Supervisors uphold prohibition of vacation rentals in Avila Beach development



A new housing development in Avila Beach won't be used for vacation rentals any time soon.

At a meeting on July 13, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors denied a developer's request to repeal a condition prohibiting vacation rentals in seven of eight units in a nearly completed Avila Beach housing development. In the close 3-2 vote, 4th District Supervisor Lynn Compton sided with several Avila Beach residents and supervisors Bruce Gibson and Dawn Ortiz-Legg, all who argued that an overabundance of vacation rentals can have detrimental impacts on surrounding communities.

SURROUNDED A map shows the many already existing vacation rental properties (highlighted in blue) that surround the HDFT Investments housing development in Avila Beach. - IMAGE FROM SLO COUNTY PLANNING COMMISSION REPORT
  • SURROUNDED A map shows the many already existing vacation rental properties (highlighted in blue) that surround the HDFT Investments housing development in Avila Beach.

"I do see both sides to this argument," Compton said at the meeting. "But I do think that the people that purchase the homes do have an opportunity to come in later if they wish to make it a vacation rental."

The project at 217 1st St. has already been under construction for years now and involved the demolition of three existing residences to make way for seven residential townhomes and one studio encompassed in four buildings. Located near downtown Avila Beach and just a few blocks away from the beach, the project sits within a neighborhood that community members say is completely inundated with vacation rentals.

After several Avila Beach residents brought up concerns about the project's potential to be used as lodging for short-term tourists and visitors, the SLO County Planning Commission added a condition limiting vacation rental usage to the one studio unit on site. Despite protests from project applicant HDFT, commissioners approved the condition along with the project in August 2016.

In October 2020, HDFT Investments representative Erik Vasquez applied to have that condition amended. The Planning Commission denied that request, and Vasquez appealed the decision to the Board of Supervisors just days later.

At the hearing on July 13, Vasquez said a county ordinance that regulates vacation rentals in Avila Beach already limits the number of such establishments in certain areas. With several other vacation rentals within 50 feet of the HDFT project, Vasquez said none of the HDFT units would be eligible for vacation rental permits at this time.

"We are not requesting to be a vacation rental," Vasquez said at the meeting. "We are not requesting to amend the existing zoning, we are not requesting to amend the existing ordinances. We're not requesting to increase any of the densities or concentrations or traffics associated with vacation rentals. We're quite happy with the way the ordinances are written today, with the distances required the concentrations, all that. What we are asking for is to be treated just as our neighbors are."

If any of the neighboring property owners decide to one day relinquish their vacation rental permits, or if the county were to change its policies surrounding vacation rentals, Vasquez said he'd like the future owners of the HDFT units to at least have the opportunity to apply for vacation rental permits.

"And that's what this condition prohibits us from doing," he said.

Supervisors Debbie Arnold and John Peschong agreed, and called on their fellow board members to let the ordinance do its job.

But Supervisor Gibson said the Planning Commission was within its purview to place such a condition on this property, especially, he said, considering the negative impacts vacation rentals can have on surrounding communities. While several Avila Beach residents said vacation rentals take up needed long-term housing stock and cause traffic congestion, noise, and parking issues in their neighborhoods, Gibson mentioned other possible issues, including increased housing costs in surrounding areas.

"I think the Planning Commission got this right, and I believe in the record of the Planning Commission is evidence that they considered the impact of vacation rentals as they deliberated this project that was before them. And they concluded that restricting any possible, and I'll emphasize possible, application for a vacation rental to the one studio was because that if that did somehow gain a license to become a vacation rental, it would have the least parking impacts, which are a concern in Avila Beach."


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