Caroline Anderson

Manhattan Beach, targeting AirBnB, officially bans short term rentals

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Manhattan Beach City Hall. Photo by Caroline Anderson

Manhattan Beach City Hall. Photo by Caroline Anderson

by Caroline Anderson

Manhattan Beach became the latest city to ban short term rentals such as those offered through AirBnB Tuesday night.

The council had passed a tentative ban at its June 2 meeting, but needed to take another final vote before it became law.

Every one of the approximately 100 seats in the council chambers was taken and an overflow crowd waited in the lobby. Almost 50 people spoke, including one man who was on vacation staying in a short term rental.

Unlike the prior meeting, where almost all the speakers were against allowing short term rentals, the majority was in favor of them. Many wore green stickers saying “Protect home sharing.”

Ultimately, the majority of the council said allowing rentals of less than 30 days was not worth “changing the character of the community.”

“My property rights are sometimes imperiled because of the movement of my neighbors,” said Councilmember Amy Howorth, who supported the ban. “If people are coming in and out — that’s a really different neighborhood than I moved into and paid money for. That’s why my house cost so much money: Because this is a tight community.”

Rentals of under 30 days in residential zones were actually already illegal under the city’s zoning code, with some exceptions for those done in connection with the Charlie Saikley Six-Man Beach Volleyball Tournament. The city’s finance department, however, in an apparent mistake, issued permits to property owners who paid taxes on their rentals.

Under the new law, the 58 owners who received their permits before April 30 will be allowed to continue short term rentals until the end of the year.

The ban will not affect rentals over 30 days to single housekeeping units, defined as “a traditional family” or its equivalent, but does include home swapping where no money is exchanged.

City staff estimated that the city would lose $70,000 in transient occupancy taxes in the upcoming year, and $120,000 every year after.

Some speakers said the city’s businesses would also lose money under a ban. The majority of the council, including Councilmember Tony D’Errico, who owns two shops downtown, rejected this argument.

“This decision is not about money,” said D’Errico. “It’s about what our founding fathers put in the general plan, what we are and what we want to be. It can be up for change, up for debate. Today we do have a ban.”

Referring to his stores, D’Errico said, “I heard the argument that it could impact me. I don’t care.”

Multiple speakers said they relied on the income from rentals.

“I feel it should be left to me to do what I want with my property,” said a woman who wore a “Protect home sharing” sticker and gave her name as Natalie. “It helped me pay the Manhattan Beach Education Foundation. Everybody knows Manhattan Beach is very expensive. Everybody does their best to make ends meet.”

Referring to a resident’s complaint at the June 2 meeting, the woman said that for her renters, “Porn parties are not on their agenda.”

“They’re mostly families,” she added.

Councilmember David Lesser, the sole member to vote against the ban, made a last-ditch effort to revive the planning commission’s recommendation to limit the number of short term rentals a property owner could have to four per year.

Lesser voted in favor of the ban at the June 2 meeting, but said he changed his mind after hearing more from the community and having time to reflect.

“I want to give a chance from a property rights standpoint,” he said. “I think if we ban short term rentals outright, we’re going to drive them underground.”

Multiple speakers said residents’ complaints on issues such as noise stemmed from a lack of regulation. They suggested various limits, such as on the number of days a unit could be rented, and fees.

“Two- to three-day rentals are the problem,” said Robert Reyes, the owner of Sunny California Vacation Rentals. “People coming from the inner city, who want to party.”

However, some residents and councilmembers said that such regulations would be too difficult to enforce.

“Santa Monica, New York City are done with this,” said Jose Ramirez, a 30-year resident, referring to those cities’ bans. “It cannot be enforced except through neighbors’ complaints. That’s no quality of life.”

Some residents and councilmembers also objected to the portrayal of the activity as home sharing.

“This is a business venture,” said Tami Zamrazil, a 20-year resident. “It’s not sharing, because sharing doesn’t involve money.”

Zamrazil said she lived next door to a house owned by Kristin Pekarek, one of the 58 property owners who spoke at the June 2 meeting. Although she said Pekarek was “very responsible” about her rentals, Zamrazil said she still had complained.

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