Attention locals: Tuesday, June 4, the city is proposing another ordinance banning short term lodging (“STLs”) in all residential zones. The ordinance approved three years ago banning residential zone STLs was rejected by the Coastal Commission. Now, the city wants to horse trade banning STLs in residential zones by allowing residential units in all “commercial mixed zones” to convert to STLs, heavily concentrating STLs in those areas, instead of diffusing STLs throughout 10 square miles and the 24,000 population. Unless your home is there, sounds OK right? Look deeper. The city says by opening this zone, 734 “existing residential units” could be converted to STLs. Look deeper—a huge potential loss of affordable housing. Laguna’s affordable housing—apartments—are primarily located in these zones. We walked the 734 units. We know. By concentrating permissible STLs, the city is green-lighting conversion of hundreds of lower income/affordable housing apartments to STLs, sacrificing them in the name of “saving” the occasional residential neighborhood STL from exaggerated fears of a few. By also waiving parking or density requirements, the city is piling on in already heavily congested areas, like Glennerye, where only street parking is available. That’s a cluster fiasco.
Think. Since December 2017, has there been an “explosion” of neighborhood STLs? No—less than six residential zone permits approved in three years, and anyone could have applied. The fears were greatly exaggerated then, as now. But the VL “white shirts” will be back Tuesday to demonize all residential STL’s, even if it sacrifices affordable housing in this town. NIMBYism.
Solution? (1) Don’t hyper-concentrate STLs and reduce our limited affordable housing; and (2) craft an ordinance permitting homeowners who live here to home-host STLs in any zone, owner on premises, with strong rules and hefty violation fines. This won’t sacrifice affordable housing, and will permit Laguna locals to home-host visitors and families seeking a more affordable home setting. It can be done. Permits could limit the number of days and duration, require on-site parking, no-noise hours, etc. and be renewed annually to eliminate serial offenders. Enforcement would be more than offset by the lodging tax collected, and locals would benefit from increased tax revenues and a little extra spending money. It’s a win-win. Show up June 4. Ask the Council to reject the proposed ordinance, protect affordable housing, and be reasonable.
Jennifer Zeiter, Laguna Beach