Letter to the editor: Morro Bay vacation rentals at risk
To the editor,
–The Morro Bay Planning Commission and City Council are in the process of reviewing, modifying and ultimately adopting a new Short-Term Rental (STR) ordinance. After many years of weak enforcement of current regulations and the perpetual outcry from a few residents about how these STRs are ruining their neighborhoods, the city has finally decided to take a big sledgehammer to the problem.
Based on anecdotal stories from a small group of vocal locals, rather than researched studies or factual data, the city is proposing the implementation very strict new regulations for licensed STRs , which will have a detrimental effect on the historically available inventory of STRs in Morro Bay, even when there has been no record of misconduct.
The proposed STR Ordinance contains such requirements as on-site parking, physical inspections every 4 years, steep permit fees to fund enforcement, a cap on the maximum number of STR licenses (current limit is 250 but could go down to 150 or 175), a proximity rule mandating a minimum 175-foot distance between STRs.
Most STR owners are supportive of most of the proposed new requirements. However, the ordinance forces all existing license holders into compliance with the proximity rule by holding a lottery! So, even though a home has been well managed with no violations and paying all taxes and assessments faithfully for years with a set of loyal guests that return to the same home year after year, that home’s license could be lost just by the (bad) luck of the draw. It is estimated that with this lottery, 70 to 100 homeowners could lose their licenses (40-50% inventory loss).
This loss would greatly diminish the public’s access to vacation home lodging in Morro Bay. The majority of recent ordinances in other municipalities have grandfathered existing compliant STRs, wisely recognizing that time will bring them into compliance more fairly. The law already has a means of revoking licenses if there is a repetitive record of misconduct.
As you might expect, the highest density of non-owner-occupied homes is in what is called the Beach Tract – the area in north Morro Bay on the ocean side of Highway 1. This area has a significantly disproportionate number of second homes popular with the Boomer generation. Naturally, this is also where the highest density of (and highest demand for) STRs are because vacationing families want to be close to the beach! If the lottery were to happen, many of these homes will lose their license and no longer be available to the traveling public.
My vacation rental property management company, Beach-N-Bay Getaways, has launched a website to advocate for reasonable and fair regulations: ShareMorroBay.com.
We support all regulations that will encourage and enforce good behavior by guests that stay in STRs, but we are asking the city to give these new regulations a chance to take effect and reduce some of the noise and disturbance complaints that neighbors have before taking the draconian actions of drastically reducing the number of STRs available to our visitors from both near and far. If you are a person who occasionally enjoys a “staycation” at your closest beach, join us in the fight to keep an adequate supply of STRs available to all in Morro Bay. You can find information on how you can help by visiting our website.
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