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Paso Robles drafts new vacation rental rules

A screenshot of a Paso Robles vacation rental currently offered on Airbnb. It rents for $549 a night and can accommodate 10 people.

A task force charged with coming up with new rules regarding vacation rentals in Paso Robles has wrapped up its work, at least for the time being. On Wednesday, the city’s short-term rental (STR) task force met for the last time before sending its recommendations on to the city’s planning commission.

The proposed new rules include a 50-foot buffer between vacation rentals in single-family residential neighborhoods, particularly rentals referred to as non-hosted accommodations or NHAs, meaning there’s no owner or agent on the property when vacationers are renting it. If the new rules are adopted into law, of the 79 current NHAs, half would be shut down. The task force is also recommending a cap on the number of business licenses issued for short-term rentals. While the 344 current vacation rentals citywide would be grandfathered in, a moratorium on the issuance of any more licenses to operate a short-term rental would immediately go into effect with the ordinance.

Most of the people in the audience at the past eight weeks of task force meetings were homeowners unhappy about a recent spike in nearby vacation rentals, or owners of short-term rentals concerned with burdensome new rules.

Speaking at the end of the meeting, Toni Avina, a resident of Hilltop Drive—one of the impacted Paso Robles neighborhoods in terms of the numbers of existing rentals—said there are eight vacation rentals on her street alone.

“They have people that are coming and going at all hours, that are intoxicated drunks falling out of limos and wine busses in front of our kids,” Avina said. “At times the limo or bus companies are asking them to clean the garbage out of the vehicles before they leave, and they just throw it into the streets...and we put up with this every week.”

Avina and other Hilltop Drive residents want the city to ban short-term rentals in parts of the city zoned R1 - or single family home neighborhoods. And they are asking the city to hand out business licenses for one-year time periods, and provide adequate noticing to neighbors when a STR is approved in their neighborhood.

But those who are trying to earn money from their vacation rentals are wary of new rules and fees, like this owner of two rental properties who attended Wednesday’s meeting, but didn’t provide his name.

“The city of Paso has way more people coming to visit than they have room for, so people are leaving the city, taking their money and staying somewhere else when they're really here to visit Paso. And this was a good opportunity for us to accommodate people, that's what we love, we love accommodating people, so we went out and sought to do it. We're doing it well and we were fearful that they were going to turn around and say, no, you can't do it.”

The task force’s reworked draft ordinance will be available to the public on Friday, in advance of the April 23 Paso Robles Planning Commission meeting. From there it’s tentatively scheduled to go before the city council on May 7.

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