Huntington Beach cracks down on illegal in-home businesses, including sober-living homes and short-term rentals


Calling it an effort to maintain residents’ quality of life, the city of Huntington Beach will collaborate with the Orange County district attorney’s office to devise a plan to crack down on illegal in-home businesses in residential areas.

The City Council gave City Atty. Michael Gates the green light Monday to partner with Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas and draft a proposal.

The partnership comes after council members Erik Peterson and Lyn Semeta directed Gates to devise a plan because the city receives a lot of quality-of-life complaints, inundating code enforcement officers.


Peterson has said the proposal is a way to cast a “wider net” and target unregulated sober-living homes and illegal short-term vacation rentals.

Police say complaints about such places typically are related to noise and parking.

A formal proposal will be given to the City Council in about a month.

Councilman Patrick Brenden dissented Monday, saying the plan could be interpreted as “discriminatory of certain in-house operations,” referring to sober-living facilities.

Gates said in an interview that Rackauckas gave the city approval to prosecute under the state’s Business and Professions Code against unfair business practices. It gives the city the “legal tools” to go after illegal businesses aggressively, Gates said.

Gates assured the council Monday that his office would focus solely on illegal and unlicensed in-home businesses after hearing concerns from Brenden and Councilman Billy O’Connell, who said he had been “around long enough to see innocent people get sucked up in things.”

Semeta said it is elected officials’ duty to “help preserve the quality of life for residents.”

City officials have said little can be done about sober-living dwellings with six or fewer residents that don’t offer treatment, are zoned residential and don’t require a license to operate. Those are classified as “regular households.”


Gates has said the city has paid close attention to cities such as Costa Mesa that also are trying to address the issue but have met with legal challenges. In February, a sober-living home operator filed a lawsuit against Costa Mesa alleging that its local regulations are discriminatory and unconstitutional.

It’s unclear how many illegal sober-living homes are operating in Huntington Beach.

Short-term vacation rentals — typically residences rented out for 30 days or less — aren’t allowed in Surf City, but many are listed on online rental sites.

Vega writes for Times Community News.