Further reforms for vacation rentals on Newport Island narrowly approved

A view looking down 38th street on Newport Island.
A view looking down 38th Street on Newport Island. The Newport Beach City Council approved additional restrictions to short-term rentals on Newport Island, where streets are narrow and the majority of houses are single-family dwellings.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

A new set of reforms is in the works for short-term rentals with new approvals from the Newport Beach City Council.

At their meeting Tuesday night, council members continued a discussion postponed in February on a resolution to amend the city’s local coastal program to increase restrictions on vacation rentals on Newport Island, where residents have long complained about noise and parking congestion that some allege are caused by short-term renters.

Community development director Seimone Jurjis said about 68% of the 119 properties on Newport Island have single-family homes on them. As of 2018, just three of those properties were vacation rentals, but today 18 are permitted for that use.

City staff previously proposed capping the maximum number of vacation rental permits to 20 and to require a minimum three-night stay. Rentals would also have to be owner-occupied and managed. Non-compliant permits would be phased out in the year following adoption of the amendment, which relies on approval from the California Coastal Commission.

Following discussion with the state, city staff suggested revisions to the proposed amendment that would eliminate the requirement for properties to be owner-occupied and, instead, allow one rental per week. This would mean that if a renter checked out on a Wednesday, for example, the property’s owner would not be able to rent again until the following week.

Additionally, potential revisions include requiring an overnight occupancy of two people per bedroom — plus two others, with a maximum of 10 — in addition to implementing tougher parking restrictions and a daytime occupancy, which would be whatever the overnight allowance is plus a maximum of six additional people.

A woman walks her dog past a waterfront duplex on 38th Street on Newport Island.
A woman walks her dog past a waterfront duplex on 38th Street on Newport Island. The duplex is used as a vacation rental.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

The City Council approved the new revisions, but elected to maintain the owner-occupancy requirement as opposed to striking it in a 4-3 vote. Mayor Pro Tem Kevin Muldoon and Councilmen Will O’Neill and Noah Blom dissented.

The Newport Island restrictions come on the heels of other sweeping reforms passed by the Newport Beach City Council in the last year.

Short-term rental operators pushed back against the new regulations, arguing that the increase in restrictions would prevent them from being able to rent out their properties. Neighboring residents pushed in favor of maintaining owner-occupancy as a requirement to hold a short-term rental permit.

Councilwoman Diane Dixon, who represents the residents on Newport Island, said that she is supportive of rentals, but that short-term rentals in particular are a specific, but not new phenomena that Newport Beach and other cities are contending with.

“Seven or eight years ago, we had fewer than 600 short-term rental permits [citywide]. So, really, no one thought there was a problem. We did not need to regulate until it became a problem with 1,500 [permits],” said Dixon. “We have been working hard to keep our neighborhood safe and protect the quality of life of all of our residents.”

Dixon made reference to comparisons made between rental properties and hotels during public comment on the item, adding that the conditional use permits for hotels requires security management plans and on-site enforcement. The same is not true of short-term rentals, which requires city code enforcement officers.

A duplex at 3800 Channel Place on Newport Island is a short-term rental.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

“We have, as other cities have, experienced mini-hotels planting themselves inside our neighborhoods,” said Dixon.

Councilman Noah Blom questioned whether or not the proposed amendment to the local coastal program for the properties on Newport Island was “piecemeal,” raising concerns about using city resources to focus in on 18 short-term rental units as opposed to providing a more generalized approach to a citywide issue.

“I want to see a great solution. I want to see residents happy. But at the end of the day, I don’t want to throw things against a wall and see what sticks. I want a plan. I want a good plan that we think we can pass at Coastal [Commission],” said Blom. “I don’t have a dog in the fight. I was on Newport Island on Saturday. Beautiful, I really enjoyed it. I understand the parking issues. I also have a place on the Peninsula. We drive around a lot. It’s part of the deal down there.

“But in the same regard, Coastal Commission isn’t about what Newport likes. I think that’s the fear I have sending something up is that are we all of the sudden going to be the elitists trying to throw the accessibility on this one island?” said Blom.

Councilwoman Joy Brenner requested an appeals process be implemented for particularly egregious cases that require exceptions and Councilman Duffy Duffield voiced his support for the revisions, stressing that property owners can still rent out their homes.

Mayor Brad Avery said that he felt the majority of renters were fine, but that there were enough individuals that weren’t being good neighbors that additional regulations were necessary.

"[Renters] have to get the message from the city, from the owners, from the agents that they cannot disturb the neighbors,” said Avery.

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