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Cutline: Associate Planner Paul McClaren. (Photo by Chris Frost)
Wednesday, July 10, 2019

By Chris Frost


Oxnard—The fur flew during the Housing & Economic Development Committee meeting, July 9, as the committee reviewed the proposed short-term rental (STR) ordinance and offered direction to the staff.


The committee advised staff to follow a 5 percent cap guideline for short-term rentals in the city, and two of three members supported a 180-day limit for the units. The city staff removed those limits.


The city council chambers were almost full as residents felt hoodwinked by the city over the way the report was released.


Assistant City Manager Ashley Golden led off the comments, and she acknowledged the tension and frustration in the room because attendees felt the city didn’t provide enough advance notice for the meeting and manipulated the best practices.


“First, I want the council to know that the report was published in accordance with your Sunshine Ordinance,” she said. “Staff did indicate that we were going to be publishing ahead of schedule in accordance with the city council meetings and not with the committee meetings. That’s what led to the perception that there wasn’t advance notice.”


Up until six months ago, Golden said the report would not have been published until July 5, but it was published a week in advance, which is the requirement for the Sunshine Ordinance.


“It is the holiday weekend, and we know it is an important topic to our community, so we accept the frustration that is there on behalf of the staff,” she said.  "Many of you are aware that a report was released that included a 5 percent cap and 180-day regulations. However, that is not the report that was published on Tuesday and what is before you today to provide direction on.”


Some of the feedback the staff received are comments that residents have no confidence in what the staff is doing and no confidence in the city.


“I understand that frustration, but I assure that those changes should give the residents the faith and confidence in the staff,” she said. “We know the regulations we put forward are not going to make the residents happy, but what council asked us to do at the March 25, special meeting was to look at three things, the enforcement of STRs, the capping, and limits of STRs, and the addressing of existing STRs in the community. In that lens, we were supposed to look at best practices, not what the community or residents necessarily want. That is where council comes in to direct that policy. It’s not the staff’s role to filter the data. It’s the staff’s role to bring objective data forward.”


She took responsibility for removing the 5 percent cap that was in the draft ordinance, and said they removed it because the staff could not cite a best practice regulation.


Associate Planner Paul McClaren gave the presentation to the committee and said the city has been working on this item for several years.


“They wanted us to look at three different areas, including enforcement and penalties for violations of the ordinance, limiting the number of short-term rentals by districts, and how to address short-term rentals,” he said. “We’ve prepared two ordinances; one for the coastal areas, and one for the non-coastal areas.”


In non-coastal zones, the short-term rentals will be allowed in the R-1, residential single family, R-2, the multi-family zones, R-3, garden apartment zones, R-4, the high-rise residential zones and CBDs, the central business district. The ordinance does not propose they will change anything in the R-2, R-3, and R-4 zones.


Short-term rentals will be allowed in the R-B-1 zone, single-family beach sub-zone, R-W-!, the single-family water-oriented sub-zone, R-W-2, townhouse water-oriented sub-zone, R-2-C, the coastal multiple-family sub-zone, R-3-C, the coastal multiple-family, sub-zone, CPC, the coastal planned community sub-zone and residential beachfront zones.


“It does allow vacation rentals and home shares with a short-term rental permit that must be obtained annually,” McClaren said. “The short-term rentals must maintain a valid business license and must pay their business license taxes timely.”


STR owners must obtain and maintain a transient occupancy tax certificate and pay all their transient occupancy taxes.


“It requires permitting and inspection to be sure it meets health and safety standards and establishes ownership requirements and limitations,” he said. “There can only be one STR per owner.”


The ordinance will identify residential housing units, ineligible affordable housing units, and mobile homes, and requires a notice sent to all property owners within 300 feet of a short-term rental.


“The nuisance response plan will include a 24-hour hotline number if there are concerns or nuisances that arise, you can contact the 24-hour hotline,” he said. “This establishes quiet hours from 10 p.m. until 7 a.m., which aligns with our noise ordinance. There will be no amplified or outdoor music during those quiet hours, and no one other than renters allowed on the site during those quiet hours.”


The primary occupant must be at least 21-years-old, and the occupancy limit will be set at 10 people, or two people per bedroom, whichever is less.


“It establishes on-site parking requirements and noise limitations and prohibits on-site events without a temporary use permit,” he said. 


The proposed ordinance requires that property management completes response requirements and a complete inspection compliance and enforcement program.


“It allows inspection and monitoring to make sure the home (vacation rental) is in compliance with the regulations and establishes that three or more verified complaints occur in a 12-month period; it is grounds for revocation of the permit,” he said. “If the person whose permit is revoked appeals that permit, they would be able to go to a hearing officer for a hearing process.”


Changes to the ordinance include eliminating the 180-days per year limit in the coastal and non-coastal zones.


"Research from staff indicated that about half the cities researched don’t have a limit on the number of rentals per year,” McClaren said. “The host compliance companies I’ve talked to say they have no ability to track how many nights somebody is staying and how many nights they are being rented per year.”


They also eliminated the three-night minimum stay in the non-coastal zone and removed the signage requirements for the short-term rentals because it can encourage crime for the units.


The city is seeking an enforcement company for the short-term rentals, and they need to know how much that will cost so they can recoup the cost through their fees for the rentals.


“Violations of the ordinance are considered infractions with fines of $1,000 per separate offense,” McClaren said. “Every day the violation continues is a separate offense.”


The third violation will be a misdemeanor, he said, and the permit will be revoked, and there is possible prosecution of the violators.


McClaren said there is no existing methodology when it comes to setting a cap on the STRs, and there are no results about how well the limits are working, and there are many variables regarding how caps affect a city.


“Things like the mix of single-family versus multi-family, the size of the neighborhood, the density of the neighborhood, the location of the neighborhood, and the proximity to the beach,” he said. “Since no cities are exactly like another, we would have to make sure the city reflects the same conditions we have.”


He asked the committee for further guidance on a possible cap.


This story will continue in the July 19, edition.

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