Anaheim Mayor Proposes Short-Term Rental Ban

Photo by Adam Elmahrek/Voice of OC

Supporters and opponents of short-term rentals listen to an Anaheim staff presentation on a new ordinance with stricter rules governing the controversial businesses.

Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait proposed banning short-term rentals at the end of a public workshop on the issue Tuesday, marking the first time a City Council member expressed support for an across-the-board prohibition of the controversial businesses.

Tait’s proposal followed a city staff presentation on a proposed ordinance that would go further in restricting short-term rentals than the current law, but stops short of a full ban. Among the new rules would be a cap on the current number of short-term rental operators in town and an increase in the fines issued for violations.

The council chambers was packed with dozens of supporters and opponents of the businesses, which have erupted thanks to the emergent sharing economy made possible by home sharing websites like Airbnb and VRBO.

Opponents say the businesses have turned their neighborhood into mini-hotel districts and robbed them of a sense of community. Supporters argue the impacts cited by some residents are exaggerated and that short-term rentals are occupied primarily by peaceful families vacationing at Disneyland and business professionals attending conventions.

People in both camps were unsatisfied with the city proposal.

Short-term rental owner Tal Price said the ordinance was “far too restrictive,” but said the owners wanted to suggest a few amendments. “We want to try and work together in the spirit of compromise,” he said.

Meanwhile, opponents of the businesses left little room for compromise.

Short-term rental owners “tricked, deceived and destroyed the city. We have to ban these immediately,” said resident Mike Robbins.

Speakers from both sides disagreed on virtually every point. Operators claim they are not running businesses, while opponents say they’re akin to motels. One operator even claimed her short-term rental’s neighbors make more noise and bother her renters more than her renters bother the residents.

According to city records, there are about 400 short-term rentals in Anaheim, though some residents believe the number is closer to 600. The biggest concentration is in the neighborhoods around the Disneyland Resort and the convention center. Sherwood Village, a neighborhood of town homes in the area, has become an especially contentious battleground over the issue.

Tait suggested that his proposal for a ban immediately apply to any future applications short-term rentals, while allowing those currently operating a reasonable grace period to close. He asked that the ban be considered alongside with staff’s recommended ordinance, which is scheduled to come before the council  in June.

A moratorium on new applications for short-term rentals expires in May, but is expected to be renewed at least until council members consider the proposed new ordinances.

In addition to new enforcement rules and a ban on new short-term rentals, Planning Director David Belmer suggested that operators with neighbors who have complained heavily move their rentals to new locations.

In proposing a ban, Tait said short-term rentals weaken the “social muscle” of neighborhoods and fundamentally change their character.

“Neighborhoods are really the essence of what a city is,” he said.

Tait said he supports carving out rentals whereby the resident lives in the home and is renting out an extra room or two, something he said was the original idea behind home sharing websites. City staff’s proposal would also allow these types of rentals, but would require operators to obtain a home sharing permit.

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