Unfortunately, I believe the battle over short term rentals in Santa Barbara has only just begun.
On Tuesday, December 8, 2015 the Santa Barbara City Council unanimously decided to not do anything in terms of adding a new ordinance to the municipal code whereby a definition and potential guidelines for a “home share” would come to fruition. By doing nothing, they have essentially shut down short term rentals (less than 30 days) in the city of Santa Barbara in the following residential zones:
R-1, R-2, R-3, A-1, A-2, E-1, E-2 & E-3
So what are the ramifications of this “failure to launch”?
In my discussions with homeowners in these zones and people close to AirBnB, it sounds to me like this fight is not over but rather, just starting. If anyone has followed the news regarding the success AirBnB made in San Francisco last month, I would have to say that even though we are a small town here in Santa Barbara, AirBnB stands to lose over 700 rentals by the end of 2016. My advice to AirBnB would be to put in front of the City Council a well laid plan that includes enforcement of complaints from neighbors (although they are few and far between compared to long term renters) and be able to do all the “work” the city has complained would be too hard on city staff. Where there’s a will…
However, at the Santa Barbara City Council Meeting there was some silver lining for us that have R-4 properties in the city of Santa Barbara that are legal to rent for less than 30 days and have been since the codes were enacted many moons ago.
The City Council has heard my cries and both the mayor and city staff have been working with and alongside of me since August as they seek to “figure out” this process and how to apply outdated ordinances to today’s progressive vacation rentals. If you have kept up on this blog, you have also followed this path alongside of me through the ups and the downs and the twists and turns. They know my name, the property and we all have learned a great deal together being this the 1st property to seek legal status as a “vacation rental” since this bomb in June 2015 was dropped. However, the financial impact it has had on all of us “playing the waiting game” to see what changes could happen to lessen the blow for us trying to become legally permitted is still dragging on and there is no end in sight.
So what was the silver lining…R-4 and possibly a change in the process.
Here is the link to watch the Santa Barbara City Council meeting on 12/8/2015:
Specific parts to watch at the time it shows in the cue:
58:45 – City Staff discusses R-4
1:01:13 – Mayor ask specific questions regarding permitting an R-4
1:13:30 – I spoke second – here’s what I said
2:36:10 – Rowse talks about R-4
2:40:20 – Mayor talks about R-4
2:48:09 Greg Hart – ill informed statements that cause concern regarding property rights
Since time is of the essence and we cannot wait for this process to “possibly” get better in getting the legal permit the City of Santa Barbara is now requiring since only 4 months ago, we are left facing even more potential economic damages. The city staff has quoted to me in person and in email 1-2 years and up to $30,000 in fees to do what they call a “Hotel Conversion”, yes for a duplex they are requiring us to convert the entire property to a “Hotel”. I know, quite ridiculous but lets not forget, they are trying to apply a mid 20th century code to the 21st century “less than 30 day” use.
Don’t forget, no changes are happening to the property, simply a change in use and yes, this could take 1-2 years.
We have consulted with attorney Joseph Liebman here in Santa Barbara. He is a wonderful attorney that has the patience, knowledge and skill to challenge the city and most recently, has done this for 2 people that have contacted me from this Blog that were given fraudulent and erroneous “enforcement cases” from the Santa Barbara City Attorney’s Office. So you are aware, these are form letters going out to everyone I’m told with a complaint and no one is bothering to check if what they are saying is true. The city is doing a great job in sending letters to property owners that state “ALL less than 30 day” rentals are illegal however, fail to address R-4 being legal. So what’s the end result? They have now successfully pitted neighbors against neighbors with this letter and furthered their case of “neighborhood complaints” with a hotline number to call! One of these victims was Dorothy Wallstein who contacted me and was on the news and talking about this. I might add she is both in the R-4 zone and part of the amnesty period which means they would NOT start enforcing her to get the permit until the end of 2016. Sadly, I feel that their “degradation of the neighborhoods” they speak of in terms of short term rentals could be “city-inflicted” with a city solicitation to property owners.
Watch her story on KEYT here:
I have met with Joseph Liebman on 2 occasions and consulted him over the phone numerous times. He knows our stories and our rights. If there was ever an attorney to hire that gets the attention of the City of Santa Barbara, it’s Joseph hands down. He knows the laws relating to a “regulatory taking” very well and since much of what I know to be attorney-client privilege I must keep our information confidential until needed which I hope never happens.
If you have an enforcement case with the city of Santa Barbara regarding your short term vacation rental or homestay, and feel it is inaccurate and fraudulent, you should consider speaking with Joseph immediately. If you are someone considering a class action lawsuit against the City of Santa Barbara because of what has happened with short term vacation rentals or home stays, I would also contact Joseph.
No one ever wants to have to go the legal route ever. It’s costly and adversarial. What I do know as a Real Estate Broker is that your bundle of rights as a property owner in Santa Barbara are being challenged right now and if you choose to sit idly by, things could happen that change what you can/cannot do within your zone and within your historical property rights.
I am a phone call away and happy to share with you my knowledge about the R-4 permitting process in Santa Barbara. I’m also happy to get you in touch with owners going through similar issues with the city right now. By working together, we can all help each other navigate this “new” city process.
Real Estate Broker / Property Manager