

San Clemente has 440 permitted vacation rentals, 193 of which opened in 2015, the city said. Neighbors of some have complained about overcrowding, partying, noise, parking impacts and loss of the quality of life.

Owners of vacation rentals say they are only a small fraction of total dwellings in the city and the vast majority are good neighbors, contributing to the local economy. They say the city should focus on weeding out the few problem ones before imposing restrictions or a ban.

The City Council, on a 3-1 vote on Feb. 2, set ground rules on the operation of vacation rentals. In addition, all owners must apply for a yearly permit, and existing vacation rentals can stay for now but will be subject to any new zoning restrictions the City Council introduces in March.

“The City Council is putting in all sorts of ironclad rules on parties, noises, parking, everything you could imagine to squelch these party houses …,” said local resident Jim Bieber, who has two vacation rental properties. “Why don’t we let this process and the free market run its course, clamp down on the bad people, which the City Council has done, and revisit this issue to see if we’ve resolved it … ?”

“Ironclad rules don’t work,” local resident Jim Laurent told commissioners. He said he lives next to a virtual hotel, and the city is settling a lawsuit with his neighbor, limiting occupancy to 10. “But that’s overnight occupancy,” he said. “Guests are OK. So I could still have the potential, like I’ve seen in the past, of 20-plus people in the backyard of this property until our city has the 10 o’clock shut-off, which a lot of times goes past that, and all day long.”

Planning commissioners and city staff are drawing up zoning standards such as parking, trash bins, “quiet hours,” yearly limits on rental activity, a permit process and two-year amortization of rental units to be phased out.

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City leaders are looking to tighten regulations for vacation rentals

Check the San Clemente Vacation Homes for Rent here.

Some residents complained to the City Council on Tuesday night about “party houses,” where noise and parking are issues. Others said the majority of vacation rentals are well run and boost the economy, so the council should just go after the few bad ones with nuisance codes.

“It would devastate us not to be able to rent our property to make some money in our retirement,” Karen Kasa told the council. “That’s why we bought it and why we take such good care of it. I have never had any problems.”

Janice Kraus said she has problems in the summer with two units across the street from her house.

“You get 10 to 15 people in these two-bedroom units,” she told the council. “They have stereos placed outside. … They’re drinking, they’re barbecuing and having a good time. But they’re very loud.”

The council voted 3-1 to introduce an ordinance that requires owners to get a short-term rental permit yearly. It would set ground rules, including making the owner responsible for unreasonable noise, disturbances or disorderly conduct; occupancy limits and parking requirements.

Like other Orange County cities experiencing an explosion of homes that convert to vacation rentals and market themselves worldwide online, San Clemente has 440 permitted short-term rentals. Most are in long-established residential neighborhoods along the coast. Officials said 193 new ones opened in 2015 alone.

The 440 can stay, the City Council decided. But anyone applying for a permit for a new one between now and March 15 has no assurance the vacation rental will be allowed. That’s when the ordinance could take effect and city planning commissioners are scheduled to present the City Council with recommended zoning controls.

Those might include anything from no limitations on vacation rentals to spacing requirements to a ban on new ones or a cap.

“We want a cap … we don’t want 200 more,” Councilwoman Kathy Ward said.

Councilwoman Lori Donchak voted against the ordinance, saying she strongly supports common sense rules but opposes a virtual freeze on new permits and wanted the Planning Commission to have a full range of options.

“This is too far, too fast,” she said.

Councilman Tim Brown did not participate, as his wife works in real estate.

If the ordinance gets final council approval on Feb. 16, it would take effect 30 days later.

The City Council, which had decided at an earlier meeting to look into placing the vacation rentals issue on the November ballot, decided against that Tuesday. Council members did say they might ask voters to increase the 10-percent tourist tax that hotels and short-term rentals pay the city.

Check the San Clemente Vacation Homes for Rent here.

Contact the writer: or 949-492-5127