On August 8, Rohnert Park City Council approved to adopt new proposed regulations allowing only short-term single room rentals, not whole houses or accessory dwelling units. The new ordinance will go into effect in 30 days after the city council meeting.
While Rohnert Park does not currently have an overwhelming problem with short-term vacation rentals like other cities in the county, especially in popular tourist areas, they nevertheless have seen a large increase in the last couple of years and want to prevent future problems from occurring. In May of 2015 there were only nine listings in Rohnert Park on Airbnb. By July 2017, that number jumped to 32 listings, one-third of them being whole house rentals.
Each city in the county creates their own ordinances regarding short-term rentals and has tailored their regulations according to their own unique situations. The increase in short term rentals in Rohnert Park prompted the city to look closely at their existing ordinances and what needed changing.
“There has been a large increase in short-term rentals in the last couple years,” says Don Schwartz, Public Information Officer and Assistant City Manager for the City of Rohnert Park. “It is not a huge problem yet, but the council wanted to address the issue before we get to that point. We wanted to be proactive.”
A major concern with the increase in short-term vacation rentals is that it reduces the available long-term housing that the city desperately needs, as well as drives up housing costs. Rohnert Park’s large student population can make available housing especially challenging. Short-term rentals can often create other nuisances for neighbors as well, such as parking and traffic impacts and noise from parties. If unregulated, short-term rentals can present negative fiscal impacts for the city and there is a general lack of health and safety regulations for those homeowners that do not go through the proper channels of receiving permits and licenses.
“Rohnert Park is a family friendly city,” says Zach Tusinger, Planner II for the City of Rohnert Park. “We like to preserve our neighborhoods, preserve our housing and maintain the character of our neighborhoods. Short-term rentals can really change that. If you don’t know who your neighbors are next door and they are constantly changing every weekend, it really changes the neighborhood character.”
The new ordinance defines a “short-term rental” as being rented for 14 consecutive days or less. The existing whole house or accessory dwelling unit rentals will now be prohibited and single room rentals will need to follow specific guidelines to be permissible. The rooms will require an administrative use permit, a city business license and insurance, and will be required to pay TOT (Transient Occupancy Tax). Rentals will be subject to permit revocation and/or administrative citation.
According to Tusinger, it will become a code enforcement issue for those homeowners who continue to rent their homes or accessory dwelling units. They would first receive a formal warning and eventual potential enforcement in way of fines or a hearing.
“Rohnert Park had allowed traditional bed and breakfast establishments, but short term rentals do not fall under that category so essentially were never allowed in the city,” says Tusinger. “This regulation will simply create the mechanism to regulate the rentals that operate in this gray area.”