Newport Beach has temporarily banned short term rentals due to the Coronavirus with exceptions made for medical workers and emergency responders.

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The City Council unanimously adopted the ordinance at a special meeting on Friday with the intention of slowing the spread of the virus and protecting residents. The ordinance goes into effect immediately.

Some short term operators were hoping the council could compromise by restricting the amount of days a property could be rented out for or limiting how many people could be in the property. The council debated it but the ban was still implemented.

“In an emergency, a national emergency, a world pandemic like we have now there is no room for compromise. There just simply isn’t. We’re trying to prevent the spread of this disease in our city. We’re trying to prevent the city from contributing to any deaths and we just need to take action tonight,” said Councilman Jeff Herdman.

There are currently 1,536 active short term rentals in the city and there are 73 confirmed cases of Coronavirus in Newport Beach.

Any property owner who violates the ordinance will receive a $1,000 fine the first time. The second violation will result in the suspension of the owner’s short term rental permit for a year. A third will result in the owner losing their permit and will not be allowed to reapply for a year.

Russell Adnoff of Beachview Realty spoke against the ordinance.

“If you’re not going to treat the vacation rental industry and the hotel industry as the same. You’re crippling one and that is just a little suspicious and seems a little convenient, given the time,” Adnoff said.

As of 3 p.m. on Friday March 3, 63 people sent in correspondence in favor of the ordinance and 59 people against it, Mayor Will O’Neill told the Voice of OC in a text message. He added that more correspondence came in for both sides later on in the day.

Short rental operators expressed concern that the ordinance would take away one form of income as more people file for unemployment in the county. They also said that COVID-19 has caused them to lose a lot of their short term rental business already.

“It’s going to dramatically impact unemployment, it’s going to go up, we’re allowed to operate, we can provide jobs, pay taxes, I can pay my mortgage, sorry for being selfish here. But people we’re gonna impact the health of the home cleaners, the maintenance people. These are the people that already live paycheck to paycheck,” said one short term rental property owner during public comment.

Short term rentals generate $4 million annually in taxes from renters, according to the city.

“Mortgage relief is out there. I took advantage of it. I made a very simple phone call to my mortgage lender yesterday,” Herdman said. “My lack of income for rentals is being offset by mortgage relief.”

The ordinance was amended to end on May 20 or when the local emergency ends whichever comes first after operators asked for a specific end date. The ordinance was also amended to allow current renters to finish out their stays.

The ordinance will be reviewed by the city council on May 12.

After that all short term rental activity will be stopped with an exception made to rent out short term rentals to medical professionals and emergency professionals brought in to help out during the pandemic.

Only property owners who have short term rental permits would be able to do so. New permits will not be issued.

“We just have to bite the bullet right now,” said Councilwoman Joy Brenner.

“We have to take measures that are not business as usual. These are not just little adjustments that were going to do to our short term ordinance. These are drastic measures because this is life or death.”

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC news intern. Contact him or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.

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