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Manhattan Beach council cracks down on short-term rentals

The Manhattan Beach City Council will vote Tuesday on whether to ban most short-term rentals in residential areas.
Brian McStotts/Flickr
The Manhattan Beach City Council will vote Tuesday on whether to ban most short-term rentals in residential areas.

The Manhattan Beach City Council on Tuesday night outlawed most short-term rentals in the city by passing one of the strictest regulations of its kind in Southern California.

The ban on short-term rentals of 29 days or less in residential areas effectively ends hosts' ability to rent out homes in Manhattan Beach for days at a time through popular home-sharing platforms such as Airbnb and VRBO.

Manhattan Beach's action follows those taken by communities such as Santa Monica and West Hollywood clamping down on short-term rentals and sites like Airbnb in hopes units will be returned to the long-term rental market and help alleviate the region's housing shortage.

But in Manhattan Beach, a wealthy bedroom community of about 35,000, a top focus has been on retaining the character of neighborhoods.

Councilmembers, who voted 4-1 for the ban, said they recognized that short-term rentals were an important source of income for some Airbnb hosts.

But Mayor Wayne Powell said that "the residential nature of our community, the peace and quiet of our residents — that rules over someone's profits."

Hosts testified they are careful about who they rent to. Some also said they depended on the rental income. Chris Pickens said units in his duplex generate much more money for retirement as short-term rentals than if he were to rent them out long-term tenants.

"I would get maybe a third of what I‘m getting now and who wants to have the city of Manhattan Beach dictate that?" Pickens said.

Other residents such as Holly Arnesen complained that guests staying in short-term rentals near their homes have been rowdy and disrespectful. She lives across the street from several units.

"There’s constantly people coming in and out every single week," Arnesen said. "They’re very loud. They’re just there to party. They leave cigarettes butts. They leave beer bottles."

The city doesn’t know how many properties would fall under the ban, though estimates are in the hundreds. Powell said that staff will spend time educating short-term rental operators before giving out citations.

The city is granting a temporary reprieve to about 60 short-term rental operators who registered with the city prior to the ban. They will be allowed to honor contracts with guests through the end of the year. Powell said even though commercial uses have always been banned from residential areas, the city had granted these rental operators business licenses and had been collecting a 'hotel' tax from them.

Rentals in commercial zones will continue to be permitted.

Tuesday's vote drew dozens to City Hall, with people packing council chambers and the hallway.

About 50 people testified, many of them Airbnb hosts wearing green stickers provided by the company that read "Protect Homesharing." One of them, Laurie Dillman, said she decided to speak at the meeting after getting a call from Airbnb on Friday.

Residents in support of a ban also turned out, complaining of short-term rentals operating as "party houses."

Still others at the meeting were not residents, nor did they have listings in Manhattan Beach. Airbnb had a team of employees there to support hosts. Also present was Lauren Amarante, a member of the Los Angeles Short Term Rental Alliance who manages 10 properties in other cities such as Redondo Beach and West Hollywood.

Tuesday's city council vote came just a month after the Santa Monica City Council banned short-term rentals unless hosts are staying on the premises with guests. An estimated 1,000-plus listings are out of compliance with an ordinance that is one of the region's toughest on short-term rentals. But the city will not begin active enforcement of the ordinance until Sept. 1 in recognition that many properties have been rented for the summer, said assistant planning director Salvador Valles told KPCC.

This story has been updated.