Bloodied when a short-term rental scenario went wrong with tragic results in February, Orinda’s city council has spent the interim period tinkering with ideas to safeguard homeowner, renters – and the city – in future.
Mayor Victoria Smith asked city staff to canvass surrounding cities and towns for their approaches to the short-term rental market, popularized by sites like Airbnb, after a house party at a Camino Encinas residence leased for cash ended with an assault which left one partygoer in a coma.
City officials have said they recognize the need for some Orinda residents to have the option to rent out their residence or a portion of it as they desire. But after getting a $9,000 bill for investigative services from the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office in the wake of the Camino Encinas assault, Smith initiated a search for protective options.
Options include the implementation of taxes as well as ordinances that either permit short term rentals by right, an outright ban of rentals, or the allowance of short-term rentals subject to specific conditions.
Residents spoke on both sides of the issue during an early session before the council in April. Some maintained it was essential for area residents, particularly older residents looking for a way to supplement their incomes, to be allowed to do so. Others cited concerns with possible traffic and safety issues and incompatible uses in neighborhoods within a semi-rural setting.
City staff polled their opposite numbers in neighboring towns and cities to see if there was some common ground and a solution for the issue, coming up with a myriad of approaches ranging from taking no action at all to assuming a regulatory stance. Up for discussion is the possibility of administering a fee up to $300 for owners seeking permits for short-term rentals or levying a Transient Occupancy Tax staff estimates could net the city an estimated $55,000 annually if imposed.
The issue is scheduled for further discussion at the council’s July 19 meeting.