Port Angeles City Council to address STR regulations

Tuesday meeting will tackle contentious topic

PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles City Council will review proposed changes to the city’s short-term rental and bed-and-breakfast regulations on Tuesday, with hopes of updating the city’s policy before summer.

A public hearing on the proposed ordinance will be conducted during its first reading at a hybrid meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday in council chambers at City Hall, 321 E. Fifth St. The hearing will be continued to March 5, when the second reading — and possible final approval — is scheduled.

Regulations of short-term rentals (STRs)—rentals for 30 days or less booked through online platforms like Airbnb and VRBO — are being considered with some blaming them for exacerbating the area’s housing shortage and others defending them as a boon to the community and the tourism industry.

Port Angeles Planning Commission members could have recommended one of five proposed alternatives to the city’s 2017 code concerning STRs when it met Jan. 24. However, after several hours of public comment and debate, commissioners declined to support any of the alternatives. Instead, commissioners urged the council to temporarily amend the 2017 code and pursue a more comprehensive solution.

City staff have narrowed down the proposed alternatives from five to three, and updated the recommendations based on feedback from the planning commission meeting.

The Port Angeles Planning Commission’s typically low-public-attendance meeting was packed in January with dozens of public commentators, most of them STR owners or operators, who expressed deep frustration with the city’s approach to STRs and the proposed fee structure and licensing program.

According to the city council’s meeting documents, the updated proposals would add an annual platform business license, eliminate ongoing platform fees, reduce operator fee amounts by over 60 percent, combine annual licenses and inspections into a single application/fee and “authorize the (Community and Economic Development) Director to issue licenses for less than 12 months, provided the fee amount for an abbreviated license is prorated accordingly.”

The updated proposal also includes a provision that would have staff review the STR program after five years and potentially recommend establishing a multi-year license.

The three alternatives — known as Options A, B and C — range from keeping the status quo —STRs in all zones except some low-density residential zones — to unlimited rentals in all zones but adding a city-wide cap on the total number.

Options A and B offer a way for STRs currently operating outside of the city’s code to come into compliance, but Option C would not offer that pathway.

“In public feedback and the hearing with the planning commission, we heard the community loud and clear and there have been numerous revisions accordingly,” said Calvin Goings, deputy city manager for Port Angeles.

Many of the commentators at the Jan. 24, meeting suggested that more thorough STR regulations be included in the 2025 update to the city’s comprehensive plan.

Going said the city has been working on STR regulations for at least seven months and would like to bring a resolution to the issue.

“For people who are operating an STR that is today non-compliant, another 18 months uncertainty doesn’t seem like a fair approach,” Goings said.

Steven Pelayo, president of the Olympic Peninsula Lodging Alliance — a newly formed nonprofit advocating for STRs — said the updated recommendations still lacked many important details.

”When I look at each one, I have the same problem when I looked at the five alternatives,” Pelayo said.

Pelayo was critical of the data collected by the city and suggested the city create a registration system for all STRs to sign up to with a deadline of Nov. 1, when enforcement for the city’s updated code is scheduled to begin.

That would give the city accurate data of how many STRs are operating in the city, he said, and provide better information for capping the number of rentals.

Pelayo said that STRs provide substantial lodging and tax dollars for the city and that any reduction in the number of rentals would reduce revenue for the city. The alliance is recommending a hybrid of Option B which it calls “the clean slate.”

The hybrid option would allow only STRs operating before the end of 2023 to register for a license and set a cap of the number of rentals city-wide based on that number, plus 10 percent to allow for limited growth.

“Give people a deadline to get registered and then figure out the cap later,” Pelayo said.

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Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at peter.segall@peninsuladailynews.com.

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