After years of deliberating, the Long Beach City Council appears poised to finally lay down official rules for short term rentals operating in the city.

At its Jan. 21 meeting the City Council is scheduled to take the first of a series of votes that could codify rules for short term rentals—a move that had been on hold since a December 2018 meeting in which the council directed staff to move forward with drafting an ordinance.

Listings on Airbnb and similar sites are technically illegal under current city law. The city has been working toward an ordinance that could lay down guidelines for the number of units allowed and how many units per person can be operated, among other things.

The new ordinance could include caps on the number of units allowed to be short-term rental units in the city, putting that number at 1% of units in the city and capping the number of units each person can operate at one hosted and two non-hosted units.

It would also create a temporary and limited permit for homes being used for events (six per year), create a fine system of $1,000 per day for violations of the ordinance with a third violation during a 12-month period resulting in a revocation of the unit’s registration.

It would also allow individual census tracts to ban un-hosted short term rentals by gathering signatures of two-thirds of the property owners in the census tract.

But one directive voted on by the council in 2018 to require hosts to live in Long Beach has been removed. The change would allow non-residents of the city to operate non-hosted units which could take units off the rental market that could otherwise be rented long-term to residents of the city.

The change has concerned groups who have advocated for stronger controls on the short-term rental market in the city. Victor Sanchez, the director for the Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs & a Healthy Community, said the gold standard would be for the city’s ordinance to restrict short-term rentals to people renting out rooms in their primary residences.

“It’s really about housing and protecting the housing stock in Long Beach,” Sanchez said. “What is in this ordinance has really gotten away from the original intent of these home-sharing services.”

Sanchez said his group’s data currently shows about there are about 500-650 un-hosted units in Long Beach at a given time, but under the new ordinance that figure could balloon to 1,800.

“It’s easy just to whittle it down to units but it’s really about families,” Sanchez said. “One unit could house three to four people who live in Long Beach.”

The city’s development services department, which has been crafting the ordinance, declined to comment on the policy until after the City Council’s vote.

Among the questions asked of the department were why the decision was made to divert from council direction in December 2018 to require Long Beach residency as a prerequisite to operate units in the city, the impact that occasional event permits could have on neighborhoods and how the city intends to enforce the ordinance.

In September the council voted to delay the implementation of the ordinance, opting for a phased-in approach because it lacked the funding to fill the positions needed to administer and track the program.

If the ordinance moves forward and is eventually approved by the council—ordinances require a second procedural vote—it wouldn’t take effect until 180 days after the City Council and the California Coastal Commission approve the ordinance.

The 180-day delay is due to funding gaps that would prohibit the hiring of persons to run the program. The cost to the city to track and enforce short term rental units in the city is expected to cost about $200,000 in the next fiscal year, but the units would pay the same taxes assessed to hotel rooms in the city.

Those hopeful to block short-term rentals from their neighborhoods would have 180 days after the effective date to gather the required signatures. Those hopeful to operate units in the city would have a full year after the effective date to register their units.

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.