The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved in concept the basics of a short-term rental ordinance regulating Airbnb-type rentals, though formal approval is pending a few changes that need review.
The supervisors expect to formally approve the ordinance, the county’s first, at their March 31 meeting.
The ordinance, when formally approved, will require that a “responsible party” who is at least 18 years old and living within a 30-mile radius of the rental property be identified.
That person must be available by telephone for the duration of any rental period to respond to neighbors’ complaints or law enforcement concerns about activity at the short-term rental.
Under the new ordinance, owners of short-term rental units will have to get permits from the county’s Department of Conservation and Development. Discussions are expected to continue with Airbnb and other rental platforms about collection of transient occupancy taxes — the same as collected from area hotels and motels — and work with the county’s tax collector’s office to establish a collection process.
The ordinance does not allow for using accessory dwelling units, also known as “in-law units” and “granny flats,” as short-term rentals.
On Tuesday morning, Kensington resident Laura Singh asked the supervisors whether that means she will have to quit renting out her detached cottage. Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond, while noting that such a rental hasn’t been legal at all until now, said the ordinance will give the county discretion in approving long-standing uses such as this.
“We’re trying to strike a balance.”
This ordinance is also intended to help county officials provide some measure of control over what happens at these rental units, and avoid the kind of disaster that rocked Orinda, when on Halloween night five people were shot and killed at a party.
The house was known as a party house, and was an Airbnb-listed rental property with owners who didn’t live in the area.
Christine Chalmers said she lives near the Orinda rental house where the killings happened, and thanked the supervisors for increasing the regulation of such houses. Chalmers implored the supervisors to do more.
Adding that the city needs greater ability to regulate owners of the rental properties, she said:
“I would support an amendment (to the ordinance) to strengthen the enforcement clause.”
She cited Santa Monica’s ordinance, which requires all listings in that city to be registered and provide assurances against illegal listings, in cooperation with rental platforms like Airbnb.
The postponement of the ordinance was prompted a proposed change that would extend the maximum rental from 90 to 180 days for a “hosted” rental where the owner lives and stays on the premises. That change will need to be reviewed by the county’s Planning Commission.