Santa Ana Council Reacts to Complaints About West Floral Park Vacation House

In response to neighbors upset about an entire home in West Floral Park being rented out with a high turnover rate, Santa Ana City Council members on Tuesday signaled their willingness to change city codes to crack down on the practice.

“We certainly don’t want homes running like hotels in a residential neighborhood,” said Councilwoman Michele Martinez, who brought forward the discussion to the council.

The council wants to make sure there’s something in the city’s municipal code “that assures us that folks can’t rent their homes like hotels and have people coming there every single day [who] disrupt” the neighborhood.

Under her direction, city planning staff are planning to bring back a short-term moratorium on commercial uses in R1 residential zones at the Sept. 15 council meeting.  Staff are also slated to study loopholes in the municipal code that the council could close.

The issue was brought forth by residents upset about the West Floral Park home, which has been rented out as a short-term vacation home for visiting tourists. Some of the guests would throw pool parties late at night and stay up until 2 a.m., neighbors told the Orange County Register.

Several of the neighbors came to Tuesday’s meeting to urge the council to take action.

One of them, Diego Matzkin, said that in the last two months alone, neighbors have counted about eight different groups, 40 different cars and about 100 different people at the home.

Lorenzo Knapp, who lives across the street from the house, said the short-term rentals are “interrupting our whole way of life,” with late-night activities making it difficult for him to sleep.

His family lives in a quiet residential neighborhood, he said, and “all of a sudden we have a commercial enterprise across the street.”  Knapp urged the council to “bear down” on the property owner.

City officials have issued two citations against the homeowner, which were heard by an administrative hearing officer last Thursday.  A ruling is expected by this coming Sunday, and the homeowner can appeal it.

The city code currently prohibits hotels in residential neighborhoods, with hotels defined as having more than five rooms.

In this case, the house was listed as having six rooms.  But after Planning Commission Bruce Bauer – who lives down the street – told the homeowner she was running an illegal hotel, she reduced the listing to judge five rooms.

It’s become increasingly popular for people to rent out individual rooms in their homes, through websites like Airbnb.com.  Some council members on Tuesday made clear they do not plan to crack down on such single-room rentals.

“We’re all supportive of Airbnb,” said Martinez, a sentiment that was echoed by   Mayor Miguel Pulido.

But Councilman Vincent Sarmiento saw it differently.

“I’m even concerned about the Airbnb model,” he said.  The city should figure out what to do because “these businesses are coming,” he added.

You can contact Nick Gerda at ngerda@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.