STINSON BEACH – On Tuesday, the Marin County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a moratorium on short term rentals in the county's western communities.
Online booking apps, like Airbnb and VRBO, have made it easy to find a place to stay for a weekend getaway at small towns like Stinson Beach. But some said it's gotten too easy, and now the county has put the brakes on it.
In coastal communities like Stinson, there have always been people who would rent out their vacation homes when they weren't there, and the community has benefited from the tourism. With the apps, even modest cottages can command much higher prices than if they were rented to full time residents, so many of them sit empty, waiting for weekend guests.
That's drawn the attention of the Board of Supervisors.
"Shortage of long-term housing, particularly on the coast, has reached a critical point. More and more working families are being displaced," said Supervisor Dennis Rodoni at Tuesday's meeting. "This, over time, causes hollowing out of our coastal villages."
Some residents said that's already happened.
Margaret Clayton operates the Redwoods Haus Bed and Breakfast. It only has three rooms, so she doesn't have much trouble filling the place, but Clayton said it's the town itself that's being hurt.
"There's only one school now, they don't have the two schools. They don't have the residents that live here anymore full time," said Clayton. "It changes it so it's not really a town anymore, where people live and they have things going on. It's more just like...rental, in and out."
In Stinson Beach, 20% of all the homes are now registered as short-term rental properties.
It's making it almost impossible for people working In Stinson Beach to find a place to live, from service workers at the restaurants, to first responders. So, the county enacted a moratorium on new short-term rental licenses--effective immediately--while they develop new regulations.
But they sent out advance notice about it to property owners and local rental agent Linda Campbell said, in the last two weeks, there has been a flood of applications for the licenses.
"And even two or three people I know, who own properties here and don't have any intention of renting them, went ahead and got their licenses anyway, just in case. Because who knows how long we'll be locked out?" said Campbell.
The issue is pitting the town against property owners and passions are running high.
Full-time resident John Posadas says it's more basic than that.
"It's not a question of passion, it's a question of survival," he said. "If you want to survive, you want to live in a community that has people that live in it."
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