By Mary-Justine Lanyon
At their June 14 meeting, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors approved revisions to the short-term rental (STR) ordinance proposed by the Planning Commission.
The key changes include:
• Permits are limited to two per person (existing permit holders will be grandfathered in)
• Occupancy will be based on the size of the dwelling with a cap of 12
• Owners will be offered an incentive to install noise monitoring devices
• The number of STRs per parcel will be limited by the parcel size
• The permit number must be displayed on rental platforms
• Automatic permit transfers upon sale of the property will be eliminated
The board also approved Supervisor Dawn Rowe’s proposal to place a 45-day pause on the issuance of new STR permits.
These provisions will be considered for final adoption at the June 28 board meeting.
Prior to the supervisors discussing and voting on the proposed changes, the public was given the opportunity to comment. In addition to those attending in person in San Bernardino, there was a remote location set up in Joshua Tree.
Many of the speakers were from Fawnskin, Joshua Tree and Pioneertown. Several expressed concerns over residential neighborhoods becoming commercial. At least one suggested putting a limit on the number of days per year an STR can be rented. A resident of Big Bear noted that, during the pandemic, “people came up to blow off steam. The last thing on their mind was being respectful. Everything has slowed down. We’re addressing something that’s in the past.”
Several speakers – including Lake Arrowhead resident Roberta Rindenow – urged the supervisors to make the noise monitors a requirement, rather than offering an incentive of a $150 rebate. “Even normal noise travels in the mountains,” Rindenow said. “I’m not the first or last to have to be the noise police. Let’s add a requirement for all STR owners to install noise monitors inside and outside their properties. The owner would be notified and then neighbors like me don’t have to monitor them and lose sleep.”
The board then discussed and voted on each section of the proposed ordinance as presented by Luther Snoke, the county’s chief operating officer.
The maximum number of STRs per parcel will be one for a property that is less than two acres and two for a property larger than two acres.
The supervisors adjusted the occupancy standards to read four people per one-bedroom unit or studio; six for a two-bedroom unit; eight for a three-bedroom; 10 for a four-bedroom; and a maximum number of 12 for a five-bedroom.
While the ordinance the Planning Commission sent to the supervisors included a two-night minimum rental on weekends, the board eliminated this requirement at the suggestion of Supervisor Rowe.
The board approved the document as a whole except as altered by the board in their section-by-section votes.
In a separate measure, Supervisor Rowe proposed a 45-day pause in issuing new STR permits. This, she said, will give the county time to prepare to implement the changes and “realign resources to ensure effective enforcement.”
During the public comment period, one speaker proposed the county use the pause to look at ordinances that have worked in other areas. Another noted that “too many month-to-month renters are being pushed out. There is a glut of STRs so many go unrented.” Most speakers were in support of the pause, with some suggesting it be longer.
Lake Arrowhead resident Scott Rindenow asked the board to consider a longer period of six months to a year. He also suggested the county conduct a density study. Roberta Rindenow agreed: “For years, our mountain has been requesting a moratorium to allow county planner to study density. The pause should be six months to a year to allow planners to do a thorough density study.”
Supervisor Curt Hagman, the board chair, asked Supervisor Rowe if she would like the 45-day pause to go into effect on June 28, when the board will vote for final adoption. She said that was fine. One speaker, however, suggested that delaying the pause could lead to a flood of new permit applications.
Supervisor Rowe then asked county counsel Tom Bunton for clarification on the urgency ordinance to implement a 45-day pause. Bunton recommended it become effective immediately.
Supervisor Janice Rutherford asked Supervisor Rowe to lay out “what she hopes to have accomplished” with the pause. “I hope we fill open positions (in Code Enforcement), do proactive enforcement rather than reactive.”
Supervisor Rowe clarified that, during the pause, the county will accept and process applications but would not issue new permits. Renewal of permits would not be affected by the pause.
Chair Hagman expressed concern that the moratorium would lapse before the new rules go into effect. According to Bunton, the initial pause of 45 days can be extended twice: for 10 months and 15 days, then another year, up to a total of two years.
The proposed 45-day pause passed unanimously with an immediate start date.
Anyone wishing to view and listen to the entire three-hour discussion may do so on the board’s website: sbcounty.gov/main/pages/viewmeetings.aspx.