County Suspends Short Term Vacation Rental Permit Approvals Until The End Of July

Mounting concern over the impact that short term rentals throughout the county are having on nearby properties and property owners prompted the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors last month to tweak its ordinance pertaining to vacation rental units and simultaneously impose a 45-day moratorium on the approval of new permits allowing residential properties to be rented out for brief periods of time.
At its June 14 meeting, the board of supervisors agreed to temporary suspend the approval of short-term rental unit permit applications so the county’s land use services division can consider how it is to approach zone change applications to allow more short-term rentals to operate and how the county can up its code enforcement capability to keep pace with the conversion of what were previously residential units to ones now accommodating vacationers. Staff further needs time to figure out how it will go about applying the now approved new ordinance provisions.
The county’s Department of Land Use Services – what in other parlance might be referred to as the county’s planning division – is continuing to accept and process short term rental unit applications, but for the duration of the moratorium, which is to last until July 30, issue no new permits. The suspension applies only to applications submitted after June 14 and does not apply to applications submitted up to that point or renewal applications on existing existing short-term rental permits. The changes to the county ordinance will be effective as of July 28.
The amendments approved by the board involve provisions that establish a limit of a single short-term rental for parcels of less than two acres and a limit of two short-term rentals on parcels larger than two acres. Further, the change in the ordinance makes clear that short-term rental permits do not permanently apply to the property where they are permitted and that a permit for a short-term rental is different from a permit for other types of shelters on residential property that are not to be rented or leased to vacationers or short-term occupants. The amendments include a two persons per bedroom plus two additional guests occupancy limitation. Additionally, no single short-term rental unit can be occupied by more than 12 people, no matter the number of bedrooms in the overall structure.
Short term rental owners/operators are now required to obtain a permit annually rather than biennially, as was the case previously.
To encourage sound reduction and prevent irritation to nearby properties and neighbors, the county included a $150 permit fee credit/discount to short-term rental permit applicants installing noise monitoring devices in their units.
The county is further requiring that on-line and general short-term rental unit brokers and hosting platforms reference the permit numbers issued by the county when renters make reservations at the units.
While previously issued short-term rental permits are grandfathered in such that those who now have them will be allowed to retain them no matter how many they have, going forward individuals and companies will be limited to no more than two permits each.
The board stopped short of putting into effect an overall cap on the number of short-term rentals countywide.
Over the last decade, there has been growing concern about the impact of short-term rentals on nearby properties.
Short-term rentals have proliferated in the more exotic areas of the county, such as in mountain resort areas, the desert area particularly around Joshua Tree National Park and near the Colorado River.
At such venues on weekend and vacation getaways, most people are simply after a relaxing and good time, and few problems ensue. Still, with others, especially when alcohol or recreational drugs are involved, the behavior of some is not as civil as their temporary neighbors would prefer them to be. In some cases, quarters that are intended for a few people or a family or two is called upon to accommodate several dozen. That brings with it issues such as noise, overburdened parking space and compliance with rudimentary laws. On rare occasions, with no warning a rave-like event manifests in a place ill-suited for it, and things can quickly rage out of hand.
Most of these issues exist in unincorporated areas of the county, such as Mt. Baldy, Joshua Tree, Wrightwood, Crestline, Cedarpines Park, Lake Gregory, Lake Arrowhead, Blue Jay, Valley of Enchantment, Cedar Glen, Sky Forest, Twin Peaks, Arrow Bear, Big Bear City, Angeles Oaks, Running Springs, Green Valley Lake, Cienega Creek, Sugarloaf, Seven Oaks, Barton Flats, Zzyzx, Amboy or Trona. Three incorporated municipalities, however – Big Bear Lake, Yucca Valley, and Twentynine Palms – deal with transitory influxes of visitors on a regular basis.
In Big Bear Lake, the controlling majority on the city council, sensitive to the financial interests of the tourist industry there, over the last year-and-a-half was reluctant to accommodate many of the city’s full-time residents who want tough restrictions imposed on both tourists and the owners of vacation rental units. The council majority responded to the calls for a strict ordinance by instituting compromise measures to create a regulatory regime that involves a modest licensing requirement and fines on cabin owners on whose properties problems manifest, with the potential for revocation of those licenses if the nuisances persist on a given property. A contingent of city residents who did not believe that City Hall had gone far enough formally formed a short-term rental regulation advocacy group on April 25, 2021, and ultimately obtained the requisite number of valid signatures of registered voters within the city to put an initiative on the upcoming November ballot calling for a limit on the number of vacation rentals in the City of Big Bear Lake. Those activists further want more vigorous regulation, including an increase in the city-imposed transitory occupancy tax – i.e., the city’s bed tax or hotel tax – from 8 percent to 12 percent, based on their argument that 35 percent of the calls for service from the fire department or sheriff’s department involve short term rental properties and/or visitors to the city.
At the same election at which the measure is on the ballot, to be held November 8, three of the incumbent council members who have proven reluctant to impose stricter regulations on short-term rentals in Big Bear Lake – Mayor Rick Herrick and councilmembers Randall Putz and Perri Melnick – are up for election.
In May, the Twentynine Palms City Council set set an 8.525 percent cap on the number of the city’s housing units that can be utilized as vacation rentals. Practically, that means 500 of the city’s 5,797 housing units can be used as vacation rentals.
In Yucca Valley, where residents endured problems brought on by insensitive short-term visitors, the town government in 2017 approved an ordinance that imposes on the owners of residences rented out as vacation homes a requirement that they apply for a $270 permit every two years and pay the same taxes imposed on hotels or motels. Permit fees are used to fund the cost of the town hiring a private company to monitor the properties, enforce codes and deal with complaints relating to the properties emanating from neighbors.
With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, which resulted in many individuals and families being cooped up at home for an extended period, short-term rentals grew phenomenally popular. As of 2020, there were 1,404 short term rentals registered with the county. By the following year the number had more than doubled to 2,905. A year later, that number exceeds 5,000.

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