To make sure it can crack down on unregistered short-term rentals along its coastline, Long Beach is reserving space for homeowners there who plan on renting out their entire properties to guests and making it harder for seaside neighborhoods to ban short-term rentals altogether.
It’s been more than a year since Long Beach first adopted its ordinance that governs how short-term rentals—such as those listed on sites like Airbnb—are regulated in the city, but it hasn’t yet been able to enforce those rules in the city’s coastal zone, something that would require a sign-off from California’s Coastal Commission, which is charged with ensuring adequate public access to the state’s beaches.
The city’s ordinance requires operators to register with the city, pay taxes similar to what hotels pay and follow a list of regulations to prevent the properties from becoming public nuisances. It also caps at 800 the number of permissible “unhosted” rental units, meaning the owner of the unit isn’t on site during a tenant’s short-term stay.
At the request of the Coastal Commission, the City Council voted 8-0 on Tuesday to make sure at least 350 of those unhosted units are allowed in the city’s coastal zone, which generally includes neighborhoods south of Broadway like Belmont Shore, Naples and other neighborhoods east of Alamitos Avenue.
But the language of the amendment led some to believe it would actually allow for over 1,100 unhosted units citywide, which they said could exacerbate housing shortages.
“Are you going to let the California Coastal Commission bully the City Council?” said Elsa Tung, a program manager with Long Beach Forward, claiming that the amendment was overriding the city’s existing ordinance.
While the amendment would allow for up to 350 unhosted units in the coastal zone, the city wouldn’t be able to enforce its 800-unit cap until the coastal zone hit its allotment, something that some community members interpreted to mean the new citywide cap would be 1,150.
That notion was struck down by multiple council members including Councilwoman Suzie Price, who represents southeast Long Beach neighborhoods, many of which are in the coastal zone.
“Let me make it abundantly clear, I have no intention of going over that 800 cap,” Price said.
Price proposed that city staff alert the council when the city reaches 700 applications for unhosted units so it could consider changing the city’s ordinance by possibly reducing the citywide cap.
Christopher Koontz, the city’s deputy director of development services, said the city currently has about 200 registered unhosted short-term rental units outside of the coastal zone and could accommodate the 350 units proposed in the amendment approved Tuesday.
Koontz warned the council that the city couldn’t regulate unregistered rental units in the coastal zone until an ordinance was fully approved by the Coastal Commission. He added that it would be easier to request language revisions to the city’s stance on the upper limit of units rather than start from scratch.
“In order to do the enforcement that’s needed today, we need something on the books,” Koontz said.
At the request of the Coastal Commission, the city also made it harder for communities in the coastal zone to seek a ban on short-term rentals in their neighborhoods.
Part of the original ordinance approved in 2020 allowed for census blocks to organize and petition to bar short-term rentals within those census blocks.
On Tuesday, the council approved a requested change that will require the petition process to be followed by the acquisition of a local coastal development permit, a process governed by the Coastal Commission, which would hold a hearing to determine if the ban is proper and doesn’t inhibit affordable access to the coast, would not restrict both unhosted and hosted units in the coastal zone to less than 425, and would be necessary to protect the neighborhood from nuisance properties that could endanger public health or affect the character of the neighborhood.
An amended version of the city’s ordinance will be sent back to the Coastal Commission for consideration at a future meeting.