Fly by Night
Hospitality operators threaten suit over failure to enforce short-term rental ban.
Thursday, February 14, 2013
Sweeping Carmel Valley views as seen from a palatial six-bedroom perch can be yours for $1,500 a night if you stay at least three nights, according to a listing on the Vacation Rentals By Owner website VRBO.com.
The only hitch: County code prohibits stays shorter than a week.
Peruse VRBO.com for ocean views, and you’ll find a host of Pebble Beach and Highway 1 properties. Only problem there: No short-term rentals (defined as less than 30 days) allowed in the coastal zone, period. (Different rules apply to hotels.)
Those rules go overwhelmingly unenforced, according to Doyle Moses, owner of events venue Holly Farm, who’s been urging the county to crack down on rentals without county land-use permits.
“I have the most onerous use permit in the history of Monterey County, and I have to compete with these sons of bitches,” he says of non-permitted venues.
Moses is spokesman for the Monterey Peninsula Legal Special Event Owners Association, a group of hospitality reps that’s been meeting to discuss the issue. Accidents at unpermitted venues could result in major liability damages, according to letters exchanged between Moses’ attorney and county officials last year.
County Resources Management Agency Director Benny Young says unpermitted venues haven’t undergone scrutiny for traffic and noise impacts, or emergency vehicle access.
Meanwhile, the county collects a 10.5-percent transient occupancy tax on many illegal short-term rentals.
Treasurer/Tax Collector Mary Zeeb’s team scours VRBO.com listings and asks unenrolled operators to sign up to pay TOT. “I really have no idea whether they’re legal or not,” Zeeb says. “My charge is to collect TOT.”
In response to Doyle’s complaints—including the threat of a lawsuit—the county is now considering an update to the ordinance banning short-term rentals in the coastal zone.
“We ought to level the playing field,” Young says.