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La Cañada officials consider ban on short-term vacation rentals

Airbnb
Short-term vacation rentals, such as listed on Airbnb, would be banned in La Cañada, according to a new ordinance recently recommended by the Planning Commission to the City Council.
(File Photo)

Homeowners could soon face fines for renting out properties for fewer than 30 days at a time, according to an ordinance reviewed by the La Cañada Flintridge Planning Commission Tuesday and recommended to the City Council for approval.

The commission studied the issue in 2016 in preparation for the city’s zoning code update. City officials have since received complaints about homes being rented out for parties that brought traffic, noise and parking issues to residential and commercial areas.

Concerns about the legality of a for-profit party that attracted hundreds to an unoccupied Gould Avenue mansion Saturday have drawn La Cañada city officials and sheriff’s detectives into a complicated tale of ownership, vacancy and tenants’ rights.

When a vacant Gould Avenue residence was used last summer to host advertised, for-profit pool parties, the city sought a restraining order to cease all activity there. Another home on Ivafern Lane has been repeatedly used for parties that have drawn sheriff’s officials to the site, staff reports indicate.

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The draft ordinance originally defined a short-term vacation rental as “a dwelling unit or portion of a dwelling unit … rented for dwelling, lodging or sleeping purposes by the owner to another party for a period of 28 consecutive days in exchange for any form of monetary or non-monetary consideration.”

A recent search of La Cañada Flintridge properties available for rent through popular website Airbnb indicated 12 listings were available for fewer than 30 days at a time. Other popular sites, like Vrbo, did not provide exact addresses for listings.

Commissioners Tuesday recommended extending the minimum rental period from 28 days to 30, to align with state laws recently adopted by the Council regulating accessory dwelling units (ADUs).

Short-term rentals in La Cañada Flintridge
La Cañada city officials are considering a ban on short-term home rentals of residential properties. A recent search on the site Airbnb showed 12 such properties listed inside city limits.
(Steve Greenberg)

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Commissioner Jeff McConnell said he’s glad the ban would apply to those units as well.

“Since we’ll be building all these ADUs for people to live in, I don’t want them to be rented out as short-term rentals,” McConnell said.

Resident David Haxton advised the definition of short-term rental be widened to include events for which a property could be rented that excluded lodging.

“If you’re trying to ban also the rental of your home for parties, just for an afternoon or three days of parties, you need to say that,” he suggested. “And, for practicality, you need to also prohibit the advertisement.”

Assistant City Atty. Elena Gerli clarified such advertising could be prohibited by law, as commercial speech is not protected under the First Amendment. Typically, she added, advertising platforms comply with cities’ requests to pull illegal ads.

“If the city bans the activity, we haven’t really had problems with the platforms themselves,” Gerli said.

Under the ordinance, offenders would be subject to graduating fines from $100 to $1,000 for successive violations in a 12-month period and possible misdemeanor status.

Passed with 4-0 approval (Commissioner Mark Kindhouse was absent), the ordinance will go to the La Cañada Flintridge City Council for approval.

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