Saturday, November 28 , 2015, 12:46 am | Fair 41º

‘Party House’ Dominates Discussion of Goleta’s Vacation Rental Ordinance

By Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk News Editor | @magnoli |

The City of Goleta is considering a permit process for short-term vacation rentals that would make people sign up for a city registry and pay transient-occupancy taxes.

The proprietors also would have to come up with a “nuisance response plan” and apply for a business license, according to the draft ordinance discussed Thursday at an Ordinance Committee meeting.

Goleta Finance Department staff are already browsing rental sites to find undeclared vacation rentals, since the city has no registry or database, City Attorney Tim Giles said.

Some pay transient-occupancy tax to the city (which is required of hotels, motels and vacation rentals) while others don’t, since the city doesn’t know they exist.

Estimates range from 117 to 400 short-term vacation rentals within the city, Mayor Michael Bennett said.

The point of the ordinance would be to regulate vacation rentals and “put them out of business” if they violate the rules, he said.

A particular “party house” at 830 Serenidad Place has been the source of dozens of complaints, petitions by neighbors, and about 30 responses by police.

The four-bedroom house is frequently rented out to families and large groups, and neighbors are beyond fed up with the noise and lack of response from the owner, Robert Bullemer. It’s advertised as sleeping 12 people.

At a full City Council meeting in May, Bennett reprimanded Bullemer from the dais, telling him the behavior was despicable and he’s created an “absolute nightmare” for the city.

Some neighbors have attempted mediation with Bullemer — which reportedly has gone nowhere yet — and council members even talked about condemning the property so the city could buy it and sell it to another owner.

While frustrations with this particular property led to this ordinance, neighbors would prefer the city banned all short-term vacation rentals in residentially zoned areas.

Bob Freeman, who lives next door to 830 Serenidad Place, said the ordinance won’t address the problem of having these rentals in the middle of single-family residential neighborhoods.

“If you lived next door to it, you’d be in a different mindset — I guarantee it,” he said.

Freeman called the “response plan” concept a joke, saying Bullemer would just hang up when neighbors call, as he has before.

Other neighbors said the ordinance could lead to the destruction of their neighborhoods and asked for bans or, barring that, harsher requirements for the renters.

“It doesn’t seem to me that the standards are rigorous enough. There needs to be certainly more protection for the neighborhood than what is provided here,” Goleta resident Cecilia Brown said.

There aren’t rules in place that prevent people from using their homes as a vacation rental, beyond noise and nuisance laws that exist for everyone, according to the city.  

Bennett and Councilman Tony Vallejo asked city staff members to explore more stringent requirements, such as caps on the number of renters, cars allowed per rental and extending the quiet hours.

They will also consider banning all amplified music outside for rentals, and making permits revocable after a certain number of neighbor complaints.

“We’ve got ‘x’ number of rentals in our city and we have one problem child,” Bennett said. “The theory behind (the ordinance) is if we regulate it, we can revoke the permit and stop it — that’s why staff proposed it.”

Permits would be required for non-hotel or motel establishments that rent out for less than 30 days at a time.

The Tourism Business Improvement District wants to include vacation rentals and needs a registry of the rentals, which is another reason the city is looking into this ordinance, Giles noted.

TBIDs are essentially the self-taxing of hospitality establishments to a collective fund, which is then used for marketing and other purposes.

Some vacation rentals do pay TOT already, but may not be included in the TBID. Bullemer has paid about $20,000 in transient occupancy taxes to the city. 

Noozhawk news editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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