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Sonora Puts Hot Button Issue On Hold While Being Reviewed

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Sonora, CA – With long-term rentals in the city of Sonora non-existent and waiting list stretching up to three years, council members put a hold on new short-term rentals, like Airbnb.

Last night, the council voted 4-0, with Mayor Matt Hawkins absent, to suspend and not process “Transient Use Permit” applications in the city past March 16th. City Administrator Mary Rose Rutikanga, detailed, “We are holding them in queue until the council gives further direction. We are not processing or giving permits out at this time for your Airbnb-type residents.”

Noting that limiting the number of short-term rentals could become permanent, Rutikanga added, “We’re accepting and date stamping in case there is a number that the city council comes to. We want to make sure that those who have submitted are still in line for potentially anything the council decides.”

On March 15th, the council directed staff to bring back for discussion and possible action amending chapter 17.64 of the municipal code to limit short-term rentals, as reported here. Potentially Limiting the number of short-term rentals caused a rush of applications, as detailed at Monday’s meeting and reported here.

Knowing that there are strong opinions on both sides of this issue, the city is trying to see the best way to mix the need for both short and long-term rentals, informs Rutikanga, who shares, “Staff is currently working on bringing back data to the council that looks at all the options to address housing needs, so they can review it and craft an ordinance tied to what is happening in the city.”

Rutikanga maintains, on the one hand, Airbnb provides a great stream of revenue for the city through TOT (Transient Occupancy Taxes) and provides other benefits. “Many property owners have improved upon blighted property, and it brings tourism to the town, which is a great thing,” points out Rutikanga. “But then there are the other elements too, and the limiting of housing available for the residents.”

One top priority expressed by the council, says Rutikanga, is to make sure the public can participate in this process as much as possible. “This will be done through a multiple meeting process and it also has to go in front of the planning commission as well,” details Rutikanga. “The public will have ample opportunity to comment and to participate in these meetings with that in mind you are looking at several months down the road before anything is decided by the council.”