PASO ROBLES — There were no cheers as Paso Robles Mayor Steven Martin cast the final vote that put a ban on any new short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods in place.
There were smiles and congratulatory hugs and handshakes exchanged between some of the 20-25 people who had seemingly gotten what they wanted — removal of non-hosted STRs from R-1 zones in the City — after the conclusion of the five-hour City Council meeting. Thirty-eight people spoke at the meeting. People were split with equal amounts wanting a total ban of STRs in R-1 zones and the other half being OK with the proposed cap of 100 by the tasking force and planning commission.
Vacations rentals can still operate in all other zones in the City, but in addition to a business license will apply and pay for a permit. A hotline will also be set up to help deal with complaints. The ordinance also addresses maximum occupancy, parking and what is required to obtain a permit.
The removal of STRs from R-1 zones won’t happen right away, rather according to the ordinance, non-hosted vacation rentals currently operating in R-1 zones, such as the impacted Hilltop Drive, within the City limits can do so for the 24 months. But as of June 5, no new business licenses and permits will be issued to STRs wanting to operate in the specified zone.
It was a vote that Martin did not want to make at 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 5, in council chambers or any night for that matter. Councilmembers Fred Strong and Maria Garcia voted yes, setting the stage for Martin’s decision. Councilmembers John Hamon and Steve Gregory recused themselves from the meeting due to conflicts of interest.
“I won’t leave the room without taking action, so I am going to vote yes, but I swear we are going to repeat this next year because I think this is inappropriate for the City,” said Martin, who was visibly upset afterward.
A provision of the ordinance regardless of which version was passed calls for it and the data collected over time be reviewed annually, which means there could be significant changes. After three years, the Council could let the ordinance sunset.
With only three remaining Councilmembers, a unanimous vote was needed to pass the “amendment to the zoning code to add provisions regulating short-term rentals in all zoning districts throughout the City.”
The final vote was the sixth attempt to pass an ordinance. Martin voted no in a previous attempt to pass the same version of the ordinance that was ultimately passed.
Two of Martin’s attempts to pass a version of the ordinance recommended by the short-term rental task force, which would have capped the number of STRs in R-1 zones at 100 and capped the total number of STRs in all other zones at 250, died without a second. A third attempt by Martin to push the task force’s version through, the fifth try of the night, nearly passed after Strong and Martin voted yes, but Garcia held her ground and voted no before making what turned out to be the final motion and vote of the night.
Martin said he could not in good conscience just disregard the work of the task force by people more versed on the subject than he or possibly anyone on the council and vote for the final version, which was a combination of recommendations from the task force, planning commission and one that phased out all non-hosted STRs in R-1 zones in 18 months. The planning commission recommendation put the cap on total STRs in R-1 zones at 100 and the cap in all other zones at 200.
As of February 2019, the City had issued 323 business licenses — 183 in R-1 zones — for short-term rentals with the requirement to pay TOT to the City.
Operating STRs are supposed to pay transient occupancy tax as local hotels and motels do. According to the City, TOT from STRs was $491,017 in the fiscal year 2017-18 and so far was at $428,075.
The City Council split its first regular meeting of June, knowing there would be plenty of interest in the vacation rental agenda item. STRs were the only matter discussed Wednesday night. More than 150 people packed Council Chambers at the start of the meeting.
The City Council’s next meeting is at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 18.
For more information, on the ordinance, visit online www.prcity.com.