Rules banning short-term lodgers from Laguna Beach neighborhoods conflicts with land use policies that promote public access to the coast and should be rescinded, according to staff of the state Coastal Commission.
The staff recommendation to reject regulations that Laguna Beach enacted in October 2016 is being heard Thursday, Dec. 14, by the Coastal Commission, which is meeting in Dana Point.
City officials must seek commission approval of any changes to its land use rules, which now restrict new short-term rentals to the town’s commercial areas.
While recommending against Laguna’s residential prohibition, Deputy Director Karl Schwing does recommend approval of 14 operating conditions the city adopted to quell complaints. Nuisances can be regulated to assure neighborhood compatibility “without resorting to a drastic, all-out prohibition on STLs within residential zones,” the report says.
“We think they came to the right decision,” said local resident Jennifer Zeiter, representing 300 property owners in a 2016 lawsuit that alleges the city’s short-term rental ordinance violates the Coastal Act, which governs coastal development standards.
In a Dec. 8 letter to the commission, Zeiter urged commission members to further revise Laguna’s regulations on short term-rentals, lifting restrictions on density, parking and sunset provisions on permits. She cited “extreme anti-STL bias by the City Council” in denying four permit applications over the past year.
Resident Michael Beanan urged commission members to reverse direction and argued that staff recommendations conflict with another state policy to encourage more affordable housing. Should short-term rentals be allowed in neighborhoods, he predicted a rush by landlords to capitalize on tourists that will exacerbate the city’s inventory of affordable long-term rentals.
Bans on short-term rentals in neighborhoods by the cities of Encinitas and Pismo Beach have all been denied, the commission’s staff report pointed out. Such bans are inconsistent with Coastal Act policies protecting public access and promoting visitor-serving accommodations along the coast, the report says.
Currently, 36 property owners in Laguna legally rent 81 units for less than 30 days at a time, and two third of those permits are located in neighborhoods, the report says. Online postings suggest another 200 more. Hotel rates averaged $292 to $350 on weekend nights last year.
The city’s restrictions on short-term rentals to commercial areas reduces their availability because it’s based on “potential units” that have yet to be developed, the report says.