Sonoma County, California is known for its vineyards, and outdoors adventures. The Russian River is good for kayaking, and fishing, and the beautiful coastline along the Pacific coast highway has the most breathtaking views. In 2016-2017, Sonoma County collected $17.7 million in Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) which funds various capital improvement projects and funds tourism promotion for the County. As of September 2017, only 2176 short term vacation rental properties (STRs) had a business license which was remitting TOT and only 1187 had a short term rental land use permit, while at the same time 4700 listings were advertised on the 50+ websites associated with the big 3 short term rental platforms (AirBnB, VRBO/HomeAway, Flipkey/TripAdvisor). The compliance gap exists because short term rental websites only show partial identifying information, and not exact addresses or full names that could easily be cross-checked against the business license database. Those websites only display a first name, and an approximate radius of where the property is located which may be scattered up to 0.3 miles from its true location. Secondly, the County’s Permitting and Resource Management Department (PRMD) requires a Land Use and/or Zoning Permit (with Coastal Zone exemptions for permitting but not for TOT) and forbids STRs in high-density residential and other zones. Thirdly, the County has certain zonings in which short term rentals are forbidden, and forbids short term rental of RVs, Tents, Campers and Trailers outside of State Parks and Reserves. Finally, the County has a complex shapefile whereby the City of Sonoma, Santa Rosa and 7 other incorporated cities and towns.
This adds up to a unique situation where the County selected Harmari STR for their monitoring and identification service. As of August 2018 Harmari STR has successfully identified all the listings and found 800 unlicensed STRs. This has led to an increase of land use permits to 1614 (36%), and an increase of business licenses remitting TOT by 3%. Harmari STR is proud of its accomplishments in partnership with the County.