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Supervisor Ellen Pirie

ellen_pirieWhat are some of the biggest issues surrounding vacation rental homes in the county, and how are they being addressed?

Coastal neighborhoods have seen an increase in both the number of vacation rental homes and the year-round marketing of those homes. This evolution has caused growing problems for residential neighborhoods, where the complaints include loud, late-night parties, excessive traffic, loss of neighborhood parking, and garbage. The vacation rentals are in essence a commercial business in a residential neighborhood.Unlike hotels or motels, there are currently no restrictions or limits on vacation rentals, nor are any operational permits required. Capitola is currently the only jurisdiction in the county to govern vacation rentals. The city requires a permit and a business license and limits where rentals can go. Monterey and Carmel have much stricter rules, essentially banning short-term rentals in all residential districts.

Regulations under consideration include registration and licensing of vacation rental homes, minimum rental periods, prohibiting additional vacation rentals, occupancy and vehicle limits, and a complaint process.

In addition to the public meeting before the Board of Supervisors in June, a group of vacation homeowners, neighbors of vacation homes, and county leaders have met and talked about the issues. The Planning Department will draft an ordinance regulating vacation rentals in the next month and will present it to the Housing Advisory Commission on Sept. 20. The proposals will then go to the Planning Commission before reaching the Board of Supervisors for final approval. Clearly this is an issue whose time has come. I expect to see new regulations in effect by next spring.

What are the plans for the Highway 1 Auxiliary Lanes Project?  What does it mean for county drivers?

The Soquel/Morrissey auxiliary lanes project proposes to add an “auxiliary lane” northbound and southbound between Soquel Avenue and Morrissey Boulevard, respectively—a distance of less than one mile in each direction. An auxiliary lane is a lane that runs from one freeway entrance to the next exit. It extends the area in which entering traffic can merge onto the freeway and exiting traffic move into the exit lane.  There is an existing auxiliary lane on Highway 1 between 41st Avenue and Bay Avenue.

As part of this project, the La Fonda Avenue over-crossing must be replaced to accommodate the auxiliary lanes under the bridge. The new La Fonda Avenue bridge will be wider to provide bike lanes and wider sidewalks for pedestrians, making it easier and safer to bicycle and walk on La Fonda.

This project is designed to complement the work recently completed at the Highway 1/17 interchange by eliminating the existing lane drop north of the La Fonda Avenue and extending the southbound lane as an exit only lane to the Soquel Avenue interchange.

Construction could begin as early as Summer 2011, and the project is scheduled to take two years to complete.

The one-mile section of Highway 1 between Morrissey Boulevard and Soquel has historically been one of the most congested sections of Highway 1 in our county, carrying more than 100,000 vehicles per day.  Highway traffic spills over onto parallel roads, affecting residents in the nearby neighborhoods.

In addition, Soquel Drive and Avenue are home to two hospitals, two major medical clinics and scores of dental and doctors’ offices.

The improvements on the highway will serve a wide mix of transportation modes, from express buses to private vehicles to bicycles, as well as reduce spillover traffic in the neighborhoods.

This project won’t solve all the Highway 1 congestion problems, but it is a common-sense approach to transportation that will improve safety and reduce congestion on one of the most heavily traveled sections of the highway in our county.

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