Have short-term rentals destroyed the vibe of Stinson Beach? Residents say they want their city back

Nestled between the verdant shoulder of Mount Tamalpais and a curving strip of white sand along the Pacific Ocean, Stinson Beach is a relaxing oasis that has long attracted retirees, backers, surfers and homeowners. secondary.

Lately, however, a relatively new variety of beachcomber has caught the eye at Stinson Beach and similar playgrounds along the coast, in wine country and around Lake Tahoe: short-term renters who book their long weekends or week-long stays online.

Residents say the newcomers have fundamentally changed their communities in negative ways, driving up rental and sale prices, making housing even scarcer for workers and sometimes upsetting the tranquility that helps make these places special. Some landlords defend short-term rentals, saying it allows them to upgrade their properties while allowing them to have part-time access.

An undercurrent of unease runs through the sleepy seaside town – long a popular Bay Area getaway – after the Marin County Board of Supervisors recently imposed a temporary moratorium on new short-term rentals in West Marin , including AirBnB and VRBO. Sonoma County recently passed a similar measure.

The 45-day ban, which could be extended for up to two years, suspends rentals of less than 30 days. Of the 5,250 residential lots in West Marin, 551 — or about 10% — are permitted for short-term rental, according to Marin County. In Stinson Beach, 22% of residences are registered. The figures could however be higher as some plots could contain more than one short term rental unit.

This is a small portion of Marin County’s overall housing stock. A lack of new home construction is a major driver of high housing costs in the Bay Area and California. Many communities, including Marin and Sonoma counties and areas around Lake Tahoe, have restricted home building in recent decades.

Marin County Council unanimously approved the moratorium on Tuesday and it took effect just days before Memorial Day weekend, the traditional start of the summer season and a time of year when nearly all Stinson Beach rental properties are reserved.

While the ban is in effect, county officials intend to come up with a long-term plan to combat short-term rentals, the number of which has increased with the rise of popular online booking platforms. , and their impacts on West Marin communities.

Around Stinson Beach on a gray and dripping Thursday, some locals discussed the issue in the broader context of a housing shortage and the transition from a once-hippie, seaside town to a more exclusive seaside playground.

“What was once a small, year-round community is becoming Martha’s Vineyard,” said August Temer, co-owner of Breakers Cafe on Shoreline Highway, a stretch of Highway 1 and the town’s main street. Several locals made similar references to affluent Massachusetts’ famous summer getaway.

A resident of Stinson since 1982, Temer said all of his 15 to 30 employees — the number varies seasonally — live out of town, coping with daily commutes on winding and hilly roads that are sometimes treacherous that make the commute seem longer than the 30 to 45 minutes it takes. Most live in San Rafael, about half an hour away.

Long-term rentals for people who would like to settle in Stinson are rare and homes for sale are almost non-existent. A real estate agent said Thursday there was only one house on the market.

“For people who want to live and work in the community,” he says, “there’s no way. There is no accommodation.

Mac Bonn, general manager of Breakers, lives in Fairfax, a slightly less winding 45-minute drive away. Although he finds driving relaxing after a day of pouring beer and serving oysters, sandwiches and tacos, he says the need to commute makes it difficult to hire and retain employees.

Bonn learned to surf at Stinson when he was 2, grew up there and worked in a surf shop before crossing the street to Breakers, where he’s been for four years. For a few years as an adult, he lived in town, renting out a unit through in-laws before being evicted when the owners of the property decided to sell.

“You can sell your beach shack for a million,” he said. “A lot of locals are evicted and overpriced.”

Temer said he supports taxes on short-term rentals — “If you’re going to impact a community, you should be taxed,” but he’s not sure about limiting short-term rentals since the city dependent on tourism and just beginning to recover from the pandemic. The Marin County Transient Occupancy Tax is 10%.

At the same time, he said, “we are losing our community.” Affordable housing is needed, he said, but there is little room to build it and the lack of a sewage system in the city – residents and businesses need septic tanks and waste fields. purification – also limits development.

“I don’t know how you fix it,” he said.

Affordable housing advocates say short-term rentals not only create a shortage by taking homes off the market, but also drive up the prices of long-term rentals.

“Over the past 10 years, long-term rental amounts have been significantly affected by nightly rates for short-term rentals,” Evan Wilhelm of the Bolinas Community Land Trust said in a letter to the board of supervisors. “Landlords who still want to offer long-term rentals are being pressured into renting at higher costs.”

The trust, which aims to ensure an adequate supply of affordable housing in Bolinas and Stinson Beach, has about 200 families on its waiting list, about half of whom have been displaced.

Robert Kleiner, who lives in Mill Valley and owns a home overlooking Stinson Beach, said he wasn’t convinced limiting or eliminating short-term rentals would create more housing. He does not rent out his Stinson Beach home but does own a home in South Marin, where he said he rents one home as affordable housing and the others below market.

“They bought them as their own vacation rentals, somewhere they want to stay occasionally,” he said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be open for long-term rental. I can see the dilemma they’re trying to solve, but I’m not sure this will solve it. These properties would not necessarily become long-term rentals.

Linda Campbell, leasing agent at Highway One Properties in Stinson Beach, said the 50 to 60 rentals the agency books are full for Memorial Day weekend and nearly sold out for the summer.

“It’s getting busier and busier,” she says. “People have been calling lately for July and August – and there’s little choice.”

Campbell expects a small bubble of new hires from last-minute candidates to help the company get through the summer, but said an extended moratorium would hurt the company’s chances of expanding and to meet growing demand.

For renters, any form of crackdown on short-term rentals could make it harder to find a spot on the beach.

A family from Nebraska, now scattered throughout the Midwest, chose the Bolinas-Stinson Beach area because they wanted a peaceful place to stay for a few days after visiting Sequoia National Park and before catching a flight there. San Francisco International Airport. They found a spot on Bolinas Beach and rented surfboards from Stinson Beach.

“We wanted somewhere near San Francisco but not downtown,” said Ben Howard, traveling with his two brothers, a wife, a sister and their mother.

Since the area has only a handful of motels or bed and breakfasts, fewer short-term rentals would likely mean fewer visitors — and less revenue for businesses, he said. He admitted to having mixed feelings about short-term rentals.

“I always feel torn about things like AirBnb and VRBO because it creates a rental product out of what could be someone’s house,” he said. “It depends a lot on the community.”

Although she works as a rental agency, Campbell says there are good and bad things about short-term rentals and the growing interest in them.

“We would like to have more rental accommodation,” she said, “but we don’t want the city to turn into a hollow place.”

Michael Cabanatuan (he/him) is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected]: @ctuan

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