USA Today listed Seaside as No. 10 as its “50 best places to buy a vacation rental property in 2019.”
That’s a list City Councilor Tita Montero doesn’t want to be on.
Part of the reason for its high ranking, she said, is the city’s lack of regulations, she said at Monday’s joint Planning Commission and City Council work session on vacation rental dwellings. “One of the things it said about Seaside is we have very few rules. I was sort of ticked off.”
Officials showed support for changes including caps for the number of vacation rental dwellings, licensing limits and a moratorium on new units to meet the region’s workforce housing crunch, which may limit inventory and discourage rentals, according to a January county housing study.
Acting on recommendations from the Planning Commission, the workshop, led by City Councilor Seth Morrisey, who sat on the countywide housing task force, sought to chart a process of introducing ordinances or changes to ordinances already in place.
In seeking to limit new short-term rentals, Montero asked staff to look into a moratorium on issuing future licenses until rules are enacted.
Higher fees for licensing and annual inspections for vacation rental dwellings could also be on the horizon.
A limit on the maximum number of vacation rentals within Seaside could be considered, possibly 10%, a limit used by Lincoln City, considered a comparable example.
According to the county’s housing study, the 2018 estimated number of housing units in Seaside was 4,772. Using 10% as a maximum percentage of total housing units Seaside would not approve any units once the number of vacation rental dwellings reached 477.
Dwellings could also be limited by neighborhood and how many units are already operating as vacation rentals in those areas.
Along with limits on new licenses, planning commissioner David Posalski sought specific measures to “pull back VRDs that aren’t run well.”
Renters who break the rules need to know “If this happens, that happens,” Posalski added, including penalties and possible loss of rental eligibility. Without an enforcement officer, that could be an “exercise in futility,” no matter what the rules are.
A compliance officer could also “build good relationships with the owners and managers,” Montero said. “Hopefully you’re getting it to the point where everybody’s doing the right thing because you have the code compliance officer, where you don’t get complaints.”
Raising a fee for a business license — possibly from $100 to $500 a year — could fund the cost.
“The purpose of all this discussion is compliance, not punishment,” Planning Commission Board President Chris Hoth added. “That should be the headline here. We’re not out here to get people, we’re not out here to take things away — we’re out here to make things work in the city.”
But penalties are part of the process, Montero said. “You’ve talked about compliance officer and raising fees, but we also need to talk about at some point what is the result of noncompliance. You can have as many compliance officers as you like, but if you’re not having the issue of losing your license or penalties, you’re not getting compliance.”
The proposals return to the Planning Commission for discussion as the city seeks to regulate a local industry that Barber said brings in $1 million annually to the city’s economy.
In any case, there will be “plenty of opportunity for public input,” he said. “Other communities have wrestled with this issue and we’re learning from them.”