Short-Term Rentals

The City of Half Moon Bay is seeking the community’s input for regulating the use of properties here as Short-Term Rentals (typically for vacation use), known as STRs. While STRs are not presently regulated in the City’s zoning ordinance, many are currently operating here. For these, the City collects transient occupancy tax (TOT).

Many community members have expressed an interest in this topic, with a wide range of opinions about STRs and how they may be regulated. Residents have communicated to the City that they have concerns about various aspects of neighborhood compatibility of STRs, such as safety, noise, trash, and parking. Accordingly, the City has been working to develop an ordinance and specific regulations to directly address the use of properties as STRs.

The City would appreciate your feedback on this topic, you can do so by completing our survey. The purpose of this survey is to better understand community members’ perspectives on the potential benefits and impacts of STRs, gain input on how the City might best regulate STRs to meet the community’s needs, and help define the scope of those regulations.

What is a Short-Term Rental? 

  • An STR is a room, home, apartment, or condominium unit that can be rented for short periods, generally for vacation use, from one to 30 nights. Typically, an STR unit is occupied for a few days at a time. STRs are often advertised and booked through services such as Airbnb, VRBO, Homeaway, and other similar platforms, and are sometimes also offered as individual rentals unaffiliated with any particular property management service. STRs may be “hosted” or “un-hosted.”

What is a Hosted STR? 

  • Short-term rental of a room or rooms, while the owner occupies the remainder of the residence, is a hosted STR.  In hosted STRs, the rooms may have a separate entrance with a private bathroom. A hosted STR typically does not have kitchen facilities. Rental of a main house while the owner occupies a second unit, such as a duplex, or vice versa, may also be considered a hosted STR.

 What is an Un-Hosted STR?

  • Short-term rental of an entire residence, such as a “whole house” rental, is an un-hosted STR. The property owner is not on the property while the unit is in use as an STR.

Considerations  here is a summary of some important considerations to take into account when regulating STRs:

Potential Benefits: STRs can benefit property owners and the community in several ways, such as:

  • Allowing property owners or leaseholders to earn supplemental income
  • Providing overnight visitors with an alternative to hotels/motels
  • Generating additional revenue for the City through transient occupancy tax (TOT)
  • Potentially increasing tourism and contributing to the community’s overall economic activity by making more short term rental options available

Potential Community Impacts: The operation of STRs can have negative impacts on the community and its neighborhoods, including:

  • Use of homes only as STRs, potentially causing a reduction in the supply of housing stock (reduced housing stock is one factor contributing to high housing costs)
  • A potential change in the character of predominately residential neighborhoods, by adding this short-term rental activity
  • Parking impacts
  • Noise, trash, or other possible nuisances from short-term rental occupants

A few more things to know before you get started with the survey: 

  • Transient Occupancy Tax: In Half Moon Bay, STRs are subject to Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT). The City has been collecting this tax (12 percent) on STR stays, as well as on hotel and motel stays.
  • Accessory Dwelling Units: For most cases, the City’s current zoning regulations do not allow short-term rentals in accessory dwelling units (also known as granny or in-law units). The City’s intent is that new regulations for STRs will maintain this restriction.
  • Coastal Zone: The City of Half Moon Bay is located within the California Coastal Zone. The Coastal Commission has taken the position that at least some STRs are required in most jurisdictions to comply with the Coastal Act’s coastal access requirements.
  • Examples of Regulations: There are many ways to regulate STRs. Most regulations in other jurisdictions limit the amount of time a residence can be used as an STR annually and impose standards to better ensure compatibility with the surrounding neighborhood. The following table highlights regulations in several other coastal jurisdictions, to help provide context for the survey.

Examples of Short-Term Vacation Rental Regulations in Other Coastal Jurisdictions



City of Santa Cruz

San Mateo County

Hosted:  Maximum nights per year



Un-Hosted:  Maximum nights per year

30 nights

180 nights

Maximum Length of Stay

Less than 30 Days

Less than 30 days

Maximum Occupancy

2 people per room

2 people per room

Neighborhood Compatibility Requirements

  • Noise



  • Trash



  • Parking



  • Special Events



Local Point of Contact Required

Within 20 minutes

Within 20 Minutes

Regular Inspections