By Eric Heinz
San Clemente City Council voted on Nov. 21 to send a recommended ordinance amendment to the Planning Commission for discussion on short-term lodging units (STLU) and short-term apartment rentals (STAR).
City Council approved the Planning Commission to take a look at the current ordinances with the specific guidelines that STLU laws related to residential low density zones will not change, to add a parking program for all STLU zones, ensure STAR property managers adhere to the strict 300-foot buffer between one another, to make modifications to density and other issues related to the STLU overlay in the maps (attached to the link on this article online). Council also approved to look at extending the permit amortization period for those who have been in good standing with the city another eight years (bringing the total to 10 years of being permitted). The city’s legal staff will also address issues related to permits obtained by STLU owners that are not being used.
In 2016, the city enacted the STLU ordinances amid hundreds of complaints it had received related to the businesses operating in residential neighborhoods.
The idea was that the laws would also curtail the number of sober living residences in the area.
The city currently has 225 registered STLUs and, in Feb. 2016, there were 512 vacation rental permits. The 225 are the only ones that qualified for the permits under the city’s process.
San Clemente resident Anthony Lafrano, who has been vocal in his opposition to short-term lodging since the boon began a few years ago, implored the City Council to make more restrictions.
“We just want peace,” Lafrano said, adding that the short-term rentals would continue to hamper quality of life in the area. He also commented on the argument saying, “This is a horrible business model and an even worse retirement plan. It’s not the responsibility of the voters of San Clemente to make sure their retirement plan (makes returns).”
Steve Cortez, who owns a property in the 300 block of West Palizada used for vacation renting, said he has rented to people who are retirees or of similar ilk. The Palizada home is just outside the areas where STLUs are permitted to operate, but Cortez said he has a current permit for it.
Cortez said his permanent residence is in Anaheim.
“When we bought (the property) in San Clemente, we bought it thinking we would retire here, but we also wanted to rent it out for a few weeks,” Cortez said, adding that his tenants frequent the city’s businesses. He said his guests were not the people “who are getting drunk in the street.”
Several more people spoke in favor of and against the extension of STLU allowances.
People who operate STLUs in San Clemente must apply for a permit and pay transient occupancy tax (TOT), also known as the bedroom tax. The properties cannot operate within 300 feet of one another, which makes the process competitive, especially in condensed areas of San Clemente. Another piece of the ordinance relates to short-term apartment rentals (STAR) with similar limitations.
The Planning Commission will consider the amendments at a meeting in the future. Because of where the development standards are located, the California Coastal Commission will likely weigh in on the issue. The Coastal Commission has advocated for allowing more multiuse homes and lodging as a way to deter further development.