STR Regulations: Northern CA

On a recent backpacking trip, my wife and I finished up a long running conversation about where to invest in a vacation property. Or at least we thought we did, until the reality of California’s emerging patchwork of short term rental regulations hit us full force. For years, we’ve contemplated buying a small 2-bedroom cabin in Tahoe, a beach shack in Santa Cruz, or even building a small pre-fab in Wine Country. We’ve known all along that the only way we can afford to do this would be to list the property on Airbnb and VRBO to generate revenue when we’re not using it.

As we hiked along the Clark Fork of the Stanislaus River, the conversation kept coming back to Santa Cruz. We already have a few friends with second homes in Tahoe and Wine Country just isn’t that much fun for kids. Besides, while Tahoe isn’t actually drifting into Nevada, what used to be a reliable three-hour drive is now more often a four to six-hour slog.

Santa Cruz seemed to check most of the boxes: inside of a 2-hour drive from San Francisco with year-round activities and good weather. We also knew from past family trips to Santa Cruz that there aren’t nearly enough houses available for short term rental.

What we didn’t know until we got home and looked it up, is that Santa Cruz has effectively banned new short-term rentals unless it’s your primary residence. Thus began my epic quest to research and catalog short term rental regulations by city and county across all of Northern California. As you’ll see, it’s still a work in progress.

Here are the results, organized alphabetically by city. Note that if a city has passed its own regulations, they typically prevail inside city limits, while county regulations (if they exist at all) prevail in unincorporated areas.

The data is current as of 2019. Please use it as a starting point only for your own research. We are not providing legal advice and make no representations as to accuracy.


Short term rentals in Alameda seem to be unregulated at the moment. The city has a rent stabilization program for occupancies that exceed 30 days, but there does not appear to be anything on the books that specifically addresses short-term rentals. Read more…


Short term rentals in Albany are required to obtain a business license. Airbnb hosts are also required to collect and remit a 10% occupancy tax from guests. Albany contracts with Host Compliance for enforcement. Read more…

American Canyon

Short term rentals are largely prohibited in American Canyon, although the relevant codes are old and only apply to some neighborhoods. Either way, a use permit from the Planning Commission is required, which few if any hosts have obtained.


Airbnbs in Antioch appear to be unregulated as a recent search revealed 300+ short term rentals. The city’s website makes no obvious mention of any permit or tax collection requirements.


The City of Atherton considers short term vacation rentals a commercial use, which is prohibited. The City Council has in the past discussed easing the ban but no action has been taken to date. Read more…


Belmont does not appear to have any Airbnb laws on the books. Short term rentals operate with impunity throughout the city and are required to collect and remit a 12% transient occupancy tax. Read more…




Only primary residences are eligible for short-term rental stays of 14 days or less. Hosts are required to register with the city and obtain a zoning certificate ($220 application fee), collect a 12% transient occupancy tax, and pay an additional 2% enforcement fee. Non-hosted rentals are capped at 90 days per year. Hosts also must notify adjacent property owners of short-term rental status and carry a minimum of $1M liability insurance. ADUs constructed after April 1, 2017 or used as long-term rentals since April 1, 2007 are not eligible for short-term rentals. Below Market Rent units also aren’t eligible, nor is any unit that’s had a no-fault eviction in the last 5 years.

Note that Berkeley considers any stay exceeding 14 days to be a regular tenancy, which may subject unsuspecting hosts to Berkeley’s notoriously strict (and getting stricter) rent control regulations. More details >





All short term rentals of less than 30 days are banned in residential zones. More details >




All short term rentals are prohibited, except in commercial zones where a use permit is required. More details >



Corte Madera



Daly City


All short term rentals of less than 30 days are prohibited. More details >



East Palo Alto

El Cerrito

Short term rentals are prohibited unless you have a “Bed & Breakfast” Administrative Use Permit, secure a business license, and collect applicable occupancy taxes. More details >


Short term rentals are only allowed in single-family homes and non-hosted rentals are capped at 90 days per year. Only primary residences are eligible for short term rentals. Hosts are required to obtain a short term rental permit from the Planning Division and collect 14% transient occupancy tax. More details >



Foster City



Half Moon Bay



All short term rentals are prohibited, except in commercial zones where a use permit is required. More details >




Hosts are required to obtain a Land Use Permit to engage in short term rentals, with a minimum application fee of $2,250. Ouch! Some applications can be approved by the Zoning Administrator, others go before the full Planning Commission.



Los Altos

Los Altos Hills

Los Gatos


Menlo Park

Mill Valley



Monte Sereno


Morgan Hill

Mountain View

New short-term rental regulations are currently under consideration by the Mountain View City Council. The new rules are expected in late-2018 or early-2019 and will likely force hosts to register as formal businesses, collect a 10% transient occupancy tax, and may impose a cap on the number of short-term rental days per year.


Short term rentals of less than 31 days are prohibited without a vacation rental permit. Only 41 permits for short term non-hosted rentals are available for the entire city of Napa. Only 60 permits are available for hosted rentals in which the owner resides on-site and a maximum of two bedrooms can be rented out for these hosted rentals. All permits have been issued and there’s a wait list for new applications, which we expect will move very slowly since existing permits can be transferred when a legal short term rental is sold to a new owner. Read more…




Current regulations prohibit any short term rental stay of less than 7 consecutive days in any type of residence or secondary-unit. Only hotels with valid Conditional Use Permits may engage in short term stays of less than one week. Stays of more than 7 days, but less than 30 days, are currently unregulated in most residential zones. It’s unclear whether stays of between 7 and 30 days are subject to collection of the 14% transient occupancy tax (TOT) typically collected by hotels and B&Bs.

Comprehensive STR regulations are under consideration by Oakland Planning Dept and City Council. These are likely to include annual caps on total STR nights for hosted and un-hosted stays, primary legal residence requirements, collection of TOT, and stiff penalties for violations. More details >



Short term rental hosts must be physically present on the property throughout the guest’s stay. All un-hosted Airbnb rentals are now prohibited after a recent tragedy involving an illegal open party in an Airbnb rental resulted in five deaths. Hosts must also register with the Planning Dept ($100) and apply for a tax certificate. Registration renews annually ($50). Must collect 8.5% transient occupancy tax. Only one hosted short term rental can take place on a single property at any given time. More details >


Palo Alto

Surprisingly, Palo Alto has not yet decided how they will regulate short term rentals. While technically prohibited, the city has mostly tolerated short term rental activity and seems to investigate complaints on a case by case basis. Read more…



No distinction between hosted and un-hosted short term rentals. Dwelling must be primary legal residence. Minimum stay is 2 consecutive nights. Permit required ($300), which triggers notification of adjacent neighbors. Min $1M liability insurance required. Annual cap of 60 short term rental nights total. Granny, in-law, and multi-family units are not eligible for short-term rentals. Smoke detector, carbon monoxide detector, and fire extinguisher required. No events, parties, or gatherings. Violations fined at $1,500 first offense, $5,000 subsequent. Must collect 1.4% occupancy tax. More details >



Pleasant Hill


Portola Valley

Redwood City

Short term rentals in Redwood City are only allowed in primary residences and non-hosted rentals are subject to an annual cap of 120 days per calendar year. There are no annual limits for hosted rentals. A local contact person is required and hosts must register, obtain a business license, and collect a 12% transient occupancy tax. Read more…


Rio Vista

Rohnert Park


Saint Helena

Only 25 short term vacation rentals are permitted within the entire City of St Helena, per the city’s short term rental regulations passed back in April 2012. The Planning Department maintains a waitlist for new permits. Legally permitted short term rentals must obtain a non-transferable permit, are limited to one unit per parcel, must provide two on-site parking spaces, and are obligated to identify a local contact person. Interestingly, the city imposes a 60-day annual minimum on hosts who do not occupy their rental as a primary residence. To be considered for a permit, you must have owned the unit for at least three years and St Helena residents are given priority. Hosts also must collect a 12% transient occupancy tax. Read more…

San Anselmo

San Bruno

San Carlos

San Francisco

Only permanent residents who occupy the unit at least 275 days/yr can engage in short term rentals. Annual cap for un-hosted rentals is 90 days. Hosts must obtain Business Registration Certificate and separate permit from Office of Short-Term Rentals. Certificate number must be posted on all short-term rental ads and listings. Must collect 14% transient occupancy tax. Penalties of $484/day for violations. Min $500K liability insurance. Maximum of 5 separate short term rental reservations can be offered at any one time. Tenants in rent-controlled units can never make more than their monthly rent from short term rentals in a given month. More details >

San Jose

San Leandro

45-day moratorium on non-hosted short-term rentals went into effect July 23, 2018. Existing regulations required hosts to obtain a business license and occupancy tax certificate from the city’s Finance Department. The City Council now seems to be leaning towards extending the moratorium for an additional year and/or an outright ban on short-term rentals when the host is not present.

San Mateo

San Pablo

San Rafael

San Ramon

Santa Clara

Santa Cruz

Short term rental regulations in Santa Cruz allow for a permanent citywide cap of only 450 short term rental permits. Airbnb hosts must obtain a short term rental permit ($262) and transient occupancy tax certificate. No new permits (only “grandfathered”) are available for units where the resident resides less than 6 months per year. Only residents who reside for at least 6 months per year can apply for new short term rental permits. Short term rentals are not permitted in ADUs unless “grandfathered.” Hosts must also enroll in the city’s Rental Inspection Service ($68/yr) and collect 11% TOT.

Santa Rosa



All short term rentals are prohibited in Sausalito. The City Council has solicited input from residents, who are largely in favor of allowing rentals of less than 30 days, and is likely to address the issue in the next General Plan update. Read more…



No new short term vacation rentals are permitted within the City of Sonoma, except for those involving the “adaptive re-use of a historic structure.” Only 49 non-historic existing vacation rentals were “grandfathered in” when the new restrictive short term rental ordinance was adopted in December 2017. The full list of legally permitted vacation rentals is available here. Existing legal rentals are subject to an occupancy limit of two people per bedroom, are required to have a local property manager contact, and must collect a 10% transient occupancy tax (which may be increased to 12% later in 2018) plus an additional 2% Sonoma Tourism Improvement District tax. Read more…

South San Francisco

Suisun City


Short term rental regulations in Sunnyvale require that hosts must reside on site throughout the guests’ stay, which effectively prohibits all non-hosted rentals of less than 30 days unless you have multiple units on a single property. Hosts must register with the City and collect 10.5% transient occupancy tax. More details >


All short term rentals in Tiburon were banned by a new ordinance passed in late-2015. This came despite the fact that the city had previously issued seasonal rental permits to existing hosts. These permits were expressly voided by the new legislation. Read more…

Union City

Short-term rentals appear to be largely unregulated in Union City. Hosts must collect a strangely precise 12.87% transient occupancy tax and some may need to apply for a business license depending on their “jurisdiction.” Read more…



Walnut Creek

Short-term rental activity in accessory dwelling units (ADUs) requires a conditional use permit (CUP) from the Walnut Creek Planning Department. It’s unclear how short-term rentals of primary residences or second homes are regulated in Walnut Creek. Read more…




All short term rentals of less than 30 days are banned in residential zones. More details >

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