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Santa Barbara County Planning Commission Recommends Ordinance Restricting Short-Term Rentals

While cities across Santa Barbara County have developed various approaches to dealing with the burgeoning short-term rental phenomenon, the county itself is still in the process of laying down rules for unincorporated areas.

That process took another step forward last week as the County Planning Commission voted to recommend an ordinance to the Board of Supervisors that restricts the rentals in certain land-use zones.

With Chair Larry Ferini dissenting and Commissioner Daniel Blough abstaining, the commission recommended an ordinance that permits short-term rentals in mixed-use zoning districts, certain commercial zoning districts — where other forms of transient lodging, like hotels and motels, are allowed — and in certain types of agricultural-zoned parcels.

The agricultural zoning district where they would be permitted under the recommended ordinance is AG-II, which applies to agricultural lands and uses in rural areas.

STRs would be prohibited in residential zoning districts, resource management districts and mountainous areas, as well as the other agricultural zoning district, AG-I, which applies to prime and non-prime farmlands and agricultural uses located within urban, inner rural and rural neighborhood areas.

They are additionally prohibited in farm worker housing, barns and temporary structures common in agricultural areas, and only one STR is permitted per lot under the proposed ordinance. 

Commissioner Marell Brooks also requested, separate from the ordinance, that the Board of Supervisors consider daytime STR occupancy limits.

The proposed ordinance already contains nighttime restrictions based on visitors per bedroom, county planner Jessica Metzger told Noozhawk.

Many other jurisdictions place limits on how many occupants an STR may accommodate, Brooks said, making it a tool for limiting disruptive renter behavior.

Both Brooks and Blough, who advocated for STRs being allowed in residential zones, wanted language prohibiting parties, a move they argued would help prevent renters from disrupting neighbors. 

Commissioner C. Michael Cooney argued that a simple ban on partying would be impossible to enforce.

Concerns that have helped drive the efforts to regulate short-term rentals include parking, noise and disruptive behavior. 

Several cities in the county have their own rules for the rentals. Santa Barbara allows them in only a limited number of land-use zones, Goleta passed an ordinance last year regulating them, Carpinteria recently placed a temporary moratorium on new STR units and Montecito's planning commission backed a ban on them in residential zones.

More than 400 of these properties currently pay transient-occupancy taxes to the county, Metzger told the commission on Aug. 10. TOT is also paid by hotels, motels and other lodgings where visitors stay for less than 30 days.

In November, county voters will be deciding whether or not to raise the TOT in unincorporated areas from 10 percent to 12 percent.

Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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