City Administrative Offices Holiday Closure 12/24/2019 – 1/1/2020

Short-Term Rental Program


Starting January 1st, 2020, All Short-term Rentals in the City of San Rafael will be required to register with the City, pay a registration fee, and begin collecting and remitting transient occupancy taxes.

Please visit this website for updates on the Short-Term Rental Program, including information on online registration, community workshops, and filing complaints.


Frequently Asked Questions

A short-term residential rental is a rental of all or a portion of your home for periods of less than 30 nights.

Yes. San Rafael allows short-term rentals but they must be registered with the Short-Term Rental program and hosts must collect and remit transient occupancy taxes.

The City is currently setting up a 24/7 Complaint Hotline. We will update this page once this Hotline is available.

In the meantime, please contact Eric Cogbill with any complaints at or at 415.485.3487.

A property must meet the following four criteria to be eligible for short-term rental use:

    • All or a portion of the Residential Unit is offered for Tourist or Transient Use by the Permanent Resident of the Residential Unit
    • the Residential Unit is the Primary Residence of the Permanent Resident
    • the Permanent Resident is a natural person (A natural person refers to the legal definition of a person that is an individual human being as opposed to a private business entity or public organization)
    • the Permanent Resident has registered the Residential Unit and maintains good standing with the City of San Rafael



The following properties cannot be used as a short-term rental:

    • Income-restricted affordable housing, including Below-Market-Rate (BMR) units and public housing
    • Student housing, dormitories and Single-Room-Occupancy (SRO) buildings
    • Commercial or industrial zoned lots
    • Non-residential areas within buildings, such as storage areas, and living/sleeping quarters added in garages
    • Recreation Vehicles (RVs), including non-motorized Travel Trailers
    • Boats/House Boats
    • Teepees, Yurts, Tents, and Treehouses
    • Sleeping Quarters in Vans or Cars

The City is currently working with Host Compliance to develop an online registration form. This form is not yet available but will be by January 1st, 2020.

Yes, there is a $170 registration fee the first time you register your short-term rental. If you are renewing your registration the fee is $135.

The City allows for Accessory Structures (ex. Accessory Dwelling Units, Junior Dwelling Units, and Accessory Structures less than 120 square feet) to be used as Short-Term Rentals. These units must still meet the primary residency requirements.

However, You cannot offer an entire single home or residential unit and the accessory structure at the same time. You would have to choose between renting the accessory structures or the main home. However, If you chose to rent out a portion or a room in the main house—rather than the entire main home—you would be allowed to rent out the accessory structure.

Yes, only the “Permanent Resident” can offer their home as a short-term rental and the home must be their “Primary Residence”

A “Primary Resident” is a person who occupies a Residential Unit for at least 60 consecutive days with intent to establish that unit as his or her primary residence. A Permanent Resident may be an owner or a lessee.

A “Primary Residence” means the Permanent Resident’s usual place of return for housing.


To prove your Short-Term Rental is your “Primary Residence,” you must provide three of the following five documents when you register:

  • Motor vehicle registration;
  • Driver’s license;
  • Voter registration;
  • Tax documents showing the Residential Unit as the Permanent Resident’s residence for the purposes of a home owner’s tax exemption;
  • A utility bill.

The City allows  two individuals per bedroom plus two additional individuals if the rental provides additional living space. For instance, a studio could accommodate two individuals and a one-bedroom apartment could accommodate four individuals.

The City also requires that rentals provide enough off-street parking to meet the number who can stay in the short-term rental. In no instance can a short-term rental’s occupancy be greater than the number of vehicles the property could accommodate through the designated off-street parking requirements.

Yes, one designated off-street parking space must be provided for every four guests.

For properties with multiple residential units used as short-term rentals, each rental listing must have its own designated off-street parking.

Yes, Short-term Rentals are allowed on properties vehicle access is shared between neighbors. If you live on a property like this you must provide a “Parking Plan” when you register your property to be used as a short-term rental.

A “Parking Plan”  must document how the  Short-Term Rental will avoid encumbering parking.  Documentation may include:

  • Existing variances;
  • Shared maneuvering diagrams or conditions;
  • Signage identifying designated off-street parking spaces;
  • Agreements indicating designated off-street parking spaces.

The “Parking Plan” must also include instructions to be provided to guests of the Short-Term Rental outlining the location of designated off-street parking spaces and instructions for maintaining clear access to shared maneuvering areas. The City will consider blocked access to shared maneuvering areas or guest parking outside of designated off-street parking spaces to be Program violations.

Short-term Rentals on properties in a Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) must show proof of a vegetation inspection as part of their registration. For 2020, property owners will be able to conduct a self-certified vegetation inspection, by completed a Vegetation Inspection Checklist and submitting photos of the front, back, and sides of the property.

It is important to clarify, the City expects property owners to maintain their vegetation and landscaping throughout the year due to the risk of wildfire. For example, having clear gutters at the time a registration is submitted  does not exclude you from maintaining them. At any point the Fire Department may conduct drive by inspections and/or schedule inspections with property owners to confirm the information they have submitted.

To find out if your property is in a WUI visit this webpage: Wildlland-Urban Interface Map

For information on vegetation inspections visit this webpage: Vegetation Management

For information in protecting your home from wildfire visit this webpage: Defensible Space


Yes, the City requires hosts collect and remit Transient Occupancy Taxes (TOT) for all short-term rentals. TOT is 12% (10% City, 2% for MCBIDTA).

The City is currently working with AirBnB for automatic TOT collection through the AirBnB Platform. We will update this webpage once this functionality is completed.

Any hosts who have received three or more upheld citation violations of the program rules in a two year period, they will immediately lose the short-term rental registration.

November 4th & 18th City Council Meeting

As follow-up to an informational report presented to the San Rafael City Council on August 5, 2019, a draft ordinance and policy resolution have been prepared addressing short-term rentals.  Specifically, the ordinance and policy resolution propose to establish regulations for permitting, administering, enforcing, and taxing short-term rentals.

At the November 4th and 18Th meetings, City Council unanimously approved the creation of the Short Term Rental Program.

August 5th City Council Meeting Recap: 

Staff returned to City Council on Monday, August 5th City Council Meeting.  After public feedback and City Council discussion, staff was directed to return with a draft ordinance for City Council consideration that creates a Short-Term Rental program with the minimal and moderate enforcement recommendations included in the August 5th, 2019 Staff Report. City Council also directed staff to consider the following additional elements to be included in the draft ordinance:

  • Potential regulations for short-term rentals on properties with shared driveways;
  • Regulations allowing travel trailers under certain specific conditions like those shown in the staff report;
  • Regulations aimed at restricting “party houses”;
  • Program guidelines outlining a three-strike system or other system to address so that problem locations could lose their right to act as a STR.

May Community Meetings:

From March 22nd to April 22nd, over 400 residents took our online survey on their experience and opinions with Short-Term Rentals. Two public meetings were held to review the results of the recent community survey and to get feedback. These meetings were held:

  • May 29th, 2019 from 7:00pm-9:00pm at the Loch Lomond Yacht Club- 95 Loch Lomond Drive, San Rafael, CA 94901
  • May 30th, 2019 from 7:30pm-9:00pm at the San Rafael Community Center- 618 B Street, San Rafael, CA 94901

Unable to attend? Download the presentation here: Short Term Rental Community Survey Findings

February 19th City Council Meeting Recap:

An informational report on Short Term Rental policy options was presented at the Tuesday, February 19th City Council Meeting. At this meeting, Council requested that Staff conduct the following:

  1. Further analysis on the impacts of  Short Term Rental on the housing stock in San Rafael;
  2. Further analysis on  Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) and Junior Dwelling Unit use as Short Term Rentals;
  3. Expanded Community Outreach on Short-Term Rental Approaches, Regulations, Best Practices and Options.
  • To view the February 19th, City Council Agenda, click here
  • To view the Informational Report on Short-Term Rental Approaches, Regulations, Best Practices and Options, click here

Program Registration Requirements

As part of the registration process, hosts must provided the following information:

Property Information.

  1. Primary Resident Name and Contact Information
  2. Documentation of Primary Residency
  3. 24-Hour Local Emergency Contact
  4.  Property Address
  5. Type of Short-Term Rental
  6. Occupancy
  7. Number of Bedrooms
  8. Number of Bathrooms
  9. Number of Designated Off-Street Parking Spaces
  10. Parking Plan (for properties that share vehicle access with other properties)

Self-Certified Property Inspection (Checklist to be provided by City)

  1. Egress
  2. CO2 and Smoke Detectors
  3. Interior Signage
  4. Designated Off-Street Parking

Note: For properties located within a Wildland-Urban Interface the registrant must pass a vegetation inspection, in a form prescribed by the Program, proof of which must be completed and submitted as part of the Program Registration.

Interior Signage. Properties offered as Short-Term Rentals shall have a clearly visible and legible notice posted on or directly adjacent to the inside of the front door, containing the following information:

  1. 24-Hour Local Emergency Contact Person
  2. Maximum number of occupants
  3. Maximum number of vehicles
  4. Off-street Parking Requirements
  5. Garbage Disposal Instructions
  6. Information regarding Fire Safety and Fire Access Roads
  7. Emergency and Wildfire Evacuation Procedures
  8. Information on signing up for emergency alerts
  9. Information on San Rafael Noise Ordinance
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