Oceano sparks discussion about vacation rental ordinance



The Oceano Advisory Council (OAC) has ambitions to thicken the pages of San Luis Obispo County vacation rental code.

"The ordinance we're talking about is only about the vacation rentals where the owner is not present," OAC Chair Charles Varni announced at the Aug. 22 meeting.

SPOTLIGHT Oceano Advisory Council Chair Charles Varni zeroed in on a specific type of vacation rental for a proposed ordinance—the kind with absent property owners. - SCREENSHOT TAKEN FROM OCEANO ADVISORY COUNCIL MEETING
  • SPOTLIGHT Oceano Advisory Council Chair Charles Varni zeroed in on a specific type of vacation rental for a proposed ordinance—the kind with absent property owners.

The last beach town of its kind to not have its own vacation rental ordinance—according to the OAC—Oceano kicked discussions into gear about a draft plan that the council could one day present to county officials for review and adoption.

Oceano is governed by two separate sets of regulations that split the town along either side of Highway 1. The west side is in the coastal zone ruled by Title 23 in the county's code, and the east side or the "inland area" follows Title 22. Most residents live inland, and the OAC is worried that growing vacation rentals like Airbnbs could shrink the already dwindling affordable housing stock.

Currently, the west side houses 86 vacation rentals with owners that reside elsewhere, and the inland zone has 30. At the meeting, Varni said that the ordinance proposed by the advisory council would grandfather in all the existing rentals while capping the number to 100 in the coastal half and zero in the inland half. Varni and the other council members drew up these suggestions after studying ordinances belonging to other coastal towns like Cayucos and Cambria.

OAC Co-Chair April Dury told New Times that in spite of being grandfathered in, inland rentals that eventually become noncompliant would have to fit all the new rules in the proposed ordinance to resume renting.

"What would happen is as they become out of compliance or they don't renew their license or they stop operating as a short-term rental, then that [rental] would go away completely," Dury said. "But let's say they were within the buffer zone, so now they automatically can't get a license, ... so they've lost their grandfathered-in privilege."

However, at the meeting, a handful of people were apprehensive about the proposal.

Grover Beach resident Lucy J. said that she was concerned the ordinance would increase the cost of vacation rentals. She said she chooses vacation rentals in Oceano over Pismo Beach and even her home city because of how affordable they are.

Joel Anderson, an Oceano rental owner, said he was concerned about the proposal preventing owners from passing permits to new owners, especially when rental permits cost them "a few thousand dollars."

Others complained about homeless people gathered in front of rentals and loud parties that sometimes take place at the properties.

Dury criticized the "vilification of the homeless" at the meeting.

"When you're privileged enough to own a home at the beach, that comes with great title," she said. "People are homeless in our community because the housing stock is being used up for vacation rentals and other things."

Dury told New Times that the big downside of having numerous vacation rentals with absent owners in a small town is the loss of community.

"People who don't live here will not be voting," she said. "There's no sense of community when strangers are renting homes and we lose the ability to have homes for residents for long-term rental or ownership."

The OAC will deliberate the proposed ordinance with further community input over the course of two more meetings. Their next discussion will take place virtually on Sept. 22 at 5:30 p.m. Once a draft is nailed down, the OAC will bring it to the county Planning Commission, which will ultimately vote on the matter. Any change to county code, or lack thereof, would not be expected until 2023. Δ


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