As temperatures have soared, debates over housing and Airbnb aren’t cooling off, either. The Santa Cruz City Council has been looking at whether or not to keep vacation renters out of accessory dwelling units (ADUs)—small cottages or converted garages, sometimes known as “granny units.”
County Supervisor Bruce McPherson tells GT he would support a ban of vacation rentals in ADUs in the unincorporated areas of the county, which he thinks should be reserved for long-term rentals.
“Although there may be cause for exceptions on a case-by-case basis, I’d have to be convinced otherwise,” McPherson, who represents District 5, said at an affordable housing forum last month. Affordable Housing Now!, a new grassroots advocacy group, hosted the Aug. 29 event in Scotts Valley.
Planning departments at both the city and county levels have streamlined planning approvals over the years to allow homeowners to create more rental housing, literally in their backyards. Some of these new landlords have found that they make more money renting their ADUs out to tourists—often through online sites like Airbnb, which obviously does nothing to help the city’s housing crunch. So, some community leaders are asking for a ban on renting out ADUs for less than 30 days. The council decided to table the discussion for the second time despite a unanimous recommendation for the ban from the planning commission.
Robin Cunningham, representing a group of ADU owners, told city councilmembers at the Aug. 25 meeting that she was “horrified” the city would consider taking away private property rights by banning vacation rentals, which she says would cut the income she receives from her ADU in half.
Katherine Donovan, senior planner with the city, reported about 330 residential properties throughout the city have listed all or part of their homes as vacation rentals, and about two-thirds of these homeowners have properly registered their vacation rentals for the legally required Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT), the same 11 percent tax included in hotel room bills. But Donovan said that 15 ADUs, out of an estimated 400 in the city, are registered to pay the TOT. The proposed ban would not apply to existing ADUs, only those built after the proposed ban goes into effect.
Bill Tysseling, CEO of the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce, tells GT he’s concerned about vacation rentals, and says it isn’t so much about protecting traditional inns and motels. Tysseling, surprisingly, says there hasn’t been much “pushback” from local hotel owners favoring tighter regulations for web-based vacation rentals—in part because the industry had an unusually good year this year. Tysseling does worry, though, that an “unbearably expensive housing market” will affect the overall economic vitality of the county.
Says Tysseling: “Until we see some real improvement in the overall housing market for working families, I think we ought to be very cautious about vacation rentals and protect our less expensive housing stock.”
The city council is scheduled to continue discussion of the proposed ban on vacation rentals in ADUs at their meeting scheduled for Sept. 29.
PICTURED County Supervisor Bruce McPherson