Laguna Beach imposes 45-day moratorium on short-term rentals

Laguna Beach imposes 45-day moratorium on short-term rentals, searches for long-term solution

The Laguna Beach City Council has declared a 45-day moratorium on new short-term rentals, becoming the latest Southern California city to regulate a rapidly growing industry.

Websites such as Airbnb, Vacation Rentals by Owner and Homeaway have gained popularity by offering rooms in vacation-destination cities at rates often cheaper than nearby hotels.

Council members unanimously voted this week to impose the temporary ban after residents complained that the practice damages the quality of life in the city's neighborhoods.

During the moratorium, the city will not issue any permits to property owners wishing to rent space in their houses or apartments for 30 days or less.

“We have an obligation to the residents of Laguna Beach. That is who we serve,” said Councilwoman Toni Iseman, who proposed the ban.

Tenant turnover breeds loud parties, the blocking of driveways by cars and increased trash on streets, residents said.

“People are climbing over fences to get to the beach,” resident John Thomas told the council. He read directly from the city's municipal code about the area where his house stands.

“The zone is intended to provide a quiet living environment free from room-and-boarding houses, commercial and industrial activities,” he said. “It couldn't be much clearer than that.”

But Ronnie Rogers, who lives on the property he rents on Reed Street, said he considers short-term rentals a viable alternative for people who can't afford to stay in luxury hotels.

“On-site management makes a difference,” Rogers said. “I require substantial deposits. If they do any damage, they lose their deposit.”

The council declared the moratorium on new short-term rentals as a temporary salve while city staff researches long-term solutions.

Owners pay $275 for a permit that allows them to rent out space under Laguna's current ordinance. But city staff said many owners do not register with the city and rent rooms in secret. When people don't register, the city misses out on the revenue from so-called transient occupancy taxes.

Popular short-term rental websites list hundreds of available rooms in the city, which is a “great disparity” to the 64 permitted businesses, a city staff report found.

And while applications for short-term rentals are on the rise, so are complaints regarding the practice, according to the report.

Other Southern California cities have taken different approaches to dealing with short-term rentals.

Santa Monica's City Council voted unanimously this month to bar the rental of units for fewer than 30 days. The measure legalizes home-sharing — renting a couch or spare bedroom, for instance — as long as the host registers with the city and pays taxes.

Aliso Viejo recently banned all short-term rentals in residential zones, citing complaints similar to those heard in Laguna, according to the city staff report.

Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow said he was concerned about websites listing properties whose owners had not received the necessary permits to operate short-term rentals.

He asked city staff to research whether the city could impose any restrictions on the websites.

bryce.alderton@latimes.com

 

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