Encinitas modifies vacation rental ordinance proposal again, drops in-person registration

The downtown Encinitas sign.
(The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Yearly permit fee will increase to $425, up from current rate of $150


After hearing from two dozen mostly unhappy vacation rental operators Wednesday, Nov. 17, the Encinitas City Council modified its proposed changes to a short-term rental ordinance yet again, eliminating an in-person check-in requirement for whole-house rentals, but keeping a hefty permit fee increase.

The proposed yearly permit fee is $425, up from the current rate of $150 — a fee that city officials said hasn’t changed in 15 years.

“The proposed fee, I think, is a reasonable amount,” Councilman Tony Kranz said.

The $425 figure only is forecasted to cover 80 percent of the city’s costs of administering the permit program, so the city still will be subsidizing part of it, both he and Mayor Catherine Blakespear said. The mayor added that she thought a 20 percent subsidy was acceptable, unlike the current figure.

This is the council’s second revision of the proposed short-term vacation rental rules in recent weeks. The council tweaked the initial proposal in late October, reducing the proposed minimum night stay requirements and creating less stringent standards for “hosted” vacation rental properties where the owner lives on the same site.

The council gave initial approval to the latest version of the proposal changes Wednesday, Nov. 17, in a 4-0 vote, with Councilmember Kellie Shay Hinze not participating because she’s part owner of a short-term rental operated by her mother. A final vote is scheduled at the Dec. 8 council meeting and the ordinance revisions could go into effect early next year.

Encinitas has nearly 400 registered short-term rentals, or places that rent for less than 30 days at a time typically to vacationing travelers, city records indicate. City officials estimate there are about 160 illegal vacation rentals that have not registered with the city as required.

Renting out a full home or part of a home on a temporary basis has been an increasing attractive option for homeowners in costly coastal regions and several public speakers told the council Wednesday, Nov. 17, they were monitoring the city’s proposed ordinance changes because they wanted to start renting out their properties.

Some three dozen vacation rental property owners spoke out against the proposed regulatory changes in late October and many of them returned to speak at the Nov. 17 meeting. Most said they thought the city was going overboard with its proposed changes — it’s like using “a bazooka to kill a fly,” one man said — and they recommended that the city focus instead on forcing unregistered vacation rental operators to obtain their required city permits.

“Those folks are the lowest-hanging fruits for the city to address,” Leucadia-area vacation rental owner Susan Turney said.

Many of the public speakers noted Wednesday, Nov. 17, that Encinitas hasn’t received many complaints about vacation rentals — about two dozen complaints have been filed in a decade.

Council members said the official complaints filed by residents didn’t reflect the actual level of community concern about partying behavior, trash and noise issues at some vacation rentals. They said they regularly hear complaints about them.

Ultimately, the council agreed Wednesday, Nov. 17, to remove a requirement that operators of “un-hosted” vacation rentals — properties where the owner doesn’t live onsite — must check in their guests in person, rather than via video systems and other technology. Rental operators said that requirement was both unworkable and unnecessary given modern technology capabilities. The council left in a new requirement that vacation rental owners must notify property owners within 300 feet of their intentions to rent their units on a short-term basis.