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Vacationing in Newport Beach? City to decide on tightening short-term rental rules

Looking for a seaside vacation in Newport Beach? You may be greeted with new rules as you check into your short-term rental.

City officials are continuing discussions about tightening short-term rental rules to balance demand as a vacation destination with the quality of life for residents who live in the popular beach town.

The city for months has been talking about the surge seen in short-term rentals, a booming business that has grown in recent years but has caused tension in neighborhoods. Discussions on June 23 about added regulations gives a glimpse of what may be approved by officials on Tuesday, July 14, when the council could vote to finalize proposed additional rules.

If approved, operators who manage short-term rental properties will have to meet parking requirements, limit the number of people inside the rentals and there will be a central answering service for complaints.

The city’s short-term lodging permit ordinance dates back to 1992, well before popular online sites such as Airbnb and VRBO led to a market explosion around the globe. It is one of the cities in Southern California with the most short-term rentals.

Nearby Huntington Beach is among the communities that don’t allow short-term rentals, while other popular coastal towns have tighter rules and regulations on permitting than Newport Beach.

The city has 1,545 active permits for short-term rentals, defined by the city as a lodging unit occupied for less than 30 consecutive days. That’s not including rouge rentals on online websites that are not in the city’s system.

Scott Carpenter, owner and general manager of iTrip Newport Beach, said there’s a lot of good operators in the city, but also some that cause issues.

Some of the proposed rules are common sense, he said, like the parking space requirements and limits on the number of people.

A two-bedroom condo that advertises its sleeps 10 people is too many people for that small of a place, he said.

“It does create some challenges for some of the neighbors,” he said. “There’s some good rules already on the books, but the city isn’t making the investment they need to enforce the rules.”

The added restrictions could mean an increase in staff resources for enforcement, as well as an outsourced answering service expected to cost about $27,000, not including first-year implementation costs. Those costs may be offset by additional permit fees to the lodging operators, a staff report to the City Council said.

Short-term rentals typically generate about $4 million in annual transient occupancy tax revenue, officials said.

Some additional rules include no rentals to people under 21 to minimize the number of parties, and operators must have a “Nuisance Response Plan” to ensure owners take responsibility for issues with their customers and say how they would deal with unruly guests.

The city formed an ad hoc committee last July to review the short-term lodging regulations – it held several community events and meetings.

The city discussed modifying the short-term lodging regulations at a meeting in mid-February, but the committee was asked to do more public outreach and refine its recommendations. Shortly after, the coronavirus pandemic hit with the city opting to shut down all short-term rentals for several weeks. It started allowing overnight stays again in mid-May.

Councilwoman Joy Brenner, who sits on the city committee, said if approved, the changes would go into affect by mid-August. There’s been a freeze during this time on taking new rental applications.

“We’re hoping to get to the point where we can figure out what we are doing,” she said. “How we can effectively enforce, will be a work in progress.”

The outsourced answering service would collect complaints with a requirement that there has to be a person for the rental, whether it’s an owner or manager, able to get to the property within 30 minutes following a complaint.

“It’s as close as we can get to having an on-site manager for these ‘unmanaged hotels,’” Brenner said.

The new rules would hopefully “keep the good operators and weed out the bad so our people can enjoy their own quality of life in their own neighborhood again,” she said.

For the tighter restrictions on how many people can be in a home, the new rules would go by the fire code based on the square footage of the property.

A new rule was passed in June for rentals on Newport Island, requiring a minimum four-night stay to curb high turnover on the quaint, bayside community.

Mark Markos, who lives on Newport Island, said it was a good compromise for now.

“If we can get things under control and clean up some of the rentals that were a little bit more loose than others … and we work with short-term owners to abide by that and we all work together, I think there’s a way to find a middle ground,” he said. “I want to truly find a balance for (Newport Island) to make residents happy and at the same time be fair to the short-term rental owners, if they work with us.”

Source: Orange County Register

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