Placer moves closer to regulating vacation rentals

Published Oct. 23, 2019

New regulations for vacation rentals in eastern Placer County will move forward for a vote next month with the county Board of Supervisors yesterday voicing support and recommended refinements for a first draft of the ordinance.

The ordinance is intended to strike a balance of reducing neighborhood nuisances like noise and parking issues related to vacation rentals without undermining the market for this important guest accommodation. 

If approved, it would establish a new permitting requirement to operate a residence as a vacation rental property. The new permits would not be required for more traditional lodging types like hotels or timeshares, or homes within resorts that are managed through a resort management company. 

The board directed staff to bring back options that could also exempt properties managed by homeowners associations that can demonstrate the ability to address community concerns regarding noise, parking and trash.  

With an overwhelming majority of vacation rental properties located in the North Lake Tahoe region - 3,638 out of 3,778 of the total countywide - board members favored the ordinance to apply only to properties above 5,000 feet in elevation. 

Among the new regulations proposed are defining quiet hours between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., a requirement to provide bear bins for garbage and overnight occupancy limits. While exact occupancy limits are still to be determined, board members expressed support for flexibility to accommodate families with children. 

Fire safety is also addressed in the ordinance. Outdoor wood-burning fires and charcoal grills would be prohibited at vacation rentals to reduce the risk of fire. The application for a permit would require proof of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and a fire extinguisher. 

Property owners would be required to designate a local point of contact who can quickly respond in person to any complaints about their guests. And either guests or the property owner could be fined for citations. Penalties could escalate with repeat violations, and more than three citations in a year could result in a vacation rental permit being revoked.

Vacation rentals have long been a part of eastern Placer County’s tourism-based economy, and lodging taxes paid by guests are an important source of funding for local infrastructure projects and services. 

With the rise of online vacation rental booking services like Homeaway and Airbnb, an increasing number of homeowners are offering their properties part-time as lodging. 

 “I realize that most of our short-term rentals are not a problem, but those that are, are affecting the quality of life in their neighborhood significantly,” said District 5 Supervisor Cindy Gustafson, speaking to the need for the enforcement tools the ordinance would provide.

“The community discourse on this has been very positive,” Gustafson said. “We may not get the ordinance perfect the first time around, but we can sure continue to refine it based on community feedback.” 

County staff expect to bring the revised ordinance back to the board for introduction on Nov. 5 and for adoption on Nov. 19. If adopted, it would become effective Jan. 1, 2020.