LB Councilmembers vote to allow un-hosted short-term rentals in future ordinance

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On Tuesday, Nov. 17, the Long Beach City Council directed city staff to prepare an ordinance allowing for unhosted short-term rentals (STRs).

Back in May, the council considered an ordinance to regulate STRs, allowing for both hosted and un-hosted STRs. During the discussion, the council directed the city attorney to work on a revised ordinance that would only allow hosted STRs.

Hotel workers worry that STRs will further decimate their industry

The council’s approval came to the dismay of hotel workers, who said that short-term rentals exacerbate the already precarious state of the hotel industry.

Heather Rozman, executive director of the Long Beach Hospitality Alliance, pointed out that hotel occupancy rates are at record lows due to the pandemic.

Hotel occupancy declined by 45% during the first half of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019, according to a staff report. Room rates have also decreased by 13.3%, revealing a struggling industry.

“This new ordinance will only undermine the hotel industry’s ability to recover from the coronavirus pandemic,” Rozman said. “Long Beach families need homes and hotels need guests.”

Currently, both city and state health orders allow un-hosted short-term rentals because they reduce close contact.

AirBNB representative Alex Bland pointed out that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has expressed a preference for un-hosted STRs over hotels for the same reason. Both AirBNB and VRBO have released more intensive cleaning requirements for hosts.

Last year, there were approximately 670 unhosted STRs and approximately 170 hosted STRs in Long Beach.

The big concern from residents? Enforcement.

During public comment, residents shared their STR horror stories. Rose Park resident Audrey Luna said the increase in garbage caused by unhosted rental sites had caused a rodent infestation near her home. Resident Andy Passage said his unhosted STR had been used to film pornography.

Second District resident Sylvia Salcedo also lives near an unhosted STR, which she said has transformed her “once peaceful neighborhood.” She cited loud noise, parking constraints and drug use by the STR’s visitors.

“The burden of responsibility has been put on the neighbors, it has been our responsibility to monitor the STRs on a daily basis and report violations,” Salcedo said. “The owner/host has no vested interest in maintaining the character of our neighborhood.”

Councilmember Jeannine Pearce pointed out that the ordinance includes an enforcement arm to address non-compliant STRs. It also includes a $1,000 fine for each violation by an STR host and the ability for the City to revoke an STR permit.

“Every time I have a conversation with one of my constituents that’s upset about a party house, I remind them that regulating it is the way that we get the tools and the toolbox to hold them accountable to the standards that we deserve,” Pearce said.

“For too long, we’ve done this in a wild west way. That is why we brought this item forward.”

For neighborhoods that want to ban STRs, the City will make available a petition process. Ballots will be sent to every residential property owner in that census block. If the majority of property owners agree, the whole census block would be opted-out of the ordinance.

Chart showing an overview of City Council’s Short-Term Ordinance. (Chart by Emma DiMaggio | Signal Tribune)

The council unanimously approved the item. City staff will return to the council with a full ordinance, including some changes recommended by councilmembers during their discussion.

Summary of changes to the ordinance proposal:

• Hosts only allowed two STRs, one at their primary residence and one at their non-primary residence
• Caps the total number of STRs at 800
• “Limited event permits” for large groups with a maximum of 10 guests only allowed four times a year

Other features of the proposal:
• Annual registration and fee required
• 24-hour contact to respond to nuisance complaints
• No STRs allowed in rental units, affordable units, accessory dwelling units or dorms

The next city council meeting will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 8 at 5 p.m. via teleconference.