Back in December, I wrote an article detailing an ongoing conflict in San Luis Obispo (SLO) County, California, over Harvest Hosts locations. Over the course of 2022, numerous locations from vineyards to botanical shops received code violations for operating illegal campgrounds. With no laws drafted pertaining to Harvest Hosts, lawmakers and code enforcers believed that these locations were doing something wrong—even though Harvest Hosts is a nationally recognized program.
Nearly four months after community backlash and frustration, SLO County has added new codes to its legislation that allow these hosts to operate. However, these new regulations are still quite restrictive and numerous questions remain unanswered for the locations involved.
New Harvest Hosts regulations in SLO County
On February 7, the Board of Supervisors in SLO County voted 4 to 1 on allowing Harvest Hosts to operate in the area. However, unlike other jurisdictions across the country, SLO put in tight restrictions that all hosts must follow to avoid fines. These include:
- Self-Contained Units: To legally operate outside the legislative confines of an “RV Park”, all RVs on the Harvest Hosts properties must be completely self-contained.
- Stay Lengths: According to the new guidelines, RVers can only stay at each Harvest Hosts location for one consecutive night. They can return to same location throughout the week as long as they’re not doing so multiple days in a row.
- No Charging: Harvest Hosts locations cannot charge for the parking spot, but visitors may support the business that they’re staying at.
- Agriculturally Related: Since these locations are not RV parks, they must abide by “permitting visitor-use” policies. Hosts must associate with a registered agricultural practice like a vineyard, tasting room, or farm stand.
- Occupancy Restriction: The number of RVs that each host can accommodate is based on the number of parking spots available. If they have three to 10 parking spaces, only three RVs can stay. 11 or more parking spaces bumps this up to a maximum of five RVs.
Reasons for the Harvest Hosts restrictions
The primary intent of these restrictions is to limit the extent of land use. In SLO County’s view, Harvest Hosts locations should promote agritourism, not extended RV stays. The regulations are designed to incentivize the support of small businesses while also preventing travelers from overstaying. Hosts will not be required to register with the County.
SLO County Supervisor Dawn Ortiz-Legg was the only opposing vote. She believed that the locations should only have one single-night stay, to “protect establishments that pay transient occupancy tax.”
What about the previous fines?
If you recall from the previous article, multiple hosts received fines for being in violation of SLO’s policies. One of the business owners personally reached out to me, stating that she had to appear at an administrative hearing. While there, she was denied a continuance to hire an attorney, and found guilty of operating an illegal campground. According to this business owner, she incurred a fine of $4,600 for every day of illegal operation.
How will SLO County manage existing violations with this policy change? Four Sisters Ranch asked at the February 7 hearing for violations to be rescinded following the new legislation. However, this has not occurred. SLO County Counsel Rita Neal stated that property owners will have to work directly with Code Enforcement for resolution. This leaves many of the fined businesses confused about how to proceed.
Government oversight or reasonable restrictions? You decide
Although Harvest Hosts has successfully operated in many counties without issues, SLO County seems to be an exception. While county officials raised valid arguments throughout the hearing process, it still leaves a sour taste in the mouth of many RVers and hosts.
As an RVer, do you believe that these new restrictions were reasonable? Or are they just an example of a disconnected government body applying laws to a situation they know very little about? Tell me what you think in the comments.
I’d like to know who put this idea in the heads of the county supervisors in the first place. It seems to me that anyone with a working vineyard, winery, or farm in the county would welcome the opportunity to promote their business through Harvest Hosts, or that owners soured to the idea would be in the minority. And if that’s the case, then the board must be a typical group of busy bodies whose only kneejerk reaction to anything outside the norm is to do the one thing they are empowered to do: pass laws to show their constituents they are “doing their job”, such as it is… I wonder how the rest of the business community who might cater to the potential customers staying at Harvest Hosts would feel about running the RVers out of town?
I think RVers should NOT stay in SLO. There are plenty of other HH locations that offer agri-business visit opportunities. And, yes, this is typical of government’s over reaching tactics, exhibiting their lack of common sense.
Just another case of government pukes acting like they own the land and deserve the fruits of the people. Nothing new. Why do we vote for them?
The HH website says these sites are for “one night” so the County seems to be confirming that. The bigger concern might be the “ag related” business. This could preclude museums and other non ag businesses. It seems like the county is trying to establish rules to avoid the issue of an occupancy tax. Of course I don’t know how much tax there would be if there is nothing charged. The county did establish a formula for the number of rigs at a time. As far as the fines, they have been assessed but if not collected can be dismissed.
Sounds a little like RVers are becoming a tad entitled in their thinking?
We have heard from many hosts over the years how HH members have helped them survive lean times. Was disappointed in SLO county, and saddened for us travelers…we still have family in CA, so we’ll happily support SLO HH, but get out of the state ASAP! And, I hope the business that was fined, gets their money back and the county agency doesn’t drag their feet!
The best way to fight back against this overreach of power is to hit SLO county in their pocketbook. I know some won’t like the idea, but if everyone cancels their reservations at all SLO county RV parks, county parks, local lodging, and boycotts staying in SLO County until they make this right and rescind those fines, that would really hit em where it hurts. Yes I get it that other RV parks and businesses that count on those camping tourists would be affected, but that’s THE POINT! The power is then with the people, and all of those other businesses that pushed against the Harvest hosts, would be forced to help support them out of the fines, or lose their own tourist dollars. I say Boycott, boycott, boycott on SLO county tourism until they make this right. And I LOVE SLO county btw, but I detest government overreach.
Just one more reason why I have no desire to ever plan a trip again to California. Reading between the lines it was, is, and always will be about money to that state and associated forms of government. No wonder people are moving out by the hundreds of thousands, Who can afford to live there? Those that haven’t deserve themselves.
I agree 100%
If someone bases a California experience (or lack there of), on one regulation in one county, they are pretty shortsighted. Regulations and code enforcements are in place for a reason. Think snowbirds, people who conduct major service on their RV while in a RV park. The list goes on and on. I for one am glad someone is enforcing codes or developing codes that make an experience positive for everyone. As seen last year with the major poppy bloom, people were just stopping their cars in the middle of the road and walking away to take pictures. So this year, guess what? Completely shut down. You can’t even park on the side of the road any longer. Some roads are closed completely. All because a few can’t follow the rules. I for one am glad to be here. It’s a beautiful state. And the more people who leave or avoid it, the happier I am.
We are frequent visitors to Central Coast vineyards. A very beautiful part of California. We are harvest host members and have utilized the service and really enjoy it. I am so glad they reached an agreement on this so we can once again enjoy camping and wine tasting
We belonged to Harvest Hosts for two years with essentially no benefit. The locations, with two exceptions, never fit our travel plans in the least, so we allowed the membership to lapse. However, none of the restrictions listed contradict my understanding of the behavior Harvest Hosts prescribed for its members (but perhaps they have changed their policies). The one-night stay is why I much prefer Boondockers Welcome, which allows sites to choose to formally host guests for up to 5 nights (as a practical matter, it is entirely up to the site host). We currently host a Boondockers Welcome site (Davis Farm), which gets us a free Boondockers Welcome membership. If we choose to discontinue hosting, then we likely would buy a Boondockers Welcome membership.
Since this appears to be nothing more than a cash grab from SLO then I think every rver that is upset about this should write the county and state emphatically in a letter “I will not stop in your county I will not even buy a cup of coffee or fill my fuel tank as long as this policy is in effect”. If they get flooded with letters like this it just may force a change of thinking.
Remember: “When the Government fears the people, there is Liberty.
When the People fear the government, there is Tyranny”.
This is an overreach by Government officials, again. This COULD spiral into a much larger problem/headache for RV’ers if not nipped in the bud. There’s no need for this type of involvement from County or, for that matter, ANY government.
2 nights is really a necessity as you’re not pulling in with your car, sleeping overnight, firing up the engine and taking off. It’s a lot more work and driving an RV is more exhausting and requires more setup and takedown time. Also, Harvest Hosts have been generous and RV’ers have always donated or contributed and left the land clean. So.., there is really no NEED or WANT for government involvement. Taxes paid. Land clean. Producing food/wines. I see no problems here. Appears to be a control issue.
This appears to be government overreach. I, STILL, see no reason for government to get involved but, that’s what government does: It wants to control every aspect of people’s lives. Any complaints against Harvest Host Owners are either not true or, called in by angry campground owners. Which, seems senseless as they have far more sites for campers/RV’ers and longer periods of stay, which brings more money to their campground. Limiting the amount of RV’ers is ridiculous. If they are self contained, as most all RV’s are, what’s the problem? Harvest Hosts OWN their land. They are protected under the 4th and 15th Amendment to the Constitution. However, government, especially in California, are always making laws that are attempts to control what you do with your land, to an unreasonable degree or, trying to TAKE your land. Properties are in serious danger from Government, today. One has to be careful and stay within the law to fight this type of tyranny. This county’s “rule” is wrong!
Harvest Host is the best program to happen to RVing ever. We have dropped more than a buck or two at every place we have stayed. Farmers have pointed us to other farm stands and shops in their area as well. Our Seattle raised grandson played with new born baby goats. We have learned much about agriculture in different areas of our country I have asked several hosts if they have had any problems being host. all the responses have been “nope” Harvest Host has always had a no show policy. One farmer told us he had been having trouble with partying in his back fields. That stopped with harvest host. Another isolated rancher said his boy enjoyed playing with kids from all over the world thanks to Harvest Host. I cannot believe that Harvest Host is in any way shape or form hurting private campgrounds in any county in California. Our daughter lives in Monterey and we spend a lot of time there. These type ordinances are simply about government overreach & ignorance
Don’t you think everytime you stay at a harvest host you take away the profit for a legitimate RV park? Those parks have the ear of local officials and they want their money that’s necessary to pay for their authorization. I’m a boondocker host in a county that could care less.
An overly pricey campground whining about HH is a lot like greedy hotels carping about Airbnb. Don’t like the competition? Then make your rates more reasonable. I’m another boondocker that can only laugh at the hypocrisy.
The county was looking for money. Don’t hold your breath on any refunds of previous fines.
True. They don’t give back what they’ve taken. Even if wrongfully. They make it near or impossible for an average person to fight to get it back and know that attorneys will make it overly expensive. They can drag it out for years, and they know this.
Every county has a Tax Collection office. I’ve never seen nor heard of a Tax refund office. Once government takes your money you’ll never get it back regardless of the circumstances.
I don’t agree with the one night stand, two would be more reasonable in my opinion. If I pull in late in the day I want to rest, the next day patronize the host and see the business operation, I don’t want to hit the road and have to find a new spot late in that day, I want to hit the road early in the morning so I have some time to put miles on my coach and be able to stop early in the afternoon so I can again unwind.
I agree that it should be up to a 2 night stay for the reasons you stated.
I agree, 2 nights max seems like a reasonable stay.
It’s always about the money! To me the bill looks like it has a lot of influence from established campgrounds in the county that are concerned about losing revenue. This will be like a cancer and continue to grow. A possible work around is not asking for money but placing a tip jar at a convenient location.
The single night restriction seems excessive. Just another reason for my wife and I to avoid CA.
The new policy sounds reasonable. I didn’t drill down into the nuts and bolts of the policy but it sounds okay. It’s worth pointing out that Harvest Hosts offers a service to RVers through locations, establishments, that choose to participate. Harvest Hosts doesn’t make local ordinance policy. The establishment has to abide by local law and code. The business owner is responsible to know the laws regarding how his or her location can be used. It’s not up to Harvest Hosts. We use Harvest Hosts a lot. It’s saved us a lot of money and we live it. But if it doesn’t work out for a location or jurisdiction, oh well. We move on. That’s why our home has wheels.
Well said, Tom.
It’s not always reasonable but, it’s almost always confusing. That’s how most laws are written. If RV’ers are leaving nothing behind but tire tracks and memories, what’s the problem? There’s no massive amounts of carbon from jets flying overhead. Maybe, you don’t live in California, either and see firsthand all of the strangulating “regulations” they come up with. This looks like one more. IMO.
Another case of money hungry Gov. in SLO County. We’ve stayed there, always one night only, and we spend a ton of money in that County. Don’t know where they’re getting all the greed from, but seems to be everywhere with RV’ers. The Harvest host should call it overnight parking from Family, and not CAMPING! I don’t know of any HH who allow fires, bathrooms, and all the camping stuff most are accustomed to.
Sad days ahead for those of us Retirees who love to travel and spend money at these locations. KEEP UP THE FIGHT! (And support these Harvest Host sites!)
I’m sorry, but can you be more specific about “money hungry gov in SLO County”? I don’t see in the article that they are imposing a new tax or use fee. I do feel that the county should drop the violation fees as I don’t think the HH operators knowingly violated the County ordinance.
Wayne, are you a government employee? Maybe, you have info nobody else has?
Maybe, you don’t know this: Government operates on money, and money ONLY. Everything they do involves money into their pockets. It’s very simple to see. Hopefully, this is specific enough for you.
Well said. Government has an insatiable desire for more money.
The one supervisor voting against it said so. She said the reason she voted against it was it would deprive the county of fees and taxes.
I am a proponent of reasonable regulation when necessary. This seems that the county not only wants to determine the use to encourage, it also wants to tell the landowner specifically how to encourage that type of use.
More likely, this is protectionism for established RV parks and tax revenue. Kind of like Van Horn, TX where trucks are allowed to stay overnight in a truck stop, but RVs aren’t.