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: fswegles@ocregister.com or 949-492-5127

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