LUAC joint meeting with Monterey County RMA staff. April 24.

Notes below from the meeting submitted by Kirk Gafill.

On April 24, 2018, the Big Sur and South Coast Land Use Advisory Committees held a joint meeting with Monterey County Resource Management Agency staff to further discuss the draft short term rental ordinance and more specifically the Consideration for Preliminary Consistency  of Short Term Rental Ordinance with the Big Sur Land Use Plan.

Melanie Beretti, RMA Property Administration/Special Programs Manager, was the sole representative for the Monterey County Resource Management Agency.

The meeting began with Melanie reviewing the April 19, 2018, memorandum submitted to the LUACs that provided preliminary analysis and preliminary recommendations.  During follow up Q&A, Melanie clarified that in the memo should have indicated in its third bullet point that “low frequency STR” activity was defined as short term rental house/properties being rented 12 times per year or fewer and not more than 2 times per month.  Additionally, the two sub points in that bullet item should have the word “primary” replaced with “principal.”

Responding to the question of how RMA had reached its preliminary conclusions, Melanie stated that going forward there will be specific findings made available that will provide detail as to how County staff reached its conclusions on consistency or lack thereof with Big Sur Land Use Plan.  She declined to offer any such detail or findings on the preliminary recommendations noted in the April 19, 2018, memorandum.

Mary Wright spoke to this issue and made it clear that it was difficult, if not impossible, for the public to effectively provide meaningful input in this process, if the County only provided conclusions and no rationale as to how it was determining consistency or the lack thereof with the Land Use Plan.

Goal of County staff at this time is present draft recommendations to California Coastal Commission staff to get their input prior to bringing draft ordinance before the Planning Commission.  It is also the intention of the County to have another joint meeting with the LUACs to provide further information about draft ordinance.

The ensuing Q&A generated quite a bit of discussion about definitions of terms, such as “Guest House,” “Homestay,” “Owner vs. Primary resident,” etc.  For the most part, Melanie made clear that the preliminary terms were subject to further refinement and explanation based on the input received at the meeting.  It thus became clear that the critical terms being used to define when, where, how, etc. each element of the draft ordinance will require detailed definitions to ensure that they serve both the letter and spirit of the draft ordinance provisions.

Many in the audience described “work around”  examples of how many  of the terms and proposed limits on short term rental activities could be subject to abuse by short term rental operators based on the preliminary definitions and understandings of the terms used.  Melanie repeatedly acknowledged that she would take this input back to the County and her team and further refine the draft.

With respect to how and when the County will make its environmental analysis, this will not take place until after draft ordinance is completed.  The rationale being offered that it would not be feasible to do an effective environmental review of regulations that had yet to be drafted.

Mary Trotter, Chair of the Big Sur LUAC, requested that the County prepare a FAQ list from the public input to date be prepared with the County’s responses to those common questions and concerns.

There was extensive discussion about the difference between a “Homestay” and the current Bed and Breakfast permit requirements.  While there were intentional differences, such as a “Homestay” not being a permanent conversion of a residential parcel to a commercial visitor serving parcel use, it became evident that the “Homestay” term needed further definition and context to be of any meaning as a potentially limited/low impact type of short term rental activity.  Melanie appeared to acknowledge the concerns raised that as described a “Homestay,” could be used with far greater latitude, fewer limitations, and without a permit compared to a Bed and Breakfast.

Additionally, Melanie acknowledged that the use and allowance of a Guest House to be used as a short term rental needed further review after being challenged that Guest Houses in current form could not be used for rental purposes (short or long term).

A key point made by Melanie was that the County does not wish to limit the proposed limited short term rental uses to “owners” but rather to those who use the property as a “primary residence.”  Again, this generated significant discussion and debate, and Melanie said she would bring these concerns as well back to her team as it further develops the draft ordinance.

Another key point of discussion was in regard to whether allowable short term rental uses should be counted against the allowed visitor serving unit cap in the existing Land Use Plan.  Currently, the County is working to develop an official count of visitor serving units.  She did acknowledge that if the cap had already been met, then no short term rental activities that were defined as being subject to the cap would be put forward.  With that said, currently County staff is recommending that “Homestays” not be counted toward the visitor serving cap.

In regard to Coastal Commission role, Melanie clarified past comments made by County staff, and made clear that while the County will liaise, consult, and discuss the draft ordinance with Coastal Commission, the County’s work, goals, and efforts are neither being directed nor driven by the Coastal Commission.

There was discussion about the absence of previously submitted written public input  that had not been distributed with agenda packets and that only public written comment included was one letter in support of short term rental activities.  Melanie apologized for any oversight in not including all comment submitted and committed to working to ensure all public comment was properly included going forward.