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Homeowners rally against vacation rental enforcement

MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. (KION) The Monterey County Board of Supervisors is moving forward with a program to crack down on vacation rentals operating illegally in the county.

The program focuses enforcement on District 5, where 85% of short term rentals are currently located. This includes Carmel Valley, Carmel Highlands, Big Sur, Pebble Beach and the Highway 68 corridor.

The program is not changing existing laws. They are adding staff to enforce laws that are already in place, which the Housing & Community Development department says hasn't been happening due to resource constraints.

"We've been overrun with wandering guests at all hours, noise, weddings, parties, bands, dogs, trash, drones and overall violation of our privacy," said a Carmel Valley resident during public comment. "The citation of warning was issued to the property owner to which the rental property continued like nothing had gone wrong.”

The board says those are the kinds of rentals they want to focus their enforcement on, deciding on two priority groups.

  • Group 1: Those who have received nuisance complaints or are not paying the appropriate transient occupancy tax (TOT)
  • Group 2: Other unpermitted operations

But the Monterey County Vacation Rental Alliance (MCVRA) says they have been waiting years for the county to instead work on a new ordinance to make permits more attainable.

The county says that out of more than 600 vacation rentals in the area, only 24 have received permits.

"I'm actually doing to process for two permits right now, spent pretty close to between nine and $10,000. And it's been a year and a half and I still have not finalized. I probably have 100 emails back and forth," said Sean Ward. "Other cities and counties which we work with, do permits within 30 to 60 days. Not a problem. And usually it's right around $1,000."

The Coastal Region currently only has one type of permit available, a Bed & Breakfast permit, which requires the owner to be on property during the stay.

"The permit itself cost somewhere between $10,000 and $14,000 to get. Who is going to spend that much to get a permit to operate to a couple of bedrooms out of their house? Virtually nobody," said Richard Matthews, managing director for the MCVRA.

The county says they are still working on a new ordinance for short term rentals, which they hope to bring before the board by next February.

"That would serve to address the ambiguities and uncertainties in the process, issues that the community deserves to have clarity on," said Supervisor Wendy Root Askew.

"We have been trying to get an ordinance for seven years now and the county has gone at glacial speeds. The Monterey County Vacation Rental Alliance would support the pilot program if there was a reasonable process for owners to get permits for their property," Matthews says.

The enforcement program is contingent on hiring staff, which the board says may not be completed until March of next year. They would then start with 30 days of education and outreach before issuing any fines, which currently can be up to $500 per day.

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Lisa Principi

Lisa Principi is a reporter at KION News Channel 5/46.

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