Napa County is preparing to crack down on “illegal” or non-conforming vacation rentals in unincorporated area of Napa Valley by preparing a new ordinance.
A report prepared for yesterday’s study session of the Napa County Planning Commission by Planning Director Hillary Gitelman asked for discussion and direction on the development of an ordinance “clarifing the difference between single family dwelling units and short-term commercial guest accommodations, specifying uses and ownership or rental arrangements associated with each and analyzing extremely large residences to determine if they should require environmental review.”
This action falls in line with the implementation of the new Napa County General Plan.
“In the unincorporated County, there are about 10,090 dwelling units, with the median household income of $99,200. Very little new housing development occurs in unincorporated Napa County due to land costs, minimum parcel sizes of 40 to 160 acres in most of the County and the small supply of land available for multi-family housing,” said Gitelman in her report.
“At the same time, Napa County’s agricultural economy is supported by tourism, and some residents and business entities have discovered they can reap substantial profits by renting their homes, second units and/or guest cottages to tourists or by selling memberships or using other creative ownership/rental arrangements. It is difficult to estimate precisely how many dwellings in unincorporated Napa County are being used in a manner inconsistent with the County’s definition of a dwelling unit…. Many people have the impression that this has become a serious problem, and both a policy and an action item to address this issue were included in the General Plan adopted June 3, 2008,” she continued.
The County’s General Plan states, “The County will promote development concepts that create flexibility, economy and a variety in housing without resulting in significant environmental impacts and without allowing residences to become timeshares, resorts, hotels or similar tourist-type accommodations.”
Gitelman asked the Planning Commission for specific direction on whether the new ordinance should define what a residential dwelling unit looks like, potentially modifying the definition of “kitchen” contained in Napa County Code and addressing residences in which bedrooms are designed as stand-alone structures.
The Town of Yountville addressed a similar problem in February when it sent letters to the owners of seven Yountville residences advising them to stop using their homes as short-term rental units.
In Yountville it is illegal to rent private homes for 30 days or less.
Yountville’s crackdown was precipitated by public complaints and recognition of Yountville homes being advertised as vacation rentals on popular websites.
“Preventing the intrusion of short-term rental businesses into residential areas preserves the residential character of our neighborhoods and ensures that hotel uses are conducted within the commercial areas of Town designated visitor accommodation,” explained a Town of Yountville assistant planner when the enforcement letters were issued.
The above story is by Sharon Stensaas, Editor of the Yountville Sun, September 18, 2008
This has always been a problem in the Napa Valley. As far as I understand, only the Town of Yountville and St. Helena have ordinances on their code books prohibiting rentals for less than 30 days and each has taken action against illegal vacation rentals. St. Helena did so about three years ago and the only steps the County has taken that I know about was to contact three owners who were very blatant in how they operated their rental operations and the County received numerous complaints from neighbors. To the best of my knowledge, Napa County doesn’t have a written prohibition against vacation rentals and this new ordinance will be a first.
All that one needs to do to see how many vacation rentals are out there is simply do a Google search on the term. Many, including several in Yountville, have changed the wording on the various websites they advertise on to “only rented by the month” but upon calling the owner, find it is miraculously available for a shorter time-frame.
I am not certain of exactly how I feel about vacation rentals here in the Napa Valley. I only know it was sure nice to have them available when I went somewhere on vacation, but then, would I want one next door to me? That seems to always be the question I come back to. Let me know how you feel.