The Monterey County Vacation Rental Alliance (MCVRA) is a coalition of homeowners and property managers in Monterey County. We represent, support, and protect residential vacation rentals (also called short term rentals). Vacation rental owners provide furnished homes to guests for stays of 30 days or less. We work to protect and support vacation rentals by working with elected officials, government staff, and the media. We monitor local legislation that could impact vacation rentals. Proposed laws and regulations are reviewed and a position is presented to government officials. If a proposed regulation is detrimental to vacation rentals, we mobilize our members to action in order to modify the regulation to get a win-win-win result – a win for the local economy, a win for neighborhoods, and a win for owners. We interface with the media to communicate the benefits and the issues resulting from proposed laws. Members of the Alliance believe strongly in responsible management to insure vacation homes fit seamlessly into neighborhoods.
We have retained attorney Gary Patton to advise us as we work with local governmental policy makers to facilitate an acceptable ordinance. He is a lawyer skilled in land use law and has experience with the California Coastal Commission. As a former Santa Cruz County supervisor, he also provides political advice.
We also retained attorney Shaun Murphy of SBEMP to take legal action when needed. When Monterey County threatened to shut down vacation rentals in the coastal zone, even though there is no permit available, Shaun negotiated an agreement with the County allowing unpermitted coastal vacation rentals to operate without fear of enforcement.
History and Achievements of MCVRA
Property managers and property owners have been renting homes on a short-term basis for many decades. In 1997, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors passed two ordinances to permit and regulate rentals of 30 days or less in all unincorporated areas of the County.
The inland ordinance went into effect but the permit process cost thousands of dollars, took many months, and sometimes resulted in arbitrary restrictions. If the permit is granted, rentals must be 7 days or more. Since enforcement was lax, the vast majority of inland owners simply ignored the permit requirement.
The coastal zone version was rejected by the California Coastal Commission. The County made no effort to work with the Coastal Commission thereby leaving coastal zone property owners without a permitting process. Coastal owners continued to operate without a permit.
Similar to hotels, vacation rentals (STRs) are required to pay transient occupancy tax (TOT). Most property managers and owners register with the County Tax Collector and pay the applicable TOT. The County has collected millions of dollars over the years in TOT from these STRs.
In 2013 the County began to cite and fine the owners and property managers of unpermitted STRs. One was initially fined $10,000 and then an additional $26,000. Some owners thought that registering with the Tax Collector was a permit to operate. It is not a permit. The Monterey County Vacation Rental Alliance (MCVRA) was formed in 2014 to work with the Monterey County to create and adopt inland and coastal ordinances that will provide a fair and workable framework for STRs throughout the County.
In 2015 Monterey County released a memorandum publicly stating its opinion that STRs in the coastal zone were prohibited. Their argument is that, if STRs are not specifically permitted by regulation, they are therefore prohibited. The memorandum emboldened opponents to contact the County to cite and shut down dozens of STRs. Property owners and managers who do not comply are fined heavily. One owner faced a $100,000 fine. That owner sued the County but unfortunately, the court affirmed the County’s position.
A new, fair ordinance for the entire County of Monterey is long overdue. The MCVRA Board of Directors and its members continue to volunteer countless hours toward this goal. We also monitor local city regulations affecting STRs and we take action when appropriate.
Though we are frustrated that we still do not have a new County ordinance, we have had some accomplishments. We:
- Stopped a proposed County ordinance in 2014. It would have limited rentals to just 7 nights per month and eliminated many existing STRs with a one-STR-per-15 acre density limit.
- Commissioned an economic impact report. That report estimates STRs provide $131.8 million in benefit to the local economy and support 1,400 jobs.
- Commissioned two separate public opinion polls. The most recent 2016 poll shows 66% of Monterey County residents think STRs are beneficial.
- Helped defeat California Senate bill SB593 in 2015. That bill would have required online companies like VRBO and Airbnb to report each STR owner and property manager to the local jurisdiction.
- Lobbied the Coastal Commission to intervene with the County. After many contacts with the California Coastal Commission, it sent a letter to the County in June 2016 stating STRs are allowed in the coastal zone.
- Conducted a survey of STR owners regarding affordable housing. This survey conducted throughout the incorporated and unincorporated areas of the County concluded that STRs have NO impact on affordable housing.
- Worked with the Seaside City Council to create a very fair ordinance. The ordinance was effective August 2018. Every STR that was previously operating was grandfathered the right to get a license. When some implementation problems arose, MCVRA worked with STR owners and the City to solve the issues.
- Successfully stopped Carmel-by-the-Sea from banning STRs in commercial zones. STRs have long been banned in residential areas of the town but the City Council intended to ban STRs in commercial zones also.
- Successfully argued to bring the Big Sur area back into the STR ordinance development process. When the Pfeiffer Bridge collapsed in 2017, Big Sur was exempted from the STR ordinance development process. On January 10, 2018, MCVRA successfully supported the proposal to include Big Sur in the drafting of a County-wide ordinance. Big Sur residents had demanded a total ban on STRs.
- Protected coastal STRs from enforcement. Monterey County would not accept the Coastal Commission's opinion that coastal STRs are allowed without a permit. In 2021 the County announced plans to shut down coastal STRs. MCVRA and a group of coastal owners sued the County. Our attorney, Shaun Murphy, negotiated a settlement with the County allowing unpermitted coastal vacation rentals to operate without fear of enforcement.
- Helped defeat California Senate bill SB584 in 2023. That bill would have levied a 15% tax on gross rental income from STRs. MCVRA worked with others to defeat this bill.
- Continue to advocate for a reasonable Monterey County ordinance. MCVRA directors along with many of our members continue to represent STR owners in meetings with Monterey County staff and decision makers. The voices of the opposition are loud and numerous. Without our strong presence in each and every meeting and hearing, we would undoubtedly get an onerous STR ordinance.
Your financial contributions make a huge impact. Without your contributions, your MCVRA directors will not succeed. We respectfully ask that each STR owner or property manager help this cause. Please go to www.mcvra.org/join-renew. Your all-volunteer MCVRA directors take not a dime. With your help, MCVRA will invest the many hours needed to guide County Supervisors and city councils to develop ordinances that will support STRs and allow your vacation rentals to prosper.
Together we will succeed,
Your MCVRA Directors
THE LONG RUN
In any jurisdiction, it is not sufficient to get a fair ordinance and then sit back. The opposition will attempt to repeal the ordinance or increase the restrictions. Here is an example. For years Pacific Grove permitted short-term rentals with limits on the number and density. Unfortunately, in spite of our intense, well funded efforts to assist STR owners in Pacific Grove, Measure M passed in November 2018. This eliminated all Pacific Grove short-term rentals except those in the narrow coastal zone and in commercially zoned areas.
And of course there will always be turnover in elected officials with different agendas. MCVRA meets with candidates to explain the benefits of STRs. MCVRA will continue to represent and support you for the long run.