Sonoma County temporarily freezes new vacation rentals like Airbnbs as demand in Wine Country soars

Sonoma County is temporarily freezing new vacation rentals like Airbnbs and Vrbo properties in its unincorporated areas.

On Tuesday evening, the county’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to suspend approvals for new short-term rentals for 45 days in a bid to distribute permits more democratically as it navigates a flurry of permit applications recent news from Sonoma homeowners looking to rent their properties in rural getaways.

The county has issued more than 1,800 short-term rental licenses in total. In the past two months, demand has skyrocketed – and the county has received more than 115 permit applications following the announcement of a list of proposed vacation rental regulations that could go into effect later. late this year. They include a licensing system for potential tenants and limits on the number of vacation rentals allowed in certain neighborhoods – usually capped at 5% of the total housing stock.

Supervisors could approve those rules later this summer.

At the height of the pandemic in the summer of 2020, Sonoma County approved an emergency ordinance to limit the number of vacation rental permits in the unincorporated county. Officials later rolled it back to encompass only specific parts of the Sonoma Valley and Russian River, according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. The idea was to follow up with a “comprehensive” system of vacation rental management rules across the county.

Supervisors are also considering extending a temporary cap on vacation rentals in West Sonoma destinations like Guerneville and Russian River, which is set to expire in August. The Sonoma Coast, however, follows different rules as it falls under the jurisdiction of the California Coastal Commission, depending on the county.

“While vacation rentals play an important role in Sonoma County’s tourism economy, they also have the potential to cause adverse effects and pose a risk to public safety, health and welfare of the county. and its residents,” according to a press release issued Wednesday by the county administrator’s office.

Tourist destinations across California are grappling with a decade-long growth in short-term rentals — that is, properties rented for less than 30 days at a time — following an explosion in the popularity of online marketplaces like Airbnb and Vrbo, which make managing tenants and finding rentals relatively quick and easy.

Under pressure from residents, state lawmakers — including those in San Francisco, Lake Tahoe and Marin County — have tried to curb the proliferation and development of these properties, which some residents say skew their neighborhoods to transient tourist areas where houses function more like hotels. California’s labor housing shortage and affordability issues are also factored into the argument for regulating short-term rentals.

Regulations vary from place to place, but many areas have chosen the type of permit system and rental limits under consideration in Sonoma County.

Gregory Thomas is The Chronicle’s Lifestyle and Outdoors Editor. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @GregRThomas

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