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Huntington Beach extends short-term rental deadline

Huntington Beach City Council voted to extend a deadline for delisting unpermitted short-term rentals through end of year.
The Huntington Beach City Council voted Tuesday to extend a deadline for delisting unpermitted short-term rentals through the end of the year.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

The Huntington Beach City Council on Tuesday night extended a deadline to delist unpermitted short-term housing rentals through the end of the year.

Short-term rentals, defined as a unit rented for 30 days or fewer, were technically prohibited in Huntington Beach until this year. But on Jan. 19, the council adopted a highly restrictive short-term rental ordinance allowing for hosted rentals — those where the property’s owner is on the premises throughout the rental period — in Huntington Beach. Existing unhosted rentals could continue in Sunset Beach, as long as the owner obtained a permit within six months.

The ordinance went into effect Feb. 19 and applications became available on March 2. The council directed staff to hold off on instructing hosting platforms to delist unpermitted rentals until Oct. 1.

On Tuesday night, that deadline was extended through the end of the year.

“As of Jan. 1, you cannot be listed unless you have a permit,” Director of Community Development Ursula Luna-Reynosa said. “The city will ensure that folks are well aware of this.”

A short-term rental ad-hoc committee, consisting of Mayor Kim Carr and Councilmen Erik Peterson and Dan Kalmick, heard concerns from residents that the ordinance didn’t allow unhosted short-term rentals beyond Sunset Beach.

“We heard a lot from people who really felt that the city should be considering a pathway to unhosted short-term rentals,” Carr said. “There are people that don’t feel that they’re very dissimilar to Sunset Beach, in that they have places that are either on the beach or within a couple of blocks from the beach ... They are good short-term rental operators.

“My goal is to come up with an ordinance that makes sense, that’s enforceable and that’s fair.”

City Council members ultimately did not vote to move forward with an alternate option that would have allowed three zones within the Coastal Overlay District with a capped amount of unhosted short-term rentals.

There were 867 listed short-term rentals in Huntington Beach from May 2019 to April 2020, but the permitting process has been at a snail’s pace since the spring. There were just 26 permitted short-term rentals in Huntington Beach listed as of Tuesday night.

A home inspection is needed before the permit is issued, Luna-Reynosa said, to ensure there are no life-safety issues at the property.

“I’m not aware of a big backlog,” Luna-Reynosa said. “One of the ways to make that process less expensive was to hire [an outside] building inspector ... but what I’m hearing is they’re having difficulties securing those individuals to come and do those inspections.”

Mayor Pro Tem Barbara Delgleize said she had been dealing with short-term rentals since 2005, since she’s a Realtor. She said “party homes” were an issue back then.

“It just seems like people have come out of the woodwork [to offer their homes as short-term rentals] now,” she said. “They’re doing it because they can’t afford the house, or to supplement their income, or because they’re a widow and their life has changed. I feel a little bit different about it now.”

Kathryn Levassiur, the founder of the Huntington Beach Short-Term Rental Alliance, has been issued one of the 26 permits.

Luna-Reynosa said the city did not do much reaching out to the short-term rental operators in Sunset Beach to let them know they still needed to apply for a permit.

“I thought the Short-Term Rental Alliance…would have done that type of outreach,” she said.

But Levassiur said in an interview Wednesday that the reason so few property owners had secured a permit was not because of lack of communication but because the ordinance was so restrictive. She said she paid close to $1,000 for her hosted short-term permit, including the property inspection, the business license, the actual permit and a fire extinguisher that the city requires.

“They made it difficult and then they wonder why people aren’t applying for permits,” Levassiur said. “They point the finger at the alliance, and at me, but I can’t make people go and get permits. All I can do is give them the information.

“The feedback I’m getting is that a lot of those property owners [in Sunset Beach] have older properties. They don’t want to invite code enforcement and a property inspector into their house, and open a can of worms that this and that needs to be updated in order to get a permit. That’s a major reason why they are not getting people running down to City Hall applying for permits.”

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