Long Beach’s current policy on short-term rentals is an unenforced ban — but you wouldn’t know it by perusing sites like Airbnb, which boast more than 1,000 homes for temporary visitors to the city.
So the City Council took one more step at its Tuesday, Jan. 21, meeting in the years-long process to regulate the industry. But there’s still more work to be done before a policy can actually be implemented.
After hearing from more than 80 people who spoke in public comment on the topic, the panel opted to reject an ordinance that city staff had proposed and instead approved, in a series of votes, a set of new rules to incorporate in a local law.
That law will likely take a month to come back to the council for approval. Even then, it will need to come back to the panel for one more blessing before it can go to the mayor’s desk for his signature.
The most controversial of the new rules was to cap the number of short-term rentals in Long Beach that are not held in the host’s primary residence to 1,000; that rule passed on a 5-3 vote, with Councilwoman Mary Zendejas (First), Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce (Second) and Councilman Roberto Uranga (Seventh) dissenting. (Ninth District Councilman Rex Richardson was absent.)
That change came after hearing from housing advocates who argued that the original proposal — to cap those rentals at 1% of the city’s housing stock, which stood at roughly 1,700 homes — took too many units out of the pool of potential places for Long Beach residents to live.
“Basically, short-term rentals eat up the housing stock, at the expense of long-term tenants,” resident Myron Wollin said. “We’re in a housing crunch, and we need all the units we can get to keep our housing prices down.”
Zendejas and Pearce, for their parts, were even more persuaded by that argument. They advocated unsuccessfully for even lower caps on the number of short-term rentals before voting against the 1,000 maximum.
Other new rules, all of which were supported unanimously, included allowing census tracts to vote to opt out of allowing short-term rentals altogether and relying on hosting platforms, such as Airbnb, to ensure listings have valid registrations with the city.
We do have a housing crisis,” Pearce said. “We know that we are also a city where tourism is growing, and we find ourselves really trying to make sure that we create a policy that is thoughtful and mindful of both of these.”
Regulations in the original proposal that were also approved by the council included requiring all short-term rentals to have a local 24-hour contact; maintaining quiet hours from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., including in outdoor pools and hot tubs; and limiting the number of short-term rentals allowed in multi-unit buildings, using a sliding scale depending on the building’s size.
Long Beach will have dedicated staff to ensuring the new law, once it is enacted, is enforced.
The ordinance will go into effect 181 days after the council gives the final okay — which likely won’t happen before March. Short-term rental hosts can then begin registering with the city, and Long Beach will begin enforcing the law 180 days after that initial registration period.
For the council members who came one step closer to turning that new law into a reality after hours of discussion on Tuesday, the ground made was significant.
“I think this has been one of the most rewarding policy developments that we’ve actually gone through,” Fifth District Councilwoman Stacy Mungo said. “I know we don’t always agree, and I know the crowd doesn’t always support everyone, and I think that eventually we got to a place that was great.”