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Carpinteria Prepares to Enact Short-Term Vacation Rental Rules

Officials concerned that burgeoning industry has been cutting into the supply of housing stock

Members of the Carpinteria City Council met Monday night, and are preparing to enact a new short-term vacation rental ordinance later in the spring. Click to view larger
Members of the Carpinteria City Council met Monday night, and are preparing to enact a new short-term vacation rental ordinance later in the spring. (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)

Carpinteria is preparing to enact a new short-term vacation rental ordinance later in the spring.

Like its neighboring cities, Carpinteria officials have been concerned that the burgeoning industry has been cutting into the supply of housing stock, and that many residences are being converted into STRs.

Carpinteria’s STRs have typically been found in the beach area. When an STR moratorium was adopted in the fall of 2015, 182 licensed vacation rentals existed in the city.

The ordinance creates a vacation rental overlay district roughly between the beach and Fifth Street, and between Ashe and Linden avenues.

The district is made up of four zones that run parallel to the beach and have their own caps on the number of STRs that they can contain: from the coast going inland, they’re 55, 115, 30 and 18 units, respectively. 

If each cap were reached, then a total of 60 percent, 50 percent, 15 percent and 15 percent of units in each zone would be STRs, according to city data.

As of a year ago, there were fewer STRs in each zone than the planned caps. 

“The Coastal Commission held that this was a model ordinance, especially for a city like Carpinteria,” said community development director Steve Goggia, referring to the state organization that must approve ordinances like this one when they affect coastal areas.

From May 1 to June 30, STR owners and prospective owners can apply for a license, with a lottery in July that will determine who will receive them.

Each license holder must re-apply every year. After the first year, prospective licensees must apply for inclusion into the lottery for the subsequent year, according to the ordinance. 

Home stays, where the owner lives at the residence while it’s being rented, have no cap in the city, though an application for a license is still required, said associate city planner Lucy Graham at Monday’s City Council meeting.

If an STR is sold or transferred to another owner, she said, its license expires, unless it is inherited. The new owner then has 90 days to apply for a renewal.

Graham added that a license will also expire if no transient-occupancy tax is collected for 2 years, addressing a concern from residents that folks may buy up licenses and then never use them.

Information will soon be posted on the city website and mailed out to current STR owners and those interested in becoming one, she said.

Moratorium on recreational marijuana businesses

Carpinteria is joining other local jurisdictions in considering a moratorium on recreational marijuana businesses in an effort to develop local regulations before California begins issuing business licenses in January 2018.

In November, voters in the state approved Proposition 64, known as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, which legalized recreational marijuana use, cultivation and sales in the state. The law reserved certain regulatory powers for cities.

Santa Barbara enacted its own temporary ban last summer, and on April 4, the county Board of Supervisors approved its own interim urgency ordinance banning any activities associated with the AUMA.

On Monday, the City Council unanimously agreed to form an ad-hoc council committee to further study recreational pot business regulations, and for city staff to prepare language for a temporary ban that would be approved at a future date.

As with the city and county of Santa Barbara, Carpinteria officials want more time to get ahead of the impending start of non-medical marijuana businesses.

Marijuana odors from nearby, legal medical marijuana growing operations have been a concern for Carpinteria residents, who have also expressed worries about safety. 

According to county Sheriff’s Department Commander Darin Fotheringham, the value of stolen marijuana is roughly the same as legally sold marijuana, making robberies and muggings a concern for law enforcement. It could well blow up into a cash crop, he warned.

Council members also expressed concern over the potential dangers inherent to the large-scale production of marijuana products and the effects regulation could have on them. 

A couple residents speaking during public comment noted that well-regulated marijuana could be a boon for the local economy.

“I think it’s very important that you understand that this is a business, these people are legitimate, it is a healing herb,” Kathleen Reddington said. “I’d just like to see you tread softly here. Try not to engage in paranoia.”

The commercial side marks the third pot arena the council has looked to regulate.

Last year, it placed a number of restrictions on where recreational marijuana may be cultivated in the city. It has also barred for-profit and not-for-profit medical marijuana dispensaries.

Dylan Johnson, the city’s legal counsel, cautioned that even though pot is now legal in California, it’s still classified as a Schedule I drug at the federal level, and all activities associated with it remain illegal. 

Though the Department of Justice under former president Barack Obama’s administration took a hands-off approach that let states take the lead in dealing with the drug, it’s still unclear how the department under President Donald Trump will approach the issue.

Should the city enact a moratorium, it cannot last longer than two years, Goggia said.

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