In revised rule, vacation rental signs optional

06/07/2018

In response to public opposition, the county has slackened its proposal for an ordinance that would require short-term rental owners to post signage. The revised rule would offer rental owners the choice of either posting a sign or notifying their immediate neighbors by mail. 

“This accomplishes what the county needs without creating the same security concerns or visual pollution of the signs,” Katie Beacock, the longtime owner of Seadrift Realty, said. At the first public hearing to consider the signs, Ms. Beacock and her colleagues suggested the alternative of notifications by mail. 

The first reading of the revised ordinance, the latest attempt by the Board of Supervisors to tackle the booming short-rental market in West Marin, will be heard on July 31, and a merit hearing is scheduled for Aug. 7. 

County supervisors postponed a vote on the original sign ordinance, which Supervisor Dennis Rodoni characterized as a way for communities to “self-regulate,” in February to allow staff to integrate public feedback. At the time, the rule required short-term rental owners to post an exterior sign at the front of the property or unit that included the name of a local contact person, his or her phone number and email address, the phone number and the email address of the county short term rental hotline and the street address of the rental. 

At the first reading in February, community members voiced a host of concerns, including that the signs would be unsightly, posed a threat to the safety of the properties and owners and represented an ineffective solution both to neighbor disputes and noncompliance with county regulations such as the transient occupancy tax. 

Under the newly amended ordinance, owners can choose to instead provide the same information to all properties within a radius of 300 feet either using door-handle hangers or letters. Owners must submit an affidavit to the county confirming that they have provided this notice 10 days before renewing or applying for a business license. 

There a few other tweaks to the original proposal. Now, in addition to the requirement that a local contact person be listed, the county plans to hire a third party to operate a complaint hotline. The new draft ordinance states that hotline staff will be available by phone and email and will be responsible for notifying rental owners, or the local contact, of complaints. 

For those who choose to post a sign, the revised ordinance gives them the freedom to design their own—as long as the size and font are not smaller than standards provided by the Department of Finance.