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A packed house expressed concerns about the proposed short-term rental ordinance to the planning commission. (Photo by Chris Frost)
Thursday, August 8, 2019

By Chris Frost


Oxnard—Residents from Oxnard Shores and The Colony packed the Aug. 1 planning commission meeting, ready to express concerns about the short-term rental (STR) ordinance heading to the council in Sept.


Short-term rentals are currently not regulated in the City of Oxnard. The affected areas have mobilized and are taking action to make sure their voices are heard.


After extensive public comments and plenty of questions from the commissioners, the group advised Community Development Manager Jeff Lambert to move forward, but asked for changes. These changed included parking enforcement at the properties, progressive fines for repeat offenders, requiring the property manager to live closer to the rental, within 25 miles, a 100 day limit per year on the days someone can rent the property, five percent cap of total STRs, including the residential beach-front zone, a 300-500 foot separation between STRs, and no amplified noise outside. 


Commission Chairperson Diedre Frank recused herself from the meeting due to a conflict of interest, which violates the terms agreed to by the Fair Political Practices Commission.


Vice-Chair Wilfredo Chua took over the meeting and introduced Lambert who reviewed the timeline for the ordinance up till the meeting date.


The city started getting complaints about the impact of short-term rentals within the city, and the council directed the staff to research the issues and resolve the problem.


Staff reached out to the public in 2016 and has been looking at the issue for multiple years.


"We had a commission study session in Nov. 2016, and the planning commission had a public hearing in June 2017," he said. "Starting earlier this year, we brought it to the council's housing and economic development committee. Ultimately, the city council asked that we come up with best practices, make recommendations, and get everything on the table that reflects the best practices in the cities around coastal California."


The staff proposed an outline with best practices in March, and the meeting included a lot of input from residents. The council directed staff to prepare an ordinance.


The ordinance will not include mobile homes, because those communities have their regulations, and the short-term rental ordinance will complicate those rules.


Permits issued to short-term rental owners require an annual fee, he said and will require the owner to obtain a business license.


"It also requires a transient occupancy tax in place," he said. "The obligation is clear as a condition of approval going forward. It also requires advance notification of the issuance of the permit. This is not a public hearing notice in advance. It is an attempt to say that once a permit is issued because it complies with all the regulations, the neighbors are notified there is a short-term rental within the 300-foot radius."


The ordinance has an appeal process, Lambert said, which is built into the ordinance.  If someone's permit is denied, suspended or revoked, the property owner can appeal that decision. It's not a normal appeal process for approval. 


"I want to make that clear," he said. 


The city also proposes a pre-permitting inspection, and city staff will inspect the unit and make sure it's legal and has basic life safety provisions.


"I'm not looking for complete current code compliance," he said. "We want to make sure the exiting works and the smoke detectors are in there.  Those kinds of life-saving issues must be in there, and somebody is not trying to rent an illegally converted garage. That inspection is critical. We will be developing a checklist of what is entailed in that inspection, so homeowners know what we are looking for."


The city will hire a compliance company, he said, and Lambert called compliance a critical regulation.


One part of the feedback Lambert received is the city does not enforce the current rules, and there is a trust issue about any future regulations.


"There are no current regulations on short-term rentals in Oxnard," he said. "We're hopeful that if we have the regulations in place and we have a robust enforcement program in place, we'll see compliance. There will be penalties in place if they are not satisfied."


Only property owners can obtain a permit, he said, and the permit expires if the owner sells the property. The new owner will have to come back in and request a short-rental permit if they want one.


"There is only one short-term rental per owner," he said. "We realize there are some that might have more than one, so we're building in a one-year compliance period. If somebody has more than one per owner that allows them to sell or transfer that second, or third or however many they have."


The ordinance also requires that each rental has one or two accessible property managers within a 40-mile radius of the property.


"The owner must provide specific notification to the tenants that are renting the STR about what the rules are," he said. "They must be posted inside the unit and in the rental agreement. We have good examples of agreements that have those provisions clearly outlined. We'll make that part of the permit review process."


The rules will include the guest limits, what the day and night hours are, and restrictions on noise and events. Parking regulations and requirements, waste collection, and the fact that fireworks are illegal in STRs will be in the rules.


"There will also be operational standards included to tenants, and a limitation for overnight occupancy," he said. "We provide for two-persons per bedroom, plus two additional guests for a total of 10. There will be five in the homestays."


The maximum number of persons allowed on the property will be an additional six, plus the 10 overnight guests, he said, and that will be during daylight hours only. Quiet hours are from 10 p.m. until 10 a.m. in the rentals.


"We also require a nuisance response plan," he said. "The applicant has to give us a detailed plan about how they are going to respond to nuisances, so we make sure we have a quick response. The way the regulations are written today, they have 30 minutes to respond to a complaint, and in 15 minutes during quiet hours. It's a tight regulation to make sure there is a responsible owner in place. The primary occupant of the residence must be 21 or older."


This story will continue in the Aug. 16, issue of the Tri County Sentry.

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