Party-house excesses brings call for Sonoma Valley regulations

  • Villa Sobre Vista
    1225 Sobre Vista Drive, Sonoma, CA

Renting out estate mansions in Sonoma Valley for events that swell into noisy, night-long booze-bashes has become such a problem that Sonoma County officials are considering a crackdown this summer on the vacation rental business.

While an estimated 1,000 homes in the county fall into the ?vacation rental by owner? category, about a dozen in Sonoma Valley have generated many of the complaints that prompted a 2?-hour hearing Tuesday before the Board of Supervisors.

Residents living on Lawndale Road in Kenwood, on Sobre Vista Road south of Glen Ellen and on Hoff Road near the Ledson winery said they feared a plague of parties was set to descend upon them again this summer.

?When you get people paying $3,000 a night for renting a seven-bedroom estate that sleeps 20, you get people who want to get their money?s worth and it is no longer a vacation rental,? said Larry Lang, a Sobre Vista Road resident who came armed with a petition signed by 30 neighbors.

Weddings and bachelor parties are most common, but the plethora of Wine Country events, such as the annual jazz and film festivals and celebrity golf tournament, also attract sponsors willing to pay local residents big bucks to house special guests.

Supervisor Valerie Brown, whose district covers the Sonoma Valley, said her office has catalogued mounting complaints of late-night party noise, rock bands playing at high volume, screeching disc jockeys, people frolicking nude in hot tubs, limousine traffic tying up narrow roads and party-goers passed out in front lawns.

?For three years we have been working on coming up with solutions,? Brown said. ?We have exhausted every solution we have come up with.?

Temporary rental of private homes for vacations and extended stays is largely unregulated, primarily because zoning officials view the practice as not much different than property owners renting their houses to tenants. However, the cachet of a big event weekend in the Wine Country has brought out-of-towners willing to spend thousands a night for an estate with multiple bedrooms.

Many of these homes are independently advertised on the Internet, while others also appear on established Web sites, such as vrbo.com.

?Bachelor parties. Bachelorette parties. It might as well have dancing girls on the site,? said Supervisor Shirlee Zane, reciting advertised features. ?Optional nude sunbathing. You can do anything you want. This problematic group is damaging the whole tourism industry.?

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