The Santa Barbara City Council today will consider establishing a short-term rental permitting framework.
The council will meet at 2 p.m. at City Hall, 735 Anacapa St.
Staff is recommending the council provide direction regarding a future short-term rental permitting program.
The recommendation calls for the council to direct staff to draft a short-term rental permitting ordinance for review by the Planning Commission, Ordinance Committee, Finance Committee and council.
Short-term rentals are dwelling units rented for 30 days or less.
“With the advent of online rental platforms like AirBNB, VRBO and Homeaway, the popularity and prevalence of short-term rentals has dramatically grown in Santa Barbara over the last decade, bringing with it concerns about the loss of long-term housing, nuisance and neighborhood impacts, land-use compatibility, real estate speculation and environmental impact,” staff said.
Short-term rentals are regulated as hotels and are only allowed in zones where hotels are permitted.
The process to convert a residential property to a short-term rental is seen as challenging for many property owners. Enforcement of existing short-term rental regulations is staff-intensive, time-consuming and especially challenging in the Coastal Zone portion of the city, where they are only regulated based on nuisance-related activity, staff said.
“As a result, many short-term rentals operate illegally,” staff said.
Staff recommends developing a ministerial short-term rental permitting program that minimizes the change in intensity of use, limits nuisance impacts, preserves long-term housing and improves staff’s ability to enforce adopted regulations, while limiting administrative costs to the city.
The popularity and prevalence of short-term rentals has dramatically grown in Santa Barbara over the last decade, bringing with it code compliance challenges and a variety of concerns that are not comprehensively addressed with existing regulation, staff said.
It is estimated that there are currently 1,560 listings on web-based rental platforms, which represents 1,119 unique short-term rental units citywide.
“This represents a 27% increase in the number of short-term rentals from the previous year,” staff said. “Of those, 19 legal establishments and 82 unpermitted establishments are paying transient occupancy tax (TOT) currently.”
In many areas of the city, unregulated short-term rentals operating as quasi-hotels are inherently incompatible with the surrounding land uses and neighborhood due to the intensity of use and potential nuisance impacts related to noise, parking, littering, traffic congestion, public safety, “party houses,” loss of community and the displacement of long-term residents, staff said.
“Operating a residential unit as a short-term rental is typically far more lucrative than renting the unit on a long-term basis, which can encourage the loss of long-term housing, increase real estate speculation and inflate housing costs,” staff said.
Short-term rentals also reportedly increase the demand for services and low-income housing because of the associated support network of cleaning and maintenance staff.
High demand for short-term rentals, known as a difficult permitting process given the city’s current hotel-related regulations, and code compliance challenges have resulted in a high number of illegal short-term rentals and uncaptured TOT, according to the city.
Many of the illegal short-term rentals operate as quasi-hotels in areas of the city where hotels are not allowed, which creates inherent equity issues with hotel operators, staff said.
Earlier today, the council’s special ordinance committee will meet at 11:30 a.m. to discuss a proposed draft ordinance to assign additional civilian police oversight duties to the board of fire and police commissioners.
The committee then will be asked to provide feedback to staff in order to introduce the ordinance to the full council for consideration.