Mobile home or RV on open land ok?

11 Replies

I own a land zoned open land in California. I am not allowed to build a single family house on it but how about putting a mobile home or an RV? I would then be able to rent it on Airbnb.

How would you handle sewage? Many San Franscisco Bay Area cities have ordinance against sleeping in RV's. Palo Alto comes to mind. Where is your land?

In the east bay, Orinda.

How about chemical toilets?

Originally posted by @Marc Dufour:

I own a land zoned open land in California. I am not allowed to build a single family house on it but how about putting a mobile home or an RV? I would then be able to rent it on Airbnb.


I'm looking into the same type of thing for lots in Oakland. Here's some things to consider:

1) What type of lot are we talking about? Secluded large acreage? Small lot surrounded by industrial or residential? Orindans seem more likely to complain about something illegal than in, let's say East Oakland. So take that into consideration when you're looking into your options and the law/code.

2) Look into:

Tiny homes (some could be below the square footage that comes under scrutiny)
Tiny homes on wheels (like RV, but smaller, and less unsightly) - the wheels at least get you out of the building code issues. But then subject to some sort of transient law..? You're essentially charging people to live in RV parking. Similar to an RV park, but different ownership structure.
Yes, chemical toilet.

I heard of someone building tiny homes and looking into skirting all zoning / codes against letting someone live in it, so I will report back when I find out more..

Let me know if you find a way too! Good luck!

@J. Martin  Can you share more details about the property?


Can you get a zoning variance and operate 100% legitimately?  

The TOT regulation includes any structure used for transient sleeping per poses and states that you must register said place and remit taxes or be subject to a misdemeanor and a fine of up to $1K and/or up to 6 months in jail.  While I doubt they'd send you to the pokey for illegally renting an RV on airbnb (unless there was a grave injury or some other high profile badness on the premises), Orinda seems like the sort of place where people care quite a bit how their neighbors' actions affect their property values.  

Insurance might be tricky as well.  I'd worry that you'd have liability if something bad happened (like a fire or serious injury), and it came to light that the accommodation was not legal.

Originally posted by @Evan R.:

@J Martin On netflix, you can find a documentary about tiny houses: Tiny: A Story About Living Small. A young man with no construction experience builds a very livable tiny house, one that skirts all the zoning requirements for housing. 

In looking at the Oridna Municipal Code, I found two relavant sections:  Chapter 10.52 PARKING OF COMMERCIAL VEHICLES and Chapter 3.12 UNIFORM TRANSIENT OCCUPANCY TAX.

It looks like the ordinance has defined a tiny house on a trailer as:

 "Oversize recreational vehicle" means vehicle, other than an automobile, which is self-propelled, motorized, and has self-contained living quarters, including a kitchen, bathroom and sleeping areas, and may be used for the transportation of people upon a street or highway, but not including any vehicle designed for travel on stationary rails or tracks. This definition also includes motor homes and travel trailers


 If the "vehicle"/trailer ends up being a problem, put it on tracks lol

This is for open lands in Orinda and Richmond CA.

Thank you for your comments on Orinda. How about Richmond CA?

The zoning is open land, within a residential area. Can I put like an "Airstream" like this?

The fun fact about the Orinda ordinance is that it legitimizes train cars. 

@Marc Dufour  Can you share more info about your land in Richmond?

I can't see why not unless you have water, sewage and electric hook ups and maybe propane tanks. Of course needs to be zoned and you also need a license. 

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