Laguna Beach has had a permit process for short-term lodging (rental for less than 30 days) since 1999. Today there are 36 permits for short-term rentals, most of them held by people who don’t live on the property. In addition, some 175 to 200 short-term rentals are being advertised online, and ads about the process promise big money without necessarily owning any property at all.
The land use element of the city’s general plan says that residential zoning in Laguna Beach “is intended to provide a quiet living environment free from rooming and boarding houses and commercial and industrial activities.” Short-term lodging in our residential neighborhoods subjects us to noise, trash, and parking problems and the loss of the sense of security and community that comes from knowing your neighbors. Since May 2015 city staff has handled 372 complaints. Realtors report that a short-term rental lowers the value of the house next door.
The housing element of the general plan calls on the city to encourage the preservation of rental housing opportunities. The shift to short-term lodging reduces the stock of rental housing and drives up rents. Longtime Laguna renters are being forced to leave town.
Other cities already prohibit short-term lodging in residential zones, among them Aliso Viejo, Anaheim, Carmel, Hermosa Beach, Huntington Beach, Irvine, Manhattan Beach, Ojai, San Clemente, Santa Barbara, Seal Beach, and West Hollywood.
The City Council originally asked for an ordinance prohibiting short-term rentals in residential zones, and the Planning Commission’s draft would grandfather the existing permits and allow new ones only in commercial and mixed-use zones. Under pressure from proponents of what is called “home-sharing,” the Council sent the draft ordinance back for revision to allow short-term rentals for up to 120 days a year in an owner-occupied home. Staff reports that this form of short-term lodging is very difficult to regulate, since it’s common for tenants to be coached on how to respond when asked if the owner is available—saying that they are “friends,” that he has had to step out for a moment, and so on.
A revised draft will be presented for consideration at a meeting of the Council subcommittee (made up of Bob Whalen and Steve Dicterow) at 4:30 p.m. on July 14 at the Susi Q Community Center. Lagunans who care about the future of our town may want to come and say something about it.
Barbara Metzger, Laguna Beach