On Jan. 21, the Long Beach City Council passed a Short-Term Rental (STR) ordinance that has two serious flaws. Unless corrected at an upcoming Council meeting, this ordinance will go into effect with serious, adverse consequences for Long Beach residents.
To be clear, there are no issues with the provisions allowing hosted/owner occupied short-term (less than 30 days) rentals, or allowing a primary residence to be short-term rented up to 90 days per year. These provisions provide needed income to our local residents, while the presence and involvement of the owner generally prevents the nuisance activity and neighborhood degradation that accompany unsupervised “hotel” operations.
The troubling provisions are the terms applicable to non-resident owners, or “investors,” who buy homes for the primary purpose of conducting short-term rental operations. As currently drafted, the ordinance allows non-primary resident investors to buy multiple properties to operate as short-term rentals 365 days per year. This creates unlimited and unregulated hotel operations in residential areas anywhere in our city. The problems are compounded by the unprecedented term allowing large scale parties and events at these homes.
Equally troubling is that every one of the investor-owned full-time STR properties would otherwise be available to address housing needs of local residents. In the midst of a housing crisis, the City Council approved a measure that they acknowledge will remove at least a thousand units from the stock of available housing, with a provision to enable increases every year.
Further, this ordinance harms all Long Beach residents, even those in neighborhoods with few STRs. Sacramento has threatened draconian measures on cities and towns that fail to increase available local housing. This includes financial sanctions and proposals to allow multi-unit, multi-story buildings in any residential area, destroying the peace and privacy of our homes and accelerating the destruction of our many historic neighborhoods.
Long Beach will make itself a target of such measures if it adopts an ordinance that significantly decreases available housing. The proposed ordinance is out-of-step with the trend in rules governing STRs in other California cities, which is to prohibit or restrict non-owner occupied STRs in order to preserve neighborhoods and available housing.
Many similar cities prohibit STRs, or non-owner occupied STRs, altogether (for example, Seal Beach, Huntington Beach, Manhattan Beach, Santa Monica, Laguna Beach, Orinda, San Diego (limits STR license to owner’s primary residence); others limit the number of days any home can be short-term rented (for example, San Francisco, limited to full-time residents only and 90 days of rental per year). Such limitations avoid “hotel” operations in residential neighborhoods and the adverse impacts on long-term housing.
Similarly, short-term rentals in Long Beach should be prohibited for non-primary resident owners; or, if permitted at all, restricted to 90 days of short-term rentals per year, just like resident owners. Such a term will prevent the entire removal of these homes from the long-term market, and a 90-day limit, which parallels the provision for short-term rentals of primary residences, creates uniformity and fairness. Nor should such owners be permitted to conduct large-scale commercial parties in residential neighborhoods, something that is generally banned by other communities.
I urge concerned residents to write or email the City Council, urging the following changes to the ordinance before it is finalized:
• Prohibit short-term rentals by non-primary resident owners, or limit such rentals to 90 days per year;
• Prohibit absentee owners from owning multiple units for short-term rentals; and
• Prohibit large-scale, commercial events at residential homes.
The future of our community is at stake, and these simple revisions, already enacted by many other cities, will help preserve our community. The incremental income that can be earned by the City from these operations does not even come close to compensating for the tangible and intangible costs such operations would impose.
Laura Lindgren is a Long Beach resident.