San Rafael, CA – With housing supply, community workforce, and public safety as motivators, the County of Marin plans to introduce a draft ordinance May 24 that would place a temporary moratorium on new registrations and licenses for short-term rental properties in West Marin.
The proposed new ordinance, authored by the Marin County Community Development Agency (CDA), would require owners of such rentals to register their property by 5 p.m. the day the ordinance is adopted. If adopted, the moratorium would last at least 45 days, but could be extendable up to two years.
Short-term rentals, often arranged through online companies such as Airbnb and VRBO, have been popular places for visitors to stay in Marin.
West Marin has more than 500 short-term rentals registered with the County, far more than in other areas of Marin, representing 10% of the housing stock in the area and a far greater proportion of homes in communities like Stinson Beach. Operators with a valid business license and Transient Occupancy Tax certificate may continue to operate short-term rentals in accordance with the County’s standards.
The new ordinance would apply to properties covered by the West Marin Transient Occupancy Tax Area (also known as Measure W) including unincorporated areas in central and western Marin, from Dillon Beach/Tomales to the north, San Geronimo Valley and Nicasio in central Marin, and the communities of Muir Beach, Stinson Beach, and Bolinas to the south. Please refer to the Measure W Tax Area map for an outline of the areas affected by the proposed ordinance.
“This is an opportunity for those property owners to act before the moratorium takes place,” said Sarah Jones, Assistant Director for Marin’s Community Development Agency. “We want to be accommodating but also acknowledge that we’ve reached a threshold of what our coastal communities can handle. Those hamlets are remote and lightly populated, so even a small number of homes converting to visitor accommodations creates impacts that are felt much more deeply than our larger towns and cities.”
The moratorium will pause the addition of new short-term rentals to avoid growth impacts and temporarily stabilize the local housing situation while the County develops strategies and solutions that consider both community and visitor needs and establishes a clear baseline to which new approaches would apply. The analysis would also address the impact of short-term rentals on housing supply and affordability countywide, topics that are currently in the spotlight in the discussions as the County updates plans.
The lack of workforce housing in West Marin has been at crisis level for many years, and residents have voiced passionate feedback to the Board of Supervisors and CDA planners, particularly as demand and needs shifted during the pandemic. In turn, the County has identified the creation of more affordable housing as one of its highest priorities and studied zoning proposals that would increase the availability of lower- and middle-income housing for the West Marin workforce while maintaining coastal access for everyone.
“Visitors from around the world enjoy our county’s natural beauty and contribute to our economy, but it’s a growing problem that the people who work in West Marin be able to live in West Marin,” added Jones. “A high proportion of small villages occupied by transient visitors means smaller ongoing communities and a lack of people to serve in key community roles. That translates to smaller volunteer fire departments and smaller school enrollments, meaning less funding to keep those vital community services alive.”
Public safety is at stake as well. The lack of available workforce housing means few public safety responders live in the West Marin area, contributing to the difficulty of delivering these needed services. In addition, many visitors staying in rentals are unfamiliar with emergency evacuation routes, knowledge of natural hazards, and routes to safer locations. That unfamiliarity can create additional challenges for first responders, especially medical personnel answering an urgent call.
Those looking to become registered before the ordinance goes into effect may watch the following short videos.
Also, the Marin County Department of Finance has webpages for business license registration and for Transient Occupancy Tax certificate information. Lack of compliance my result in enforcement action, including citations or action to cease short-term rental operations.
Learn more about the proposed local short-term rental ordinance on the County’s website.
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