Editorial: Now is the time to approve new regs for vacation rentals

Vacation rentals - the bane of some neighborhoods, an affordable way to acquire  a second home, a way to pay a mortgage on a future retirement home, competition when purchasing a home - are popular in the San Juan Islands. There are almost  1,000 vacation rental permits in the county. The number of unpermitted vacation rentals is unknown. 

 This map shows the location of parcels as assigned on vacation rental permits since 1990. Mapped locations are not the actual locations of rental houses. This is not an exhaustive list of permits and there may be vacation rental permits not shown on the map. This map does not include permits for hotels, motels, resorts, or bed and breakfasts. View the map on the county's website and you can click on each icon and see the permit number and date it was issued. The red icons indicate permit was denied. Pink means the application was withdrawn. The info is accurate as of Feb. 28, 2018.

It is increasingly difficult for year round residents to find housing in the San Juan Islands. San Juan County staff dismisses the effect the vacation rentals have on that struggle, saying any such talk is just anecdotal.

There is an impact when you have a limited stock of housing and competing interests between investors seeking vacation rental property  vs residents seeking a home.

Addressing the overall issue of vacation rentals - should there be limits on the number of permits, can residents create an overlay district banning them from their neighborhood - needs to be addressed through the Comprehensive Plan Update. 

But right now, the focus is on the two ordinances (links in list below) set for public hearing March 13 (items 3 and 4 in the 9:15 a.m. time slot) in the Legislative Building at 55 Second Street in Friday Harbor. 

Applying new regulations to ensure vacation rentals are less disruptive to neighborhoods, shutting down illegal vacation rentals through well-defined enforcement, requiring life/safety certification to ensure vacationers won't be harmed and requiring vacation rental owners to post their permit number in their advertisements on vacation rental websites, are simple steps the county can do to lessen the impact on the community as a whole.

It's time for the county Council to step up and approve some common sense regulations which protect residents, ensure safety for guests, and support the vacation rental permit holders who follow the rules. 


March 13: Public hearing for vacation rental enforcement ordinance

Weigh in on proposed vacation rental regs at March 13 public hearing


Staff report

Draft Ordinance

Draft Enforcement Ordinance

Staff report with strikeouts

Draft Certificate of Compliance form


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