Sonoma County Board of Supervisors approves 45-day ban on new vacation rentals while weighing additional regulations

Officials say the moratorium is needed to prevent a run on permits ahead of proposed vacation rental regulations.|

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors has approved a 45-day ban on new vacation rentals in many parts of the county while it weighs additional regulations for short-term rental properties.

In a public meeting late Tuesday, the board unanimously agreed to put an immediate pause on issuing new vacation rental permits in most areas outside of local city limits.

Officials say the moratorium is needed to prevent a run on permits ahead of the proposed vacation rental regulations, which are meant to alleviate residents’ concerns over noise, public safety and housing availability. The new rules could include limiting the number of rentals allowed in certain neighborhoods and prohibiting new rentals in others.

The board is set to vote on those updates to its current vacation rental ordinance in August.

Since announcing a March 17 public hearing on the proposed restrictions, county officials said they’ve already received over 100 vacation rental permit applications. The county normally receives around 10 applications a month.

To prevent an “over-concentration” of rentals in some neighborhoods before the new rules could take effect, officials will stop processing applications that were received after March 17 for permits in unincorporated parts of county districts 1, 4 and 5. That includes west county, north county and Sonoma Valley, where vacation rentals are most popular.

For districts 2 and 3, permit applications received after Tuesday will also be put on hold.

The paused applications will be processed once the moratorium expires.

The board could decide to extend the moratorium, set to end in late June, to last at least until a vote on the proposed regulations on Aug. 2.

The temporary ban, which is now in effect, does not apply to areas along the coast that are regulated by the California Coastal Commission. The coast would also be exempt from any permanent county caps on new rentals.

During Tuesday’s meeting Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, who represents west county, acknowledged that vacation rentals are a key part of the tourism industry in her district but said additional restrictions are needed to address residents’ concerns.

“We (have to) find some way of really balancing economic vitality, of which tourism especially in west county is absolutely critical, with quality of life and preservation of our residential neighborhoods,” Hopkins said.

The new rules would only apply to unincorporated parts of the county. They would cap short-term rentals to 5% of single-family homes in some communities where there are worries about protecting available housing stock and preserving “neighborhood character.” Other communities could see permanent prohibitions on new rental permits.

Additionally, the board is considering a system to license vacation rentals to make it easier to enforce short-term rental regulations. The county would also launch a 24/7 hotline to respond to complaints.

According to a recent economic study commissioned by the county, there were an estimated 2,459 local short-term rentals in 2021, making up 2% of the roughly 138,945 single-family homes in the county. About 1,485 of the rentals were in unincorporated areas.

You can reach Staff Writer Ethan Varian at or 707-521-5412. On Twitter @ethanvarian

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