Arcata caps vacation rentals

Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union

ARCATA – Advocates for un- or lightly-regulated vacation home rentals and those concerned with affordable housing drying up made their best arguments at the Feb. 3 Arcata City Council meeting. In the end the council approved a 100-unit limit on the lucrative getaways, though existing rentals can get permits regardless of the cap.

The cap translates to 1.2 percent of Arcata’s roughly 8,500 residential units. While city estimates that as many as 200 short stay rentals are operating in Arcata, 105 have been identified, and just 70 of them are paying the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) or bed tax.

Renters will be required to get a yearly permit from City Hall, and agree to pay the TOT. Owner-occupied units are exempted, as are rentals that operate for less than 30 days a year. The permit may be revoked is the owner doesn’t pay the TOT, or if the rental disrupts the neighborhood. 

While no special inspection is required of a rental, they must follow all applicable health and safety requirements, and an inspection could be held at the city’s discretion.  

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Vacation rentals already operating in 2019 and 2020  have six months to apply for a permit, irrespective of the cap.

Written comment submitted before the meeting included arguments both for heavy regulation of nuisance rentals, and no further regulation at all.

Mayor Sofia Pereira recused herself from the hearing over a conflict of interest.

Councilmember Emily Grace Goldstein was concerned that Humboldt State students and their housing concerns weren’t being heard from in the matter. Her social media scoping revealed considerable demand for student housing, and concern that non-owner occupied vacation rentals are displacing affordable housing.

Councilmember Stacy Atkins-Salazar said the proposed regulation was mild, and a compromise between the two extremes of zero and comprehensive regulation.

During public comment, vacation rental supporters argued against caps, saying that the conversions help improve older and ailing properties, pay taxes and aren’t significantly impacting affordable housing availability. Others complained of difficulty finding housing. 

Citing a shortage of affordable homes, Councilmember Brett Watson recommended lowering the cap from the proposed 125 rentals to 100. “Prices are out of control right now,” he said.

On a motion by Goldstein incorporating the 100-rental limit on non-owner occupied properties, and passed 3–1 with Councilmember Sarah Schaefer dissenting.


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