Contra Costa County

Contra Costa Supervisors Seek Enforcement Options for Short-Term Rentals

The county currently has no regulations for short-term rentals in its unincorporated areas, and such rentals are not allowed.

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Especially in light of the recent deaths of five people at a short-term rental property in Orinda on Halloween, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors want more research done on a prospective ordinance regulating such rentals, including about how safety rules can be enforced.

The deaths at that Orinda home, which had been an Airbnb enforcement problem and a law enforcement problem, added an important new element to the Contra Costa supervisors' quest to create regulations for short-term rentals.

The county currently has no regulations for short-term rentals in its unincorporated areas, and such rentals are not allowed.

In September 2018, the supervisors called for an ordinance that sets rules for hosts using platforms such as Airbnb and VRBO to rent their homes for short periods. That came after three public discussions the supervisors had held during the previous year and other meetings called by the municipal advisory councils that represent unincorporated communities.

That draft ordinance would allow non-hosted rentals -- something the Orinda City Council recently banned in its own short-term-rental ordinance recently modified following the party deaths in that city. County Supervisor John Gioia from Richmond wondered aloud whether non-hosted rentals should be banned.

Francisco Avila, a county project planner, told the supervisors Tuesday morning that staff is researching "how to best be proactive" in heading off and reacting to events such as the Orinda shootings. Banning non-hosted rentals, restrictions on gatherings at rental properties and working to convince platforms like Airbnb to remove troublesome properties from their listings could be part of any ordinance, county staffers said.

Some strategies are problematic. One of those, said John Kopchik, the county's conservation and development director, would be to issue citations to rule-violating rental hosts, "but we don't have the eyes and ears to be able to do that."

Kopchik told the supervisors he favors further study of enforcement options the county would have at its disposal. Supervisor Diane Burgis also asked that county staff continue to help determine whether such rentals have a notable effect in removing units from the county's housing supply -- a key question about short-term rentals that took a back seat after the Orinda killings.

The Board of Supervisors ultimately voted 5-0 Tuesday to accept a staff report on regulating short-term rental properties, and asked staff to continue to research enforcement options.

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