Big Sur LCP Defense Committee – County Position




1441 Schilling Place, South 2nd Floor (831)755-4800

Salinas, California 93901-4527


Date: November 27, 2017

To : Planning Commission

From: Melanie Beretti, Special Programs Manager

Subject: Short-Term Rental Regulation Development Big Sur Coast Land Use Planning Area

cc: Carl P. Holm, AICP, RMA Director

John Dugan, RMA Deputy Director-Land Use and Community Development

Jacqueline Onciano, Chief of Planning

STR Public Distribution List

Big Sur and South Coast Land Use Advisory Committees


Staff recommends that discussion of regulations for STRs in the Big Sur Coast Land Use Planning Area be continued from the November 29, 2017 hearing to a Planning Commission Workshop on January 10, 2018.


The Big Sur Coast Land Use Planning Area was pulled out of the discussion for updating the Short-Term Rentals (STR) ordinances in May 2017. The basis for that action was due to residents not having reasonable access to/from the area due to slides that damaged State Route One (SR1). In addition, it was noted that the Community had drafted amendments to the Big Sur Coast Land Use Plan (BSLUP) and submitted it for County review.

Access via SR1 was recently restored with the completion of Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge. Therefore, a public notice and staff report for the November 29, 2017 Planning Commission hearing for STR ordinances included an action and discussion item to provide direction whether to include the Big Sur Coast Land Use Planning Area in the proposed regulations for short-term rentals. However, County has not completed review of the BSLUP due to limited staffing/resources, and circumstances have changed resulting in the BSLUP being on hold for the foreseeable future. Timing for initial review of the BSLUP is likely to take at least six months, depending on staffing availability, and a couple years to complete the process between County and Coastal Commission.

Since Big Sur stakeholders have not been part of the current STR ordinance development process that has been on-going since May 2017, it is not intended to simply fold in Big Sur without further discussion. At the January 10, 2018 Planning Commission Workshop, staff will seek public and Planning Commission input to identify a prudent, efficient process and framework for the development of regulations for STRs in Big Sur.

As part of the ordinance development process, the regulations must be found consistent with adopted policy. Developing regulations can either begin at the policy level (Land Use Plan) with the regulatory details (ordinance) to follow, or can begin with an ordinance subject to review for consistency with the LUP. In the case of Big Sur, consistency could be achieved by either:

1) Developing regulations consistent with the BSLUP; or

2) Developing regulations that require amending the BSLUP for consistency.

However, an option requiring amendment of an Area Plan – especially a coastal one (Land Use Plan) —will take a long time, so the consistency determination is key in all cases.


At the May 10, 2017 Planning Commission hearing regarding regulations for Short-Term Rentals, in response to winter storm damage to and restricted access along SR1 south of the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge, the Commission considered whether or not to exclude the Big Sur Coast Land Use Planning Area from the Short-Term Rental Ordinance development process until reasonable access had been restored. The Commission voted to remove the Big Sur Coast planning area from the STR ordinance development process, and further voted that the development of regulations of STRs in the Big Sur Coast planning area would take place through the Big Sur Coast Land Use Plan (BSLUP) update process, as soon as possible, after reasonable access has been restored. At that time the Land Use Advisory Committee (LUAC) had developed and provided to Resource Management Agency (RMA) staff draft edits to the BSC LUP.

On October 13, 2017, the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge opened to the public, reconnecting the Big Sur community to the south with the north. The Big Sur community continues to recover from the 2016 Soberanes Fire and subsequent winter storm damage, however, with the reopening of the bridge, the most significant limitation for Big Sur community members to participate in discussions related to short-term rental regulations has been eliminated.

Since May, the BSLUP has been on hold because RMA Planning has seven (7) vacant positions:

Planning Services Manager; Supervising Planner; Senior Planner; and three (3) Associate Planners. A second Senior Planner position is anticipated to be vacant due to retirement in December 2018. In addition, priorities changed with staff being tasked to develop regulations for cannabis and Measure Z to meet critical timelines. As such, circumstances have changed resulting in the BSLUP being on hold for the foreseeable future.

At the Planning Commission and Land Use Advisory Committees Joint Annual Meeting on October 25, 2017, this topic was discussed. The BSLUP update is part of the Long-Range Planning Workplan and was identified as a priority task in 2016, but it was not identified as one of the top priority projects adopted by the Board of Supervisors for 2017. Given the nature and complexity of the LUP development process in Big Sur, it is important for the lead planner to have experience with and knowledge of Big Sur and its planning history. There are two people in the RMA that have the experience necessary for this task: the Chief of Planning and the RMA Director. Staff has evaluated the staffing, workload and priorities for Long-Range Planning, and there are no alternatives in the short-term (e.g. hiring consultants) that will free up the Chief or Director’s time to work on the BSLUP.

As such, until key planning staff vacancies can be filled and new staff trained, the BSLUP is not able to move forward and will likely be on hold for at least six (6) to twelve (12) months. Once County completes its review, County must complete CEQA review and process the amendments through the Planning Commission, Board of Supervisors, and Coastal Commission.

Now that access is restored for the Big Sur coast via the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge and the BSLUP update process is on hold for the foreseeable future, staff desires input from the Big Sur community and direction from the Planning Commission on how it wishes to advance the discussion of STR regulations in the Big Sur Coast planning area. There are some alternatives that are meant to help frame the discussion for the agenized meeting on Big Sur, in January:

• Postpone discussion of STRs in Big Sur indefinitely until the BSLUP can move forward.

o This alternative will significantly delay the development of STR regulations for Big Sur

compared to the rest of the County, and will leave the community vulnerable to on-

going tensions regarding this contentious issue. There is debate whether the existing

policies would prohibit STRs in Big Sur or not.

• Due to the tensions within that community, County could consider placing a moratorium on STRs in Big Sur until regulations for Big Sur are adopted.

o A moratorium can be established for a maximum of two years.

• Develop STR regulations in Title 20 for the Big Sur Coast Land Use Planning Area, subject to review for consistency with the BSLUP, yet allowing the discussion of STRs in Big Sur to proceed outside the land use plan update process.

o Conduct a parallel short-term rental ordinance development process for Big Sur with discussion starting at the point where Big Sur was pulled out of the ordinance on May 1, 2017.

■ Based on the current status, staff would anticipate being able to fold Big Sur back into the Coastal Ordinance.

o Begin the short-term rental ordinance development process over for the Coastal Zone, starting at the point where Big Sur was pulled out of the ordinance on May 1, 2017.

■ The 2010 General Plan has demonstrated that separating out coastal issues is not necessarily a preferred alternative, In addition, this alternative will delay the development of STR regulations for the unincorporated areas in the Coastal Zone, which is the area of most interest and concern. County has existing regulations for STRs in the non-coastal areas.

o Develop separate regulations for STRs in Big Sur.

• This alternative allows the ordinance development process to continue everywhere except Big Sur, while allowing Big Sur to begin the conversation of STRs. Depending on the outcome of the Big Sur regulatory discussions, the Big Sur regulations may be a separate and independent policy in Title 20 or may be able to be integrated into the STR policy in Title 20 with the other Coastal planning areas. The regulatory process is already very complex. Therefore, staff does not advocate for developing independent ordinances in different planning areas.


Should the BSLUP update process yield an adopted BSLUP with regulations for STRs that differ from an adopted STR ordinance for Big Sur, the STR ordinance could then be amended to align with the updated BSLUP. However, an option requiring amendment of a Land Use Plan will take a long time.


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