City Hall Oakley

The Oakley City Council has extended its short-term residential rental moratorium for up to another year as city officials finalize plans to regulate the businesses.

The ban, in place since October 2018, applies to residential rentals of less than 30 days, and stems from a series of complaints about such operations routinely advertised on short-term rental websites such as Airbnb and VRBO.

“The staff does not believe we will need the additional year to bring back the regulations addressing short-term rentals, but we need the additional time just to finalize the amendments to the code that we want to bring forward,” said Community Development Director Joshua McMurray, who noted that Oakley officials planned to meet with the city attorney’s office this week to finalize regulations, before presenting options to the council for required approval.

City staff proposed adopting an ordinance regulating the properties in September 2018, but the council opted to implement the temporary ban the following month to further explore the issue, after a handful of residents came forward with stories of at least one wild party at a short-term rental. The initial 45-day moratorium was extended to a full year in November 2018, allowing city staff to flesh out the provisions.

Prior to the interim ban, the city’s regulations did little to define, enable, permit or prohibit short-term rentals or stipulate enforcement provisions.

City Attorney Derek Cole indicated that the state’s short-term rental landscape appears to be on shaky ground, as municipalities and courts grapple with regulating the properties.

“My suspicion is this is going to be a developing area for the next two or three years,” he said. “It’s an issue that is not going to go away.”

When the city council first instituted the ban, officials had estimated that about 10 city residences were rentable on a nightly or weekly basis through Airbnb.com, as well as two additional properties on the similar site VRBO.com. The need for regulations was sparked by residents’ complaints about at least one party at a short-term rental site that included a large group of people loitering on neighbors’ grass, left-behind trash, double parking and unruly noise.

One resident estimated that 100 cars were double parked on her street, and visitors to the home were lingering around the neighborhood. The owner of the property, a San Francisco resident, admitted her tenants that night disobeyed her stated rules, which included prohibiting more than four people in the home at a time. She eventually responded to the residence and, with the assistance of the Oakley Police, had the guests removed from the property.

“I’m very sorry a guest of mine broke my rules and created a nuisance in the neighborhood,” she told the council. “I have very strict rules and respect my neighbors.”

Councilmembers have previously said they want the regulations so police will have the authority to break up any unruly behavior. Other possible regulations could include limiting the number of people per home, regulating noise and parking and requiring renters to live at the home for a portion or all of the time when the residence is not being rented.

City Councilmember Kevin Romick, who has shown support for regulations in the past, said the city needs to proceed cautiously to avoid creating rules that pending lawsuits across the state might overturn. Mayor Claire Alaura noted, however, that the city needs to act sooner rather than later to avoid further issues for local business owners, who rely on the rental income.

“For us to extend the moratorium for a year seems a little excessive,” she said.

City officials say the council can adopt the long-awaited rules anytime, once they are determined.

“The year just gives us the time to flesh things out,” Romick said. “If we have something put together quicker than that, we will (consider it for approval).”

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