City Council could lift ban on un-hosted short-term rental stays

Un-hosted short-term rental stays could soon be permitted in Long Beach as the City Council on Tuesday will look at lifting its current ban on them in an attempt to prop up sagging hotel tax revenues.

The council approved rules for the long-awaited ordinance regulating platforms like AirBnb earlier this year, capping un-hosted units at 1,000 citywide in January, and then in June requiring hosts to provide separate entrances and facilities for guests in addition to other COVID-19 cleaning and safety measures.

Now it could ask the city attorney to amend an ordinance, which blocked un-hosted stays. An un-hosted stay is when the host is not present at the rental—for instance, renting out an entire house instead of a single room.

When the City Council originally enacted the regulations, staff was instructed to come back to the council in six months with options to lift the ban, and in a memo posted this week, Director of Development Services Oscar Orci said that un-hosted stays would fall in line with current state and local laws that pushed for contactless stays because the host would not be present at all.

“Arguably, an un-hosted STR [short term rental] is consistent with the current order in that it would not require a separate entrance and exit and would not share facilities; however, un-hosted facilities are not allowed by current STR regulations, but are allowed by the state health orders while hosted STRs generally are not,” Orci wrote.

The pandemic has hit the city’s tourism industry hard with hotels reporting a drop of almost $75 per available room and taxes generated from those stays falling by about $10 million according to city figures. While the transient occupancy tax figure has yet to be finalized for the 2020 fiscal year, it’s unlikely to meet the previous two years, which were both over $30 million.

Allowing more short-term rentals could help bolster the city’s TOT figure but it would require more hosts to register with the city, something they’ve been able to do since October. So far only 21 have. Short-term rentals are estimated to have brought in over $2.1 million in tax revenue last year.

In addition to placing a cap on short-term rental units at 1,000 citywide—something subject to annual vacancy numbers—the existing ordinance allowed for up to two un-hosted units if the host lived in Long Beach in a separate home. It also allows for census block groups within neighborhoods to ban un-hosted units through a majority vote.

The council is set to discuss this issue at its Tuesday night meeting scheduled for 5:00 p.m.

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.