The debate over short term rentals continues to be a flashpoint of community concern throughout Orange County, with Costa Mesa taking a strong stance against the rentals following a series of resident complaints.
Costa Mesa City Council members voted unanimously Tuesday night to adopt an urgency ordinance banning short term rentals in the city with an exception for home-sharing — continuing the city moratorium on the rentals, while the council members explore how to regulate them.
The ordinance defines home-sharing as the property owner renting part of a property or granny flat to a short term tenant while the owner is physically living or present on the property.
During Tuesday’s meeting, City Councilwoman Andrea Marr said that since the first moratorium went into effect about a year ago, a number of property owners said they operated their rentals while still being on the property, with rules in place to curb disturbances, like partying.
“I was actually really surprised by how many of the Airbnbs function in that manner and so we sort of carved those out of the moratorium and said, ‘okay, that that one case seems okay,’ but we still feel like we need to press pause on what’s happening right now,” she said.
The issue of short-term rentals has been landing on the agendas of city councils all over Orange County in recent years and during the pandemic.
Some residents say the rentals decrease their quality of life in the neighborhoods, while others say it’s a good way for homeowners to increase their income.
Huntington Beach also briefly discussed their short term rental regulations this week, approving a set timeline for when rental operators had to register with the city.
Under the newly adopted rules, operators have until March 31, 2022 to register with the city, and if they still fail to do so by the end of the year they will be delisted from platforms like AirBNB.
The council originally approved the measure Oct. 19 in a 6-0 vote, with Councilman Erik Peterson absent, and finalized it on Tuesday evening.
Some local cities have adopted ordinances to regulate short term rentals with permits and taxes, others have banned short term rentals completely.
Costa Mesa City Council members are hoping the ban on short term rentals will give them time to implement regulations on these types of rentals in response to neighborhood complaints.
Some residents are frustrated with the short term rental industry, which they say attracts a young, noisey, rowdy and party-loving group that takes up parking in family neighborhoods.
“The house behind us directly adjacent to our backyard became a short-term rental and the parties started Thursday, Friday, Saturday into Sunday morning — Wild Animal House crazy parties,” said longtime resident Flo Martin at Tuesday’s meeting.
“I was calling the police on this animal house every week. I was so tempted actually to turn on my garden hose and let him have it from our backyard, but I know that would be assault and battery,” she said.
Martin said the disturbances stopped after the ban on short term rentals and encouraged council members to keep the moratorium.
The newly adopted ordinance also references “gun related incidents including a drive-by shooting” among the complaints.
“There was a gun related incident and that really scared a lot of the neighbors who suddenly started asking questions about what is happening to this property in their neighborhood,” Marr said in a Wednesday phone call.
Other residents have gone to city council meetings in support of short term rentals, arguing the business provides an alternative form of income– especially amid a pandemic that drove unemployment up.
They also say they’re self regulating to weed out the party goers.
“We have understood all the issues of the parties and we even saw that there were people trying to book the house for parties and we started to implement a system such as a minimum of seven days stay to keep parties from happening. Nobody who was under 25 was allowed to simply rent it,” said Dagart Allison, whose parents used to rent out their home for short term use.
“I hope that a permitting system can be implemented, so that my parents can have the income when they’re not able to stay in Costa Mesa,” Allison continued.
During the pandemic, short term rental complaints went up in Costa Mesa.
Last year, city council members instituted a moratorium on short term rentals in the city for 45 days.
That moratorium was later extended by the council with an exemption for “owner occupied home sharing short term rentals” and was supposed to expire on Nov. 10.
There are also concerns that short term rentals are impacting California’s housing crisis.
Marr said in a phone call Wednesday the city has been looking at how short term rentals are impacting housing in other cities like Encinitas.
“We had a lot of concern about what sort of felt like an exponentially increasing business that was being run in our neighborhoods and we’ve been really very sensitive to how we maintain housing,” she said. “The idea that we were potentially losing housing stock to short term rentals was not appealing for most of us.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed several housing bills in response to the crisis to maintain and increase housing supply.
Senate Bill 60 approved by Newsom in September increases the maximum fines for short term rental violations.
The city has three tools to enforce Costa Mesa’s newly adopted ordinance including fines.
A violation of ordinance is a misdemeanor and can be punishable by 6 months in jail or a $1,000 fine, according to the agenda report.
Violations can also result in civil citations or a nuisance abatement.
At the same time, part of the council’s goals are establishing a permit system for short term rentals.
Marr said that she is very confident that next year the council will come back with an ordinance that taxes short term rentals and allows the city to inspect and pull permits from problematic operators.
“This is still a temporary measure. That’s why it’s a moratorium, we will come back and we will have more comprehensive regulations that we can have a conversation about as a community,” Marr said at the meeting Tuesday.
On Wednesday, she said the goal was to have regulations around June of next year.
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @NBiesiada.