County Gets a Grip on Vacation Rentals

Short-term renting of vacation homes is a growing but unregulated industry and Humboldt County supervisors are reacting to controversy by pursuing new rules.

Development of an ordinance that will set permitting and performance standards for vacation home rentals was kicked off at the Feb. 9 Board of Supervisors meeting. Supervisors directed planning staff to develop an ordinance through the county’s Planning Commission, with final approval by the board.

The action is a first step in a regulation process that will set rules for traffic, noise, parking, events and other activities associated with short-term rentals of homes to tourists and visitors.

In a presentation to supervisors, planning staff members said the benefits of economic development will be weighed against the impacts of renting homes in single-family neighborhoods for visits of less than 30 days.

Supervisors were told that with the advent of rentals brokered through companies like Airbnb, complaints about neighborhood disruptions have increased. Staff also reported that owners of vacation homes have said they want a process in place that will govern their business.

Vacation rentals are most controversial in the Westhaven/Trinidad area and several of its residents described the rentals as commercial enterprises that can conflict with neighborhood standards.

But the issue is relevant countywide and Supervisor Estelle Fennell said she’s been “getting correspondence on this for quite some time and I appreciate the work of those who want to do it right.”

Several owners of vacation homes and representatives of companies that make them available said they’re serious about carrying out their business responsibly.

Mike Reinman, owner of Redwood Coast Vacation Rentals, which rents 83 vacation homes in the region, said there are ways to make sure rentals are compatible and he supports setting rules for doing do.

“One of the things we do is to have property managers available 24/7 and we have them living in the areas where the houses are,” he continued. “That’s really important for us, so we can respond quickly and be proactive as well.”

Others involved in renting vacation homes also said they support regulations and view them as a means of giving their industry more credibility.

Board Chair Mark Lovelace thanked those who spoke and said their comments will help guide planning staff as they work on a new regulatory ordinance.

“There are concerns based upon the impacts of something that so far we have not regulated,” he continued.

Lovelace summed up the most commonly-voiced concerns, saying that water and septic capacity, traffic, parking, noise, clustering of rentals and having onsite management are issues that need to be analyzed.

Supervisors unanimously voted to initiate an ordinance process to allow the permitting of single-family homes as vacation rentals.