"To protect the Oregon coast by working with coastal residents for sustainable communities; protection and restoration of coastal and marine natural resources; providing education and advocacy on land use development; and adaptation to climate change."

Oregon Coast Alliance is the coastal affiliate of 1000 Friends of Oregon
Oregon Coast Alliance Newsletter

A Call to the Legislature and A New Estuary Plan

The Legislature Needs to Step In to Regulate STRs

Yaquina Bay Estuary Management Plan

No “Bioengineering" for the Coast

The Legislature Needs to Step In to Regulate STRs
Clatsop County Waves and Trees. Courtesy ORCA
Clearly, local regulation in the coastal counties of the short term rental boom is not working. Coastal towns are having somewhat more success in their regulatory efforts to rein in STRs, but in the rural counties three efforts have recently failed. This is despite the desperate need for affordable and workforce housing in rural areas across the coast. The only solution to this problem is for the Legislature to step in and regulate STRs statewide, providing a strong framework for reducing STRs and limiting their ability to proliferate. Clearly counties, desperate for any revenue, are failing now, and will continue to fail, to effectively regulate STRs.

Both Clatsop and Curry County Board of Commissioners passed ordinances allowing STRs in all rural zones. In Clatsop County, the ordinance was put to a referendum on the ballot in May of 2023. ORCA supported the ballot measure. Following heavy lobbying by the STR industry, the referendum failed by a small margin. In Curry County, the County Counsel blocked a referendum attempt with a slick piece of legal maneuvering. Concerned residents and ORCA took the county ordinance to the Land Use Board of Appeals, but LUBA upheld the ordinance. It is very difficult to overturn an ordinance unless it grossly violates the requirements for legislation. Lincoln County voters did pass a ballot measure restricting STRs, but LUBA overturned it. Various lawsuits over different actions related to STRs have continued to sputter on in the County. 

It all shows that local politics are too easily overwhelmed by the STR industry. The problems are magnified by the fact that the STR industry is not monolithic. There are local residents who maintain a home for STR use, and who undertake that small business responsibly for both heir community and their guests. But large, out-of-town STR owners, often operating off of internet booking platforms, are wreaking havoc on communities and rural neighborhoods coastwide. Nevertheless, fundamentally STRs are businesses, and do not belong in residential neighborhoods in either rural or urban areas.

At the same time as the STR drama is unfolding, counties are speaking out forcefully about the housing crisis, and especially the need for workforce and affordable housing. These needs are real, but decision-makers often act as if the STR crisis was not related to the housing crisis. But they are intimately related, as housing studies frequently note. For this reason the Legislature, which in the 2023 session took several steps on the housing problem, needs to enter the STR controversy and set strong statewide limitations on these rentals. Reducing STRs must become an essential part of addressing the housing shortage, in rural areas and unincorporated urban areas especially. On the coast, where STRs are rampant, such legislation would have major benefits in housing availability.
Yaquina Bay Estuary Management Plan
Yaquina Bay Harbor and Bridge. Courtesy Ian Poellet/Wikimedia
The final draft of the Yaquina Bay Estuary Management Plan (YBEMP) is inching towards conclusion. Willamette Partnership, the consultants spearheading the process, must complete its work by the end of summer. The final Advisory Group (of which ORCA was a member) meeting was held this week, and the Plan itself is to be delivered to the local governments by August 31st. The governments are Lincoln County, and the cities of Toledo and Newport. This revision of the Yaquina Bay estuary plan is the first one to take place since the original was adopted in the early 1980s. But clearly plans need to be updated, as priorities change and so do land uses on the ground. The new plan incorporates much new information and mentions new trends and activities, such as restoration of Olympia oysters to the bay. The revision, while fairly wide-ranging, is not perfect, and undoubtedly more discussion will occur as it is adopted into local comprehensive plans. For one thing, a more consistent public engagement during the process should be incorporated. Also, there needs to be a regular schedule of updating the estuary plan, so a 40-year gap between the old and the new does not occur again.

In addition to the updated estuary plan, Willamette Partnership is drafting a Guidance Document for the Department of Land Conservation and Management. The revision of the Yaquina Plan is the flagship effort to update all the coast’s estuary management plans, all of which are decades old. DLCD will eventually publish a Guide to updating estuary plans based on experiences learned from doing the job on Yaquina Bay, incorporating experience from folding in new data for mapping the estuary, how most effectively to engage the public, what topics are required to be dealt with in a plan under Goal 16, creating a reasonable update schedule, and many other issues.
No “Bioengineering" for the Coast
Oregon Coast Sunset. Courtesy ORCA
SB 873 started life in the 2023 Legislature as a bill to allow “bioengineering practices” on the coast — a term not found anywhere in state law or administrative rules, nor defined in the bill. The bill would have allowed bioengineering for any mitigation, restoration or stabilization project on shorelands, beaches, dunes estuaries or infrastructure and structures built before 1977. In other words, the bill sought to have this unknown, undefined concept inserted throughout the Coastal Goals and rules, and the oversight of three major agencies: State Lands, Land Conservation and Development, and Transportation. ORCA opposed this bill as entirely unnecessary, and also confusing.

The bill was amended several times, ultimately morphing into a requirement that the Department of Land Conservation and Development would adopt rules allowing for “soil bioengineering systems” for shoreline stabilization in estuaries, coastal shorelands and the ocean shore. In the rulemaking, DLCD was to adopt a definition of the term, but the amended bill also clarified it did not include structural stabilizations (i.e., riprap) that deflect wave energy. Soil bioengineering systems would also have to conform with the statewide land use planning goals, but the bill barred the new rules from amending any current stabilization method used by the Department of Transportation. ODOT is responsible for keeping Highway 101 in good repair, some parts of which are frequently compromised due to landslides or coastal erosion.

In the final rush to adjournment, SB 873 did not pass. Considering that it was unnecessary, added confusing language and another layer to Goal 18 and the contentious issue of shoreline stabilization, and introduced an entirely new term into Oregon law, ORCA thinks this bill’s failure is a good thing. Similar bills have been introduced in past Legislatures, and all failed. However, the issue will probably come up again. Next time, proponents need to state openly and publicly what they are trying to accomplish, and engage concerned people to discuss issues and potential solutions — not drop a confusing bill into the whirlpool of the Legislature, and try to get it passed with minimal public engagement There is too much at stake.
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