Petaluma to look at new rules for unofficial bed-and-breakfasts
Published: Monday, September 23, 2013 at 7:23 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, September 23, 2013 at 7:23 a.m.
Strangers coming and going at odd hours. Loud chats outside. Rolling luggage and incessant open-car-door binging.
Christina Gleason has heard it all — and not at a hotel, but on her residential street in Petaluma.
In response, she and some others have formed Petaluma Neighbors Preserving Petaluma Neighborhoods to urge the city to regulate under-the-radar vacation rental businesses operating in the city, like the one on Keokuk Street near her home.
On Monday, the Petaluma City Council is holding a community forum to discuss possible changes to city codes that would rope in unofficial bed-and-breakfasts and short-term rentals, which slip through current definitions on the books.
No official action will be taken at the workshop, which begins at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 11 English St. The workshop is one of a series of public meetings the city is hosting this year on topics of local concern.
Other subjects on Monday’s agenda include: parking requirements for businesses, particularly downtown; the definition of “mixed-use” in the context of planning new retail, office and residential projects; and clarifications about how development fees are calculated.
The workshop will also include a discussion about changes to the city’s sign ordinance. The issue has resurfaced with the development of two freeway-adjacent shopping centers, whose tenants want to place signs that face Highway 101.
Sign-ordinance changes are schedule to be considered by the Planning Commission on Sept. 24 and the council later in the fall.
The debate over vacation rentals pits property owners seeking extra income against their neighbors, who never imagined living next to an unofficial hotel, with strangers passing through and bringing traffic, noise and potential security issues with them.
The unofficial lodging businesses don’t pay the city the transient occupancy tax that is levied on hotels, motels, B&Bs and campgrounds, nor do they have business licenses.
Jurisdictions handle such rentals differently throughout Sonoma County. After a vacation home’s deck collapsed in Guerneville in 2010, seriously injuring one person, the county began regulating them. Sonoma allows them in some neighborhoods, while Santa Rosa has no rules prohibiting them.
Healdsburg prohibits such rentals, but dozens still operate in the area, according to listings on websites such as AirBnB and Vacation Rentals by Owner.
Residents in Healdsburg have asked the city officials to crack down on them, as will Petaluma residents Monday.
On AirBnB and VRBO’s websites this week, 16 private inns were listed within Petaluma city limits.
Two are near Gleason’s house within walking distance of downtown.
“It’s very disruptive,” she said. “It’s not a personal thing with this neighbor as much as it is the long-range vision about what the city is about. The city’s actions will define the template for the charming city we have, which is illuminated by its neighborhoods.”
(You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 762-7297 or firstname.lastname@example.org.(
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