City hones in on three approaches to short-term rental ordinance for council review

Options remain in drafting process, public provides feedback at community workshop.

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Nearly every member of the public who spoke at the final short-term rentals (STRs) workshop Oct. 10 indicated that the three draft options for a new STR ordinance in Long Beach presented by the City still had room for improvement.

The well-attended workshop– according to 8th District Councilmember Al Austin– included a review of feedback given from the public at the previous two workshops. It also included a look at additional outreach efforts and introduced drafts of three potential options for addressing the issues surrounding STRs in Long Beach. These three options, likely after additional revision over the course of the next month, are on the agenda for the Nov. 13 council meeting.

“I think it’s a little early for me to commit to a position on this right now,” Austin told the Signal Tribune. “I’ve been watching this issue for some time, and I’m respecting the process. Obviously, I’m concerned about our housing stock and the ability for people to have affordable housing in the city of Long Beach, but, also, I respect the rights of individuals to use their properties as income as well. I think we need– as a city council– to find a place that balances all of those interests moving forward.”
Austin also said the diversity of each pocket of Long Beach will play into the variety of opinions from the public and will need to be factored into the council’s decision-making process.

“I think my district is impacted a little differently than other areas of the city and, so, the diversity of Long Beach is going to play out with this issue, I think, in a big way,” Austin said.
Long Beach Development Services defines STRs as “a home, or portion of a home, rented by paying guests for short stays (30 days or less),” according to Wednesday’s presentation, which included a brief recap of the process that has been unfolding about the issue since the city council gave a directive for a review of STR regulation in March 2017.

In the year and several months that has passed since then, Lisa Wise Consulting, Inc. has worked closely with the City to incorporate public input into the process of developing a proposal for an ordinance to regulate STRs for the city council’s consideration. STRs represent less than 1 percent of the city’s housing stock, and the majority of STRs in the city are along the coastline, according to the presentation.

“We expect these options to be revised and refined and put together into a draft report,” Jennifer Daughterty, senior associate with Lisa Wise, said at the workshop. “That draft report will be presented to council on Nov. 13, and, from that meeting, we expect to get direction from council on how to proceed. If council gives us direction to move forward with drafting an ordinance, then we will move forward with public hearings.”

“Broadly speaking, in terms of themes, we’ve heard from the community, we’ve heard both positive and negative [feedback],” Daughtery said, highlighting the issues that have surfaced during the public-input process.

Per the presentation, the primary arguments in favor of STRs in the city include hosts depending upon the supplemental income from renting out their property, STR guests supporting local businesses and increased curb appeal of houses that are used as STRs as a result of owners keeping up with maintenance and improvements.

Primary arguments opposed include complaints about noise and parking issues that occur (more often in non-hosted STRs, where the owner does not reside on the property with the renters), “party houses” developing as a result of lack of enforcement for noise regulations and any house rules given by owners and concerns about the impact of STRs on the rental stock and housing shortage.

Daugherty said the three options presented Wednesday were part of the “alternatives” phase of the process and that there would still be time to incorporate feedback from the public into the options before presenting them to council next month. She said the three options were still to be considered “works in progress.” In every option, the City’s noise ordinance would apply.

Option one has the least regulations built into it and requires owners to register with the City, provide a local 24-hour contact, pay the City’s 12 percent Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT)– also known as the hotel bed tax, according to the City’s website– and provide a registration number in listings of the rental property.

Option two includes all of the above and specifies that owners may have up to two STRs or three if one is the primary residence (a hosted STR). This option also limits the number of STRs in multi-family buildings, limits un-hosted stays in an owner’s primary residence to 90 days and includes a maximum occupancy of two people per bedroom plus two people in a room other than a bedroom, but no more than 10 people total in one night.

The third option includes all of the above and prohibits un-hosted STRs in designated areas through a petition process.

After Daugherty presented the three options, she opened the floor for public comment. The majority of people who spoke during public comment were owners of STRs who either had questions about the different options for better understanding, had significant criticism of one or more of the options or both.
One commenter asked if a “no-action” option were being considered and evaluated equally with the other options. After Daughtery indicated that, no, that was not a piece of their proposals thus far, a member of the audience yelled, “Can we vote for that?”

Daugherty said it ultimately is up to council to choose to move forward on none of the options presented, and that the option is available regardless of it being included in the draft proposal.
Representatives with Airbnb, the most common platform for owners to list their STRs in Long Beach, according to the presentation, was present at the workshop. None of the representatives, including spokesperson Rebecca Morales, could speak on-the-record, but Morales sent the company’s official statement to the Signal Tribune via email.

“It is encouraging to see city leaders take a proactive and transparent approach to addressing this important issue,” John Choi, Airbnb public policy manager, said. “As community feedback has shown, Long Beach residents want to preserve the economic benefits that homesharing provides for them, local businesses and the city. We look forward to working with the community and lawmakers to enact regulations that are fair, affordable and streamlined and do not pit neighbors against neighbors.”
Daugherty included in the presentation overlapping themes that indicate what is wanted is an approach where any regulations put in place are enforceable, a simple registration process is established and a grace-period to allow for the adjustment to new requirements is provided.

Following Wednesday’s workshop, public input will be reviewed and incorporated into the three options where possible. The revised and finalized proposal will be presented to council for review at the regularly scheduled Nov. 13 city council meeting at 5pm at the council chamber, 333 W. Ocean Blvd., and public comment will be available at that time.