LINK TO PDF: LET_SHORT TERM RENTALS_BIG SUR_040116
Date: April 1, 2016
To: Jacqueline Onciano
From: Mike Novo, Director
Subject: Short Term Rentals in Big Sur
As it stands today, we have a large need for housing in Big Sur, and a very small supply. The situation in Big Sur, where much of the acreage is in public ownership, under conservation easement, or undevelopable due to our policies, means that housing supply will be constrained in the future as well.
The need for housing includes affordable housing for employees that work in the area and housing needs for the community, so that a nucleus of residents can remain to represent the community and work or volunteer in the local businesses and governmental functions. Housing needs for the community includes long time residents, artists who provide to the galleries in the area, and an available supply so that the children of residents have a place to live as they get older and establish their own households.
Short term, or vacation, rentals are nothing new. They have been in existence for many, many years. There are heavily used tourist areas (e.g., Sea Ranch, Tahoe, and Yosemite) where whole communities of second homes and vacation homes are the rule, and housing for residents is the exception. With the relatively new tools being used on the web for short term rentals, the pressure on housing stock to convert to short term rental use is great in areas such as Big Sur and we should ensure that housing for the community does not become the exception.
From what I know so far, I believe that there likely is not enough housing stock for the needs of just the community and for employee needs. While not all employees will want to live in the community, we should plan to try to accommodate the needs of those that want to live near their jobs. That creates a safer environment for travelers on Highway 1 by reducing the need to commute long distances from outside Big Sur. It also helps to have a core nucleus of residents who stay and are invested in the community and meets our goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
As such, I do not think that we have a substantial supply of housing that could or should be converted to short term rentals in Big Sur. The needs of the community and accommodating employee housing needs should come first. A detailed and thoughtful analysis of what housing stock is needed for that component of the need should be completed. If, from that effort, you determine that a certain amount of housing could be available for short term rentals, then perhaps that could be a cap incorporated into the LCP. But from the numbers I have seen and the conversations we have had with the community to date, that type of capacity docs not appear to exist, so please try to find a scientific way to determine the housing needs for the community and then determine whether short term rentals should be allowed.
I do believe that short term rentals should be accommodated in some areas of the county, so I am not against them as a land use, but they need to be carefully planned to be supplemental to basic housing stock needs. In addition, incentivizing what we want for this land use will help to bring properties into compliance with the regulations. If the process is too expensive, or the regulations too onerous, illegal short term rentals will result. An option should be discussed with the Board of Supervisors to subsidize the permit costs, if that is what is needed, and have a certain amount of the Transient Occupancy Tax identified, by ordinance, to fund that subsidy. Establishing a simple and affordable process can lead to ensuring that we have good regulations, which would lead to good oversight by the County and well managed areas where short term rentals are located.