The Story Begins: Why do vacation rentals matter?

As of summer 2019, there are currently over 1,000 permitted vacation rentals in San Juan County, WA. Currently there is no limit on the number of vacation rentals in the county, and permits convey with the sale of a property. Unlike official businesses like bed and breakfasts, hotels and resorts, licensing constraints are minimal for vacation rentals.

The majority of owners of vacation rental properties (51%) do not live in San Juan County. We wonder if these are residential or commercial properties. We’d like to know more about how vacation rentals impact affordable housing, the composition of our community, the costs of infrastructure as well as the impact on our environmental quality and our quality of life. We’re exploring the measures that other communities have enacted to accommodate/include vacation rentals.

In order to learn more and engage the public (see our mission), a series of community conversations was established by a group of residents (see Our Team). You can read about these conversations in the Events tab.

Research / source materials are updated as new information is gathered. See the Sources tab; this tab also includes a link to presentations.

Up Next:

Petition Signing and Public Testimony before County Council, 5 November. See take action for more details

In the Media

First community conversation on vacation rentals | Islands' Sounder

Orcas residents address vacation rental impacts: Is the County listening? | Orcas Issues

The true cost of vacation rentals: Letter to the Editor | Islands’ Sounder

Cost analysis of long term v short term rentals: it may surprise you (New)

Solastalgia: a sense of the loss of community. Orcas Issues Commentary (New)


Photo Credit: Photo of July 17, 2019 community conversation taken at Orcas Island Public School Cafeteria by Laura Kussman of The Islands’ Sounder.


“A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared, and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other's lives. It is the knowledge that people have of each other, their concern for each other, their trust in each other, the freedom with which they come and go among themselves.”

–Wendell Berry