Resident Anger at Short-Term Rentals Has Reached Boiling Point in Anaheim

A vacation rental in an Anaheim neighborhood near Disneyland. (Photo credit: unknown)

A vacation rental in an Anaheim neighborhood near Disneyland. (Photo credit: unknown)

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They’re a “nightmare” and a “cancer.” They leave behind trash, beer bottles and even a crack pipe. They could spread disease, and possibly harbor child molesters. They create “an atmosphere of unconscionable greed.”

These were some of the words Anaheim residents at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting used to describe short-term rentals, a business model whereby home owners rent out their houses to travellers on sharing websites like Airbnb.

This business is booming in Anaheim and in destination cities across the world, and many residents say it’s tearing apart the fabric of their communities, turning once quiet neighborhoods into mini-motel districts. Anaheim’s problems are most acute in the neighborhoods surrounding Disneyland.

City officials say there are already about 400 short-term rentals in the city — a number that doubled in one year — and they’ve received on average five to 10 new applications a week. An opponent of the businesses who studied the issue says the number is closer to 600.

One resident said investors have been going door-to-door, making all cash offers at 125 percent of a home’s appraised value.

The operators, meanwhile, say residents are vastly overstating the problems caused by short-term rentals and insisted that regulations can be enhanced without killing the business altogether.

After hearing testimony from residents and operators, the council unanimously decided to extend a 45-day moratorium on new short-term rental permit applications for another six months.

Council members first enacted the moratorium last month to give city staff an opportunity to overhaul an ordinance intended to regulate the businesses. They extended the moratorium so they could receive additional input from residents and operators and craft a new ordinance.

Santa Ana also passed a moratorium, but lifted it during Tuesday’s council meeting after no one form the public objected, according to the Orange County Register. Officials in that city are still working on regulations, the Register reported.

Since the moratorium was first passed in Anaheim, city officials held separate meetings with short-term rental operators and residents with the hope of finding common ground.

But what they found was a wide gulf. Residents overwhelmingly said short-term rentals were essentially motels operating in residential zones and are incompatible with residential neighborhoods. Operators said they believed they could be good neighbors and the problem could be solved with more effective enforcement of the city’s regulations.

“Why are we allowing businesses into my neighborhoods?” Resident Lauren Wilson asked the council Tuesday night. “You would not allow me to open a bakery in my home. I tried. They told me no.”

In just a few years, residents said they’ve become surrounded by short-term rentals. Many of them have added several bedrooms to the homes so they can rent to larger numbers of people. Under the city’s ordinance, a single bedroom can house up to three guests.

The issue has quickly become a major political challenge for city officials. On Monday, the hotel workers union UNITE HERE Local 11 and Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development (OCCORD) held a news conference with residents announcing their opposition to short-term rentals.

Union representatives said the businesses threaten the livelihoods of hotel employees. And according to OCCORD, investors have been jacking up rents on tenants in order to oust residents and turn the properties into short-term rentals, making an already bad housing shortage in Anaheim even worse.

OCCORD Policy Analyst Clara Turner said any new ordinance targeting short-term rentals must include a ban on advertising to stop them from listing on websites that facilitate the renting. She also said the law should include a “private right of action,” whereby residents can seek legal actions against violators of the ordinance.

Mayor Tom Tait acknowledged that the businesses were posing a serious threat to neighborhoods.

“You can have friends over for a drink or for a party. If you do that every night and start charging, it becomes a bar. You can’t have that,” Tait said, adding that an outright ban might not be “unreasonable.”

Operators who attended the meeting said a lot of misinformation is being spread around and pleaded with council members to not believe everything the residents were telling them. They insisted they maintain their properties well and don’t rent to locals who throw parties.

One woman, who broke into tears while at the speakers’ podium, said it was unfair to call operators child molesters. She added that the trash on the property she rents out was dropped there by residents who wanted to frame her as a bad operator.

Anaheim resident Joshua Rich, a motorcycle stuntman for movies, said he only rents his home when his work obliges him to travel for weeks at a time. It’s helped him make extra money while he’s gone and have a house sitter, he said.

“I’m just a private home owner who’s trying to live out his Hollywood dream. Please don’t take that opportunity away from me,” Rich said.

Please contact Adam Elmahrek directly at aelmahrek@voiceofoc.org and follow him on Twitter: @adamelmahrek

  • At stake in the community? Anaheim? Honestly, I have lived in West Anaheim, Stanton, Garden Grove, Buena Park & Westminster for over 20 years. In my experience I seldom find people that even know their neighbors names, Why do these people not complain about neighbors that rent rooms in their homes? I have seen many times people buy homes they cannot afford then make the mortgage payments using room renters.

    Advantage Owner, Extra income from a private resource.
    Advantage Owner, As a short term rental regular Landlord Tenant laws do not apply.
    Advantage Renter, Cheaper than a Hotel/Motel, No Credit Check.
    Advantage Renter, No lease, if the place turns out to be not what you like you can leave

    Disadvantage Owner, You do not really know who is staying in your home.

    Disadvantage Renter, You do not know who is in the place you are renting,

    I have used Air B&B and found it to be a good service, but would not be interested in using it in Anaheim or Santa Ana…

  • A volley ball team from Hawaii stayed in an Anaheim house near the convention center. I felt sorry for the neighbors. A whole bunch of screaming, partying kids. I’m sure they will do it again, because they said it was cheaper than getting hotel rooms, and the chaperone’s could monitor them under one roof better.

  • Vic Tobak

    There is a reason we have “zoning” laws and why come areas are zoned residential, commercial, and industrial.

    These Airbnb operators have no respect for their neighbors or quality of life. They just want to make a quick buck and hide behind the “it’s my house” argument. I guess Airbnb supporters would be okay with a brothel or meth lab in their neighborhoods.

    • In Anaheim? LOL how do you KNOW there is no Brothel or Meth Lab operating in Your neighborhood?

  • Austin Lynch

    There’s no question that rampant STR’s degrade neighborhood life – but I think every Anaheim resident would also be wise to care about the fate of hotel workers. You can be as callous as you want – but when a living wage union hotel job is replaced with a sub-minimum wage temp STR cleaning agency job, the person holding that job can’t afford rent, food, medical care, etc. And you will end up footing the bill. Just like, when you shop at Walmart, you’re helping Walmart shift the cost of housing and caring for their million plus workers off their shoulders and onto yours.

  • Slam

    Short Term Rentals are a nightmare no matter how you look at it. People that own these short term rental properties would tell you that it will help increase the value of your home but what if I am retired and my home is already paid off and I just want to live in a nice quiet neighborhood without constant strangers coming in and out trashing and destroying what I spent 30 years paying. How about the fact that public resources like schools will lose funding because there are not enough families with kids moving into these neighborhoods because they are priced out by these short term rentals. We all want to make money but that doesn’t mean you have to sell your soul.

  • kburgoyne

    Residential zoning exists distinct from commercial zoning for very legitimate reasons. If people want to operate hotels, they are free to buy up structures in commercial zones and operate their hotels. Just find out how fast things would get shut down if the houses surrounding the homes of the wealthy elite aristocracy were all bought up and turned into fraternity party houses for rent.

  • RyanCantor

    “City officials say there are already about 400 short-term rentals in the city — a number that doubled in one year — and they’ve received on average five to 10 new applications a week. An opponent of the businesses who studied the issue says the number is closer to 600.”

    Six hundred entrepreneurs, thousands of rooms . . . none of which required $158,000,000 tax subsidies from the city at the behest of the Chamber of Commerce.

    Let the free market ring.

    • kburgoyne

      Let the free market ring in all the houses surrounding yours. There is a reason why there are “residential” and “commercial” zonings.

      • David Zenger

        He was being facetious.

        • RyanCantor

          ^^^ *ding ding ding*

          Winner.

    • Mike Robbins

      No they just borrowed the money from Fannie Mae to buy the houses with little money invested. When they are put out of business many will lose nothing, we the people pay the cost.

  • Madeleine Spencer

    Get Real, Airbnb Democratizes the Industry and helps folks to afford the raising rates of housing which we all know is not affordable. Airbnb and Uber are meant to be disruptive technologies and the shared economy trumps outdated practices which includes the preservation of Unions that refuse to capitalize on newer industries, build cooperative workforces that actually help workers to establish their own freedom in the marketplace rather than maintain a dependance on exploitative corporations that don’t pay a fair wage. In case folks haven’t noticed there is no more manufacturing in America. Service work is being replaced by technology and people are going to have to get really creative if they wish to survive in America. Hip Hip Hooray for the Democratization of the marketplace. If folks said we no longer need to rely on fossil fuels would union workers in the auto industry fight to maintain our gross dependance on oil and the wars over the petro-dollar to sustain it? People need to begin to think outside the box or they are going to end up being fossils.

    • Cynthia Ward

      Uh…no. This is not Air B n B renting out a room as an empty nester. These are a wholly commercial business enterprise, and a high impact one at that, in 100% residentially zoned neighborhoods. This is no more compatible than an auto body repair shop and comparing it to changing your oil in the garage. Uber lets you earn money with your own car. These homes are Hertz rental fleet. Entire strings of them are owned by out of town investors without a stake in the area, they don’t live with the impacts. Sadly there is no winning this war. There are pros and cons no matter what comes out of City Hall at this point.

      I am one of the lucky neighbors, the vacation rental across the street boosted our comps when they paid full price (cash), they are good owners who work hard to do the right thing, and they only rent to very high-end clients. the nicest cars our neighborhood sees are parked across the street. The only downside we have experienced has been a No Smoking rule that puts tenants out on the curb for their cigarettes, and we clean up the butts on our evening clean-up and dog walk. But those good owners will be punished for the saturation of permits the City failed to put a cap on, made worse by bad owners that lack the ethics of the decent folks running the house across from us. Before the current owners/STR, the place was occupied by people who threw parties every weekend, and rented out the garage as living space to make ends meet. The people prior to them were even worse. So long-term tenants may be “known” as neighbors, but it doesn’t make them particularly desirable, and if they suck you are stuck with them for longer than a holiday weekend. BTW what happens when 400 houses hit the market overnight in a mass sell-out if Anaheim kills the project? Kiss your equity goodbye for the next 5 years to recover from that glut in the residential sales inventory. Or the out of town owners who have proven they don’t care about Anaheim might hang on to those rentals as long terms leases for a while, avoiding taking that bath on the resale, but being angry at loss of income they might not be as selective about their tenants as one might hope. that doesn’t mean I am happy about them. just sharing that getting rid of them may not be the happy ending some hope for .

      I respect the right of residents to enjoy the home they purchased in a residential neighborhood with no idea the City would allow their surroundings to become a MOTEL. That is precisely what the STRs are, de facto hotel/motels, but without the on site management that kicks the guests out of the pool when pool hours are over. And don’t get me started on the lack of basic Health and Safety code compliance, because by regulating and licensing the STRs 9and collecting TOT) those tax paying guests now have some expectation of oversight, and the first time (God forbid) someone is hurt by a situation that would likely be avoided by precautions generally taken in the REAL hospitality industry, the City will be on the hook for the lawsuit for allowing this. I’m actually surprised the hotel industry (one of the most powerful voices in Anaheim) did not howl at this! 400 to 600 houses (depending on the report one reads) at 2 people per bedroom. 3 to 6 bedrooms per house (WAY WAY underestimated, I know) but even a conservative guess is a whole lot of hotel rooms not rented at the Marriott.

      I know one STR owner who rents homes on the same street where they live, they keep a lid on things because they live RIGHT THERE. They will have their livelihood ripped out from under them by the guy we saw at a recent meeting who arrogantly made it clear he lowered himself to fly in from out state, telling us he owns AND OPERATES his string of multiple properties from there. How much oversight is he offering from out of state?

      The City screwed up SO BAD in the way they created this program. (thanks so much JORDAN BRANDMAN) that we are in for horrid consequences no matter what we do now. We had a chance to set up a system that let Anaheim residents run owner-occupied room for rent or B and B style rentals, and perhaps run one or two properties within the immediate neighborhood with strict oversight. Instead we opened the floodgates, without restrictions, letting investors add twice the number of bedrooms and taking the houses totally out of scale for the neighborhoods. Anaheim will almost certainly face a class action lawsuit from those impacted if the program remains, and likely a lawsuit from investors/businesses if the program gets killed. And taxpayers will foot the bill for the whole thing. I sure hope the “leaders” who pushed this in its current form scored big enough in campaign cash to have made selling the soul of our community worth the price.
      STUPID. STUPID. STUPID.

      • Mike Robbins

        These are carpetbaggers that snuck in under the noses of the people in charge. The council oversees a $300 mil budget plus lots going on in a city of 360,000 people and the city council was blind sided as far as I know.

    • kburgoyne

      There is a reason why we have “residential” and separate “commercial” zoning. Otherwise, why don’t we just let people open up convenience stores and liquor stores and adult toy shops out of their homes in every neighborhood? Should I be allowed to plant a huge gas tank under my front lawn and a commercial gas pump in my driveway to start selling gas?

      • Madeleine Spencer

        Absolutely not and selling gas out of your front yard is not the same as renting a room or having a sole proprietorship in which you run a business out of you home which is allowed.

        But there are more issues with current zoning laws and the spatial apartide that has been enacted for years in our cities issues dividing people of color from others. In my mind when discussing zoning this issue is more important folks being able to rent out a room in their house to bring in a little extra income.

        After reading about the issue further it is shown that there are many leasing companies who are getting in on the action and making money off of units which I do think is problematic and to address this issue regulations and enforcement that instantiates that only true sharing should be allowed is extremely important.

        On the other hand I hold no interest in the current housing market and the values that are promoted in the old idea of holding equity in home values since the crash is becoming obsolete, this has been shown to be a form of usury by banks who are exploiting people for their own gains while the American homeowner only gets further and further into debt and the renter is cut out altogether and has no real housing security and the fluctuations of the market then determines whether the renter will even be able to live in a city or not and it doesn’t matter if you have a job in the city.

        I was just in San Francisco and a one bedroom apartment costs 3,500.00 in rent for one month. A two bedroom apartment starts at 4,500.00. Seriously, something has got to give and in my mind people are clever and find ways around things this is what is brilliant and why the three guys who came up with Airbnb’s business model did the measure was liberatory. Everyone in San Francisco is an Uber driver and the Airbnb market is growing as a supplemental income for those who cannot afford to live.

        • Madeleine Spencer
        • Mike Robbins

          Uber drives people around. These rentals drive neighbors crazy. Like comparing wine to the ceramic plate industry..

        • David Zenger

          “spatial apartide”

          Congratulations. Opacity, ignorance and offensiveness all rolled into one comment. Bravo.

          • Madeleine Spencer

            Ah, it got you huh? Glad you recognize the offense. As it was meant to be.

          • David Zenger

            That little red line that pops up means something. You might not want to ignore it. Otherwise people may come to the conclusion that you are both ignorant and illiterate.

          • Madeleine Spencer

            Glad to know you have figured out how to use the red line David, red lining and claims of intelligence and superiority is exactly how spatial apartide began.

    • David Zenger

      Unfortunately, you have latched onto the least important aspect of this issue as far as those of us who live in Anaheim and especially around Disneyland are concerned.

      I couldn’t care less how many unionized hotel workers are hired or laid off. I do care about that house with the pool next to mine whose cash-strapped owner may just get an offer he can’t refuse one of these days.

      Then, hooray! I’ll have nice new neighbors every few days having pool parties!

    • Mike Robbins

      Uh What?

  • Luisa Lam

    The Short Term Renters have no stake in our community and neighborhoods, they only care about the money they make. There is no regard of human factor and how they are destroying communities and entire neighborhoods. I live surrounded by 10 short term rentals, it’s a nightmare, specially this summer was the worst.
    I hope city officials do the right thing and ban them from Anaheim, bring back the community and families.

  • Paul Lucas

    Costa Mesa is having a huge problem with this issue. Its an outright war between residents and operators of Air BnB units.

    • Mike Robbins

      War yes but we are 360,000 and they are 90.
      This should be an easy win if we get the people involved.
      BAN is the consensus
      Family neighborhoods for families.

      • David Zenger

        You might be right, but it’shard to mobilize people in the face of even a paltry minority. These people have a lot at stake and they are already mobilizing the “freedom friendly” running dogs propagandists to promote their “businesses.”

        • Mike Robbins

          Yes, most rentals are owned by people that have multiple units. But at the Council meeting the STR’s bring in the very few that have one rental and are supporting their sick grandma with the money.

          • David Zenger

            Yes.

            “I’m just a private home owner who’s trying to live out his Hollywood
            dream. Please don’t take that opportunity away from me,” Rich said.

            Oh, boo hoo.

  • Cynthia Ward

    Anaheim is cracking down so now the owners are buying up the houses in the a county island. No TOT collected, no licensing requirements…those islands will become uninhabitable.

    • David Zenger

      B-b-b-but Anaheim needs to be “freedom friendly” or at least so I’ve
      read on the Chamber of Commerce’s unofficial website. This means making a buck any way you can, and Devil take the hindmost.

      Want to ignite heavy metals and dump them on your neighbors? Go ahead. Heck, you’re an economic engine. Go for it! Want free land? Yes, we’ll GIVE it to you we’re freedom friendly! Want an upzone so you can displace small businesses and make a killing with high density housing? Want a massive tax kickback on a shaky hotel deal? We’re here for you.

      We’re Anaheim. No “nanny state” here. WE’RE FREEDOM FRIENDLY!