Proposal to limit 'party central' vacation rentals

Proposals to regulate vacation home rentals in Sonoma County get their first public review Tuesday evening when county planners roll out rules limiting levels of noise, guests and activities that would be allowed this summer.

Two contentious public hearings before supervisors last year produced sharp disagreement among neighbors, property owners and professional property managers. The issue is how to keep a lid on problems generated at the approximately 1,000 homes in the county leased for weeks or weekends at a time.

Earlier this month, a wooden deck collapsed at a vacation rental near Guerneville, injuring several people among about 400 who reportedly attended the weekend-long gathering.

"We would not be spending this much time on this issue if it was just five properties causing the complaints," said board Chairwoman Valerie Brown, who said the problem is particularly acute among mansion-style estates in her Sonoma Valley district. "The issue is often the property owners have no connection with the neighborhood and it becomes party central."

The proposed rules would:

Limit overnight occupancy to two people per bedroom, plus another two people per house.

Limit the number of guests, using a formula that effectively caps the total at 25.

Bans amplified music outdoors and prohibits any noise from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Allows special events like parties and weddings, but requires a zoning permit that could be obtained up to four times a year. But it prohibits any sort of outdoor events in rural or urban residential zones.

County planner Jane Riley said Tuesday's workshop, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Permit and Resource Management Department hearing room at 2550 Ventura Ave. in Santa Rosa, is designed to explain proposed regulations and solicit opinion from neighbors and vacation renters.

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