County approves Slattery Road vacation rental exclusion zone
Slattery Road residents successfully petitioned the county to exclude new vacation rentals in their neighborhood off Warm Springs Road in Glen Ellen. The Board of Supervisors, with First District Supervisor Susan Gorin absent, voted 4-0 to include 17 properties in a new overlay zone that prohibits permits for new vacation rentals.
Mike Morrison, a Slattery Road resident since the late 1970s, presented the neighborhood sentiments to the Board at its regular March 20 meeting. The approval finished a two-year, $11,000 process, and was the first one ever accomplished under a 2016 ordinance that set up vacation rental permit exclusion zones in Kenwood, Glen Ellen and much of the Springs area, and also allowed groups to apply for their own neighborhood “X-zones.”
The result was welcomed by residents of Vigilante and Morningside roads in Glen Ellen who have also asked for a X-zone over 64 parcels. Their application is ready for Board approval on April 3.
“We’re hopeful,” Barry Swain said, speaking for the second group. He said they have been in touch with the Slattery Road neighbors.
The 2016 ordinance permits groups of homeowners to ask for X-zoning under certain conditions, including inadequate road access or parking, that vacation rentals would be detrimental to the neighborhood character, where residential housing needs to be protected, where there are significant fire hazards, and any other reason the board of supervisors decides is in the public interest.
“We became concerned two years ago,” Morrison said after the hearing. “Vacation rentals were popping up like mushrooms after a rain. We were concerned about traffic, fire safety, and our neighborhood character. We became more organized, looked at the requirements, and felt that we could meet them.” Morrison is a land use planner and consultant by occupation.
Asked by Supervisor Gore how long it took and how much it cost to make the application, Morrison said the neighbors agreed to share the cost of the initial $8,400 application fee, and that it expanded to $11,000 over the two-year process. Swain’s group has spent $15,500 so far and expects to pay more before their hearing.
While First District Supervisor Susan Gorin was in Washington, D.C., testifying before Congress on fire related issues, Supervisors Lynda Hopkins (Fifth District), Shirlee Zane (Third District) and Chairman James Gore (Fourth District) all expressed concern over the time and cost of the process.
“I don’t know if I should congratulate you or apologize to you,” west county Supervisor Hopkins told Morrison. “This is definitely something the Board needs to look at. Hopkins noted that there are several small communities in the Russian River area who easily fit the X-zone eligibility profiles but who may lack the expertise and funding to pursue an application.
Gore, whose district covers the northern part of Sonoma County, is having second thoughts about vacation rentals in general.
“Vacation rentals will be a policy issue to watch going forward,” he said. He noted that there are already 64 vacation rental permits on Land Intensive Agricultural (LIA) properties in his district. “I’m pretty much swinging the other way on dealing with the housing crisis and protecting LIA housing, and not supporting a lot more vacation rentals.”
Only two owners of the Slattery Road properties didn’t join in. One applied for and got a vacation rental permit as soon as the group filed their application, and a second owner has since put the property up for sale.
Owners of properties with existing vacation rental permits within an X-zone will be allowed to operate as long as they own the property and follow applicable regulations. The permits will expire when the property changes ownership and cannot be renewed.
All four supervisors agreed that the Slattery application met four of the criteria: a long, one-way road, clear fire hazards, neighborhood character, and preserving community housing stock. The application was approved 4-0 and will be effective in 30 days.
Where the Slattery neighborhood was fairly united, there is more pushback from some of the Morningside neighbors who either have or want vacation rental permits, or who just want to keep the option open.
“The Planning Commissioners we met with a month ago, all five approved us,” Swain said. “On April 3 when we go before the Board of Supervisors, we either get it or don’t. We’ll see.”