Council approves short-term rental ordinance but requires hosts to be on site, for now

After years of working to craft an ordinance that would govern short-term rentals in Long Beach, the City Council preliminarily approved a set of rules Tuesday night that would allow hosts to legally operate in the city before the end of the year.

If the ordinance gets final approval next week, hosted stays would be allowed citywide in four months, but units in the city’s coastal zone—generally south of Broadway—would have to wait for approval from the California Coastal Commission, which could take anywhere between three and  12 months to make a decision, according to a city official.

The council is expected to return for a potential vote to lift the restrictions on un-hosted stays by early 2021, but until then the only short-term rentals allowed would be those where the host lives in the home during the time the guests share the premises.

While COVID-19 regulations continue to evolve, City Manager Tom Modica said that the current health orders allowed for contactless hosted stays where a person rents out a duplex, a unit in a backyard or a room with a separate entrance that wouldn’t require a guest and a host to interact and share space.

All units listed would likely be held to the same cleaning procedures as local hotels that were recently allowed to reopen for leisure travel. They would also be taxed at the same rate by the city as hotels are.

While the ordinance was approved unanimously Tuesday, there was a slight disagreement over the current ban on un-hosted stays given the current health conditions as well as the potential to financially impact residents who used their homes to help supplement incomes.

“The people that i talk to that list STRs in our neighborhood are un-hosted STRs and that helps them pay their mortgage when they’re not there,” said Councilwoman Stacy Mungo. “That is a concern for me, that we’re taking away the income of people in our communities during a time when they’ve needed this kind of income to get them through when business has not been great.”

Short-term rentals are currently illegal in Long Beach.

Councilwoman Suzie Price, who represents the city’s southeast, including Naples and Belmont Shore, noted this while saying that the move to ban un-hosted stays would likely be temporary as she is confident the council will move forward with lifting the ban in the coming months.

“While I appreciate that there are some residents that depend on short-term rental income, that’s a little bit disappointing for me to hear because they’re relying on income based on an operation that is currently not allowed in the city,” Price said.

Price also pushed for clarity on large events like weddings or parties being allowed on properties rented through short-term rental sites. Under the ordinance, a given property would be allowed to have six large events per year given that it is granted permission by city departments.

The city’s rules will require operators to register the properties they rent out with the city and would limit the number of units listed in apartment buildings. Buildings with between two and 10 units could have one short-term rental unit while buildings with over 100 units could have 15% of those units listed.

Long Beach’s rules on this have been under development since 2018 and have changed dramatically since initial community discussions were held. Earlier this year, the council voted to put a cap on short-term rental units at 1,000 citywide and allowed for persons not living in the city to list units for rent.

That vote also allowed for an opt-out process where residents could gather signatures to ban operations from occurring in their neighborhoods. Other iterations put caps on the number of days a unit could be listed to still be considered an operator’s primary residence.

Those rules could be folded back into the ordinance when the council revisits the issue in six months, where it could lift the ban on un-hosted short-term rental stays.

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