Council members approved a new ordinance limiting short-term rentals to a seven-day minimum for a maximum of 28 days a year. Existing properties could have up to two years to adjust before enforcement begins. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

DEL MAR — Despite pleas from almost 30 people during another marathon, 90-minute public hearing to rethink the adoption of an ordinance that will limit short-term rentals in nearly all residential zones, council members at the Nov. 6 meeting approved the new rules 4-1, with Mayor Terry Sinnott opposed.

The action requires a minimum stay of seven consecutive days for a maximum of 28 days per year for rentals of less than 30 days.

The second reading of the ordinance was the final step before presenting it to the California Coastal Commission by the end of the year for possible certification in 2018. 

Council members also agreed the forbearance period — a time during which enforcement against existing short-term rentals will be delayed — will end the day the Coastal Commission makes a final decision or in two years, on Nov. 6, 2019, whichever occurs first.

Councilman Dave Druker said his colleagues previously agreed to give short-term rental property owners at least one year to adjust to the new rules.

Should the commission approve the local coastal plan amendment quickly with no changes, council members said they could extend the forbearance period.

Del Mar property owners have rented out their homes to vacationers for decades, especially during the busy summer season. Many say the practice allows them to afford their homes and provides business for local shops and restaurants.

Most have said they support “commonsense” regulations but severe restrictions such as the ones in the ordinance violate their property rights.

Opponents say more frequent turnover rates, which have increased due to online booking sites such as Airbnb, are changing the fabric of residential neighborhoods and causing increased traffic, parking and noise problems.

City officials have worked for years to find a balanced solution.

While doing so they adopted a moratorium on April 4, 2016, that allowed anyone who used their property as a short-term rental during the previous 12 months to continue to do so.

No new short-term rentals could come on the market.

Those existing, nonconforming properties can continue to operate during the forbearance period if owners can provide one of the following:

• A fully executed rental agreement within the 12 months prior to April 4, 2016, for three separate vacation rentals at the property

• A Del Mar business license for a short-term rental at the address on the license

• An income tax return for a vacation rental at the property in the 12 months prior to April 4, 2016

• Evidence of advertising or contracts showing the owner actively advertised a short-term rental business in the 12-month period before April 4, 2016

• Similar evidence to prove a short-term rental existed prior to April 4, 2016

Council members acknowledge short-term rentals have occurred in Del Mar since before it became a city.

But based on an interpretation of the municipal code and community plan, the majority determined in April that they are not an allowed use in residential zone, meaning the practice has never been legal despite the fact that the city once tried to require owners to pay transient occupancy taxes on them via a failed ballot measure in 2010.

Councilwoman Ellie Haviland said internet platforms “changed the way people commercialize our residential neighborhoods.”

“The quantity of them has just exploded and that’s something that is impinging on the rights of residents,” she said. “This is also not an issue for me about noise and trash. Of course there are solutions for noise and trash. This is about, ‘Am I going to raise my family in a community of strangers or in a community of neighbors?’”

Sinnott has consistently said he would prefer to enact commonsense regulations first before changing the laws.

“I do not agree with the interpretation that this council made with the community plan,” he said. “I am not in agreement with the way we have gone forward.”

Two lawsuits have been filed about the council actions and another one is likely on the way.