Mary Adams

Screenshot of Supervisor Mary Adams at a recent Board of Supervisors meeting.

The "bad actors" of short-term rentals in areas like Carmel Valley, Pebble Beach and Big Sur are now on notice: A pilot enforcement program is coming, likely by April, after the Monterey County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 today in favor of the pilot. It only impacts District 5, which includes those popular vacation destinations mentioned.

Housing and Community Development staff will return to the board in January with a proposal for the addition of at least three code enforcement employees—a supervising code compliance officer, a code compliance inspector and an office assistant—as well as vehicles and equipment, to administer the pilot.

Staff will also return with a proposal for an ordinance amendment to increase the fines charged for violators caught renting out homes or rooms without a permit. Currently the fines are $100 for a first violation, increasing to $200 and then $500. That's per day that a unit is rented out. The proposal presented to supervisors today was to increase the fines to $1,000, $2,500 and $5,000.

HCD Director Erik Lundquist told supervisors the lower fines were not enough to deter people from renting short-term. 

At least three supervisors—John Phillips, Chris Lopez and Luis Alejo—said they wanted the focus of enforcement to be squarely on the "bad actors," the party houses and others who disrupt neighborhoods, and not on the operators who have been trying to obtain permits and are paying their transient occupancy taxes.

Once all the pieces of the enforcement program are in place, possibly as soon as April, county staff will begin by reaching out to known violators to educate them about the need for permits. At that point violators have 30 days before fines start accruing. 

Many of the members of the public who spoke, both for and against the pilot program, said they want the county to finally finish a new vacation rental ordinance that's been in the works for approximately seven years. Supervisor Mary Adams, whose district is the focus of the pilot, said she wants that too.

"We are foot on the gas" in working on the new ordinance, Lundquist said. The ordinance requires CEQA review, which takes months to complete. It could take at least a year before an ordinance comes before the board, he said.

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