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Regs for vacation rentals shaping up

Moratorium approved; fractional homes to be reviewed

By Chris Rooney n the ongoing effort to allow vacation rentals while also assuaging residents’ concerns, the Sonoma County Planning Commission found common ground on a number of rules at its May 5 meeting.

“We passed the resolution that staff had prepared, with a couple changes,” said Commissioner Caitlin Cornwall. “The most important was we had a majority for a 5 percent cap, not a 10 percent cap. Owners must be permanent residents of Sonoma County, must be actual people — not corporations — and can only have one vacation rental each. And no vacation rentals in R1 zoned areas, which are the highest density residential areas [in the] unincorporated county. All of this only applies to new applications for vacation rentals.”

Permit Sonoma Policy Manager Bradley Dunn further explained the regulations as they pertain to residential areas. “As part of this action, the planning commission is also recommending that vacation rentals not be allowed in urban residential neighborhoods [R1 zoning], Vacation rentals are already prohibited in R2 and R3 [residential zones]. Additionally, this change improves zoning code consistency with the Sonoma County General Plan policy that reads, Avoid the loss of residential land in urban land-use designations for vacation or timeshare uses’ Licensing and management of property rentals were also discussed, with steps made to advance new rules.

County staff will return to the planning commission in July with a proposal to rezone neighborhoods based on the commission’s recommendation. Dunn said county staff anticipates a Board of Supervisors hearing on Aug. 2.

County planner Gary Helfrich explained that the department had been reaching out to housing advocates, Legal Aid of Sonoma County, property managers, and employment agencies, since February for feedback.

It was determined that licensing and oversight were vital. Also, there was a desire to ensure those renting out houses via companies such as Airbnb are local owners and not corporations that buy multiple properties with the pure aim of renting them out seasonally instead of creating housing for residents.

Another popular idea was a 24-hour hotline so neighbors could