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New rules approved for short-term rentals in Laguna Beach

There will be more short-term rentals coming to Laguna Beach, but not in residential neighborhoods.

The California Coastal Commission on Wednesday, Oct. 7, approved the city’s request to add new rules and regulations to short-term lodging in the city, the latest coastal tourist town to try to address the influx of vacationers mixing into residential neighborhoods.

The decision comes after months of discussion and back-and-forth amendments and allows for more short-term lodging in the city’s commercial district, but tightens restrictions in residential areas. Only permitted rentals will be allowed to remain.

Because Orange County’s beach towns are in the coastal zone, changes often need a green-light from the Coastal Commission.

The commission required Laguna Beach’s proposal to include more home-stay options where the owner lives onsite, the study of a fee to develop more affordable housing throughout the city and a report back in three years.

Popular vacation destinations are constantly trying to find just the right mix between residents frustrated with the growing popularity of short-term rentals that create a hotel-like atmosphere in neighborhoods with the lower-cost accommodation options that home rentals can provide. Newport Beach recently added a long list of new rules and this week launched a new 24/7 hotline for residents’ complaints.

Laguna Beach has a long history of drawing visitors to the seaside community and discussions date back to 1990 addressing short-term lodging regulations in response to concerns of the locals.

Since 2013, however, the city has noted a significant increase in the number and location of short-term rentals and has raised concerns about the potential adverse impacts from unregulated growth.

There’s been even more growth in recent years with the popularity of online booking sites such as AirBnB and VRBO.

There are about 383 existing short-term rentals advertised citywide, a figure that includes un-permitted units.

The proposed plan will grandfather in about 100 existing, legally operating short-term rentals in residential areas, but any operating without a permit would be banned. There will be another 365 allowed in mixed-use commercial and visitor-serving zones.

The rentals will need to be a mix of 300 non-home sharing units and 165 home-share units, meaning the owner or tenant lives in the building or home.

“Home shares tend to be more affordable than hotels or other STL options because the space is shared and may be smaller,” city staffers noted in a report to the council.

The new rules will also require online hosting platforms to disclose the names of people responsible for the listing, the address, length of stay for each listing and price paid. The new rules will also allow the city to issue citations in the amount of $1,000 per violation.

Marc Wiener, the city’s director of community development, said the plan as modified achieved a balance for allowing coastal access while maintaining the character of the city.

Some speakers applauded the city and commission for coming up with a plan that showed compromise.

One long-time resident said having hosts living on the premises will help keep residents in Laguna Beach when so many have had to move away because of the rising cost of living in town, which “has totally changed the complexity of our community.”

James N. Danziger, a UCI professor of public policy, said the new modifications help protect the quality of life in residential areas and the long-term housing stock.

Some speakers said homeowners who operate short-term rentals were not notified, only learning of the meeting late Tuesday night.

“I need a little help to pay the mortgage, and there’s others like me,” said one speaker, who said her application to operate a short-term rental was recently denied by the city.

Another speaker against the plan said the new rules would “jam people into commercial zones” who are looking for a “residential experience.”

Others said the plan struck just the right balance.

“I do feel like we’ve hit a sweet spot,” said resident Judie Mancuso.

Commissioner Mike Wilson asked whether the city could study creating a housing trust fund, collecting fees from the rentals to go into a pot for affordable housing. He also wondered if there should be a density limit in neighborhoods, not just the dwellings.

The new rules place a limit that no more than 20 percent of units within an existing or proposed multi-unit building will be allowed to operate as rentals, and no more than one unit in buildings with five or fewer units.

“I think you make a good point,” Wiener responded. “We want to make sure the neighborhood character is maintained.”

Source: Orange County Register

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