Despite taking a first shot at tightening restrictions on short-term rentals, Newport Beach is wrestling with fine-tuning elements of proposed additions to an existing ordinance.

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The city is looking to join a sweeping trend to tighten regulations on short-term rentals. Huntington Beach imposed a ban in 2015, Laguna Beach tightened regulations last summer, and Orange is currently considering restrictions.

After several residents voiced concerns about short-term rentals during an early February meeting, the Newport Beach City Council voted 5-2 to preliminarily approve the additions including the following revisions:

  • Limit the maximum number of short-term rental permits issued in the city to 1,600. The city’s currently issued 1,465 permits would be capped at 1,600.
  • Restrict permit holdings to solely the coastal zone (south and west of Pacific Coast Highway) by April 2030
  • Require listing sites to validate and include permit numbers for rental listings
  • Post a maximum occupancy sign in front of the property
  • Require on-site – off-street – parking for occupants
  • Set the number of required violations for revocation and suspension of permits to two
  • Set initial violation fines ranging anywhere from $250 to $1,000, and subsequent violation cost increases of $1,000, if accrued within one year of each other.

Councilmember Kevin Muldoon and Mayor William O’Neil opposed the ordinance.

Muldoon said he was concerned about the occupancy and contact information signage becoming obstructive. He added that the parking space requirement was too restrictive.

O’Neil objected to the scope of the legislation, saying the new regulations were too cumbersome on those who operate proper short-term rentals.

In a letter sent to the council dated Feb. 24, lawyer Melinda Luthin, who represents concerned short-term rental owners, asserted that a second reading of the ordinance would be void due to the inclusion of the permit location restriction. That, she contended, would categorize the law as a zoning issue.

The council was set to take a final vote on the new ordinance the next day, but the body pulled the item from the agenda following Councilmember Diane Dixon’s recommendation.

The proposed restrictions are now being reviewed by a committee that worked on it previously, after public concerns on the ban of permits north of Pacific Coast Highway.

During a March 10 meeting, the council re-established the committee. Dixon said the committee’s goal was to return with a “well-reasoned proposal” as “expeditiously as possible.”

Councilmember Joy Brenner added an amendment dictating that the revised proposal must treat the non-coastal zone with the same access granted to the coastal zone.

After receiving complaints about vested property interests held by Councilmember Jeff Herdman, he announced the closure of his short-term rental property to ensure the community of his impartial view on the subject.

The re-established review committee will include the same three councilmembers: Dixon, Brenner, and Herdman. City Clerk John Pope clarified that “public input will be a critical part of the process moving forward.”

The committee is required to present a revised ordinance for council consideration before June 31, 2021. 

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