Short Term Rentals Ordinance Adopted by Board

January 15, 2024

County’s 2018 regulations updated to preserve communities, create housing

San Rafael, CA – Based on recommendations from its staff, the Marin County Board of Supervisors approved an updated countywide ordinance January 11 that sets new policies on many guest lodging properties used for stays of 30 days or less.

The special meeting at the Marin County Civic Center, which lasted nearly five hours, resulted in limits on the number of short-term rental properties (STRs), including additional limits in most Pacific Coast communities that are popular vacation destinations. The Board supported a countywide limit of 1,200 licenses, slightly more than staff’s recommended number of approximately 1,100. Most of West Marin with the exception of Dillon Beach and the Seadrift portion of Stinson Beach would be limited to the number of STRs registered in 2022. 

STRs are a form of guest accommodations that generate income for property owners and employment for businesses that serve those guests. The majority of Marin’s licensed STRs are in West Marin, especially an area called the Coastal Zone where 11% of all homes are used as STRs. Many of the properties are managed by online booking agents such as VRBO and Airbnb. STRs have a strong financial link to businesses such as housekeeping companies, food delivery services, landscaping firms, and other operations that rely on tourism dollars. In Marin, the Supervisors first approved an STR ordinance in 2018.

A motivating factor on the ordinance update is to address the shortage of workforce housing in West Marin, which has been at crisis level for many years. In tandem, the County is eager to reduce neighbor complaints about noise, trash, and parking by those renting STRs, and make sure that water supply, septic systems, and emergency measures are adequate. Also, the County is mindful of the state’s Coastal Act, which says the California coastline should be available to all, not just those who own property.

Other key elements of the updated Marin ordinance include:

  • STRs are limited to one per operator.
  • Licenses must be renewed by property owners every two years.
  • A one-time ownership transfer of an STR can be made at any time.
  • Accessory dwelling units (ADUs) built in 2020 or later cannot be used as STRs, consistent with state law.
  • Muir Woods Park, located off Panoramic Drive on the slopes of Mount Tamalpais, was added to the list of community specific caps; the current number of 19 STRs will serve as the maximum.
  • No more than 50% of developed properties can be used as STRs in Dillon Beach and Seadrift, communities that by far have a higher percentage of STRs.

The Marin County Planning Commission had recommended a considerably lower total number of STRs countywide. Sarah Jones, Director of the County’s Community Development Agency (CDA), said the approved ordinance will lead to amendments in the County’s Local Coastal Program pertaining to rental properties in the Coastal Zone. For that zone, the California Coastal Commission must certify local STR regulations, an approval that CDA will seek later this year.

“This feels like the right move as we offer something consistent that the Coastal Commission might support,” Jones said. “The updated ordinance should balance competing interests by creating a regulatory framework. New common-sense standards should reduce neighborhood impacts and help preserve existing housing as housing for the workforce. Getting ahead of more conversions from long-term rentals to short term rentals seems like the prudent thing to do. The Board’s additional buffer on the total countywide number of STRs shows that they didn’t want an unneeded bureaucratic stranglehold on the matter.”

Once amendments from the January 11 meeting are included, the updated ordinance will be available on the County’s short term rentals webpage and the project-specific ordinance update webpage. Anyone may subscribe to receive emailed updates on the topic.

You have subscribed to News Releases & Advisories for Marin County. This information has recently been updated.

Visit the Newsroom to view all County news releases.