SCSQUARED halfBy Eric Heinz

The City Council passed the first reading of three separate ordinances to address short-term lodging units (STLU) during its regularly scheduled Tuesday meeting. The ordinances pertained to zoning regarding all of San Clemente, the proposed Pier Bowl zones and the South El Camino Real and hospital zones. Short-term lodging units are restricted to these areas, defined by the city as high-volume visitor areas, but a new definition, short-term apartment rentals, are allowed throughout the city. Homeowners associations and other governing residential areas still have authority to ban STLUs.

Some of the significant changes to the zoning removes the proposed maximum and minimum days people are allowed to reside at short-term lodging units; allows owners two years to come into compliance; limits the density of STLUs to 20 percent of the zoned area’s units; and defines the difference between STLUs and other lodging entities in San Clemente.

For almost two hours at the meeting, dozens of people spoke in favor of the ordinance as a way to better locate vacation rentals and help quash problem STLUs; others spoke against the ordinance as it would deprive them of making a lodging either as an enterprise for retirement or additional needed income. Some opponents claimed the ordinance would open the city to unintended litigation.

The city estimates short-term lodging units bring in $400,000 to the city each year.

The City Council also voted to revisit the STLU ordinance in 18 months to do a status evaluation and see if anything will need to be changed. The ordinances will go into effect 30 days after the second reading and final adoption. All City Council members voted in favor of the ordinance except Councilwoman Lori Donchak, who said she had concerns about the California Coastal Commission authority, which sent a letter to the city that wasn’t received until late Tuesday. The city is in the middle of passing a Coastal Land Use Plan that could give the CCC more direction in governing STLUs within its jurisdiction.

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