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April 2, 2023

County changes rules for vacation rentals

SANTA CRUZ—The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved placing a moratorium on new vacation rentals countywide, along with several other rules meant to limit the growing industry.

The trustees will consider on June 30 whether to extend the 45-day moratorium.

Supervisor John Leopold, who helped craft the ordinance, said that the growing number of vacation and hosted rentals puts a burden on neighbors, who report loud parties, parking woes and other troubles at some properties. The increasing number of vacation rentals also reduces the number of available homes for county residents, Leopold said.

“I think the need for this moratorium is very clear,” Leopold said. “In the years we’ve been dealing with the vacation rentals, the nature of the complaints—and the concerns in our community—have changed.”

According to Jocelyn Drake of the Santa Cruz County Planning Department, there are currently 656 vacation rentals and 250 hosted rental permits countywide, numbers that continually fluctuate.

Another trouble, Leopold said, is that until the new rules passed, enforcement of existing rules for problem properties was spotty at best.

“In the 11 years we’ve had this, we haven’t revoked one permit—not one,” he said. “So the message we’re sending is that you can get away with a lot, and the impacts on neighborhoods will be great. I’d like us to have a system that helps the people who actually live here, rather than the people who don’t live here but rent their properties.”

The new rules give more teeth to county enforcement by allowing for easier revocation of permits. 

They also require a five-year permit review, with the first year being probationary. Moreover, owners and property managers are required to answer complaints within 60 minutes, and failure to do so will be a strike against future renewal.

In other action, the supervisors approved a five-year spending plan that will allow the county to apply for nearly $3.4 million in state funds to help with homelessness issues.

The Permanent Local Housing Allocation Program, run by the California Department of Housing & Community Development, is providing $195 million statewide for affordable apartments, workforce housing, homeless assistance and homebuyer programs, among other things. 

The funds would also go toward homeless prevention programs and navigation and shelter facilities. 


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