Screen grab of Airbnb rental available in Sonoma County Calif. for select days in June 2022. (Airbnb screen grab via Bay City News)

Marin County temporarily paused its approval Tuesday of new short-term vacation rental permits in West Marin in an effort to protect the area’s already scant housing supply.

The moratorium, which the Marin County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved Tuesday as an urgency ordinance, will take effect immediately and last at least 45 days.

The board will have the option to extend its duration for up to two years while county officials develop comprehensive regulations for vacation rentals, which are reserved via platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo.

Officials with the county’s Community Development Agency said about 550 of the roughly 50,250 residential properties in West Marin are registered as short-term vacation rentals, representing about 10 percent of the area’s housing stock.

Sarah Jones, the CDA’s assistant director, told the board that county officials have heard from those who live and work in West Marin, particularly law enforcement officers and school employees, that they are concerned about not being able to hire and retain employees due to a lack of housing in unincorporated communities like Point Reyes Station, Bolinas and Inverness.

“We have concerns that the situation in the West Marin communities is going to continue to deteriorate as we go through the process of developing our regulations countywide,” Jones said.

“We want to keep the status quo of the visitor opportunities that are really important and valued there but try to defray further conversion of housing stock to this commercial use as we develop our regulations,” she said.

While the moratorium could be extended up to two years, county officials stressed that it is not a full ban on short-term vacation rentals, and that existing rentals may continue to operate as normal.

Jones said the county couldn’t commit to the development of regulations taking less than two years, but that is the county’s goal.

“We hope that it takes less than two years but we also want to really be sure that there’s enough time for public engagement and thoughtful conversation,” she said.

Marin County’s moratorium on new permits comes two weeks after the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors approved a similar moratorium while local planning officials develop their own regulations for vacation rentals.

Sonoma County officials have held public meetings on potential vacation rental regulations for roughly two years and expect to bring a regulatory ordinance to the board in early August.

Board President Katie Rice said the county will have to tailor its vacation rental regulations specifically to West Marin, and argued that different communities could require different solutions to both protect the vacation rental industry as well as the local housing stock.

“The hollowing out of our communities, it’s not just a factor of short-term rentals and the existence of short-term rentals, there’s a lot of other factors at play,” Rice said. “But certainly this is one of the variables we potentially have some control over.”