Wednesday, July 18 , 2018, 2:01 am | Fair 64º


Local News

Santa Barbara City Council Allows Vacation Rental, but Requires More Parking

Council unanimously rejects appeal by affordable housing activist Anna Marie Gott for proposal at 402 Anacapa St.

Woman talkes to Santa Barbara City Council. Click to view larger
Anna Marie Gott argues with Assistant City Attorney Scott Vincent during Tuesday’s Santa Barbara City Council appeal hearing about a vacation rental proposal. The council rejected the appeal on a 7-0 vote. ( Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

At the end of a contentious Santa Barbara City Council meeting on Tuesday, controversial affordable housing activist Anna Marie Gott lost her battle over a short-term vacation rental.

The council voted 7-0 to reject an appeal by Gott to block the conversion of a single-family home to a vacation rental at 402 Anacapa St. Gott has been a frequent and loud critic of vacation-rental conversions in the city.

Despite denying the appeal, the council will require the homeowners to create three off-street parking spaces, instead of the current two spaces. The applicant must now go to the Architectural Board of Review for final design approval.

The hearing went off the rails early after Gott asked for the meeting to be delayed, claiming that she didn’t have the parking records that she requested.

Her request led to a 20-minute dust-up with council members, city staff and two city attorneys trying to determine whether the city had provided enough records.

Gott is also at the center of a larger dispute with the city. She filed a lawsuit a week ago against the city over what she alleges is a lack of response to her public-records request.

Planner Irma Unzueta said at the start of Tuesday’s meeting that all pending Public Records Act requests from Gott had been met with responsive documents, but Gott disputed that claim.

“Unfortunately, I did not get these documents,” Gott said. “I do not have the documents that will allow me to fully develop my appeal and represent my case. I had to file a lawsuit to get the city attorney to focus on this issue. The city is not giving me the documents that I need.”

City Attorney Ariel Calonne, who publicly shook his head in disgust at Gott during a May meeting, left the council meeting at the start of the hearing, replaced by Assistant City Attorney Tava Ostrenger.

Only Councilman Jason Dominguez defended Gott, saying that it rubs him the wrong way that city staff members said all the records were provided to Gott, when they weren’t.

“It is very disingenuous,” Dominguez said.

Assistant City Attorney Scott Vincent urged the council to move forward with the hearing.

“I submit that Ms. Gott has received numerous documents in response to numerous public records request,” Vincent said.

Ostrenger said postponing the meeting could cause a long delay.

“It is a voluminous request; it is going to take some time,” Ostrenger said. “This could be continued indefinitely if there are continued public records requests. This process could take a year.”

City Clerk Services Manager Sarah Gorman said if the city were to respond to all of the documents that Ms. Gott requested, it would total about 10,000 records.

Once the meeting got going, Gott outlined her case, stating that the city should block the vacation rental conversion because it will eat up housing for working families and further affect parking on the streets.

Gott showed an Airbnb advertisement for the house, which said it slept 13 people. Gott said many of those people would drive cars to the site, which only has two off-street parking spaces.

She wondered where they would all park.

Free street parking exists nearby as do city parking lots. Gott said people would choose to park for free on the streets instead of paying $24 to $26 a day in the city lots.

“They are going to have to park somewhere, and they are not going to be parking in your parking structures. It’s logic,” Gott said.

Gott added: “When those people park on the street, we are taking parking away from customers and residents. We are actually promoting the gentrification . . . because we are pushing out our workforce.”

She said there’s simply not enough parking on Anacapa Street.

“Everyone is complaining about parking; do you know a single person who isn’t?” Gott said.

The meeting was also highlighted by an appearance by the property owner, Inga Frick, who said she has already been renting the home out for at least 10 years as a vacation rental. She said the property is essentially three vacation rentals.

“In the whole time I have been doing this, there have only been one car per unit,” Frick said. “There has never been more than three cars. It is not 11 people driving 11 cars.”

She said she “grew up in this house” and “this has been a harrowing process for us.”

Her 97-year-old mother Shirley also read a statement in the meeting saying that she hopes the council appreciates how well she has treated the property since they purchased it nearly 60 years ago.

Trish Allen, who was representing the Fricks, urged the council to deny the appeal.

“We want to be done, and Ms. Frick and her mother want to enjoy the income from this property,” Allen said.

Allen said 11 guests does not equal 11 cars. She’s an advocate for vacation rentals.

“I think it is a great way to travel,” Allen said.

Councilman Gregg Hart, who has opposed vacation rentals in the past, said this property is unique because it is near downtown city parking lots, and has neighborhood support.

“This specific project is worth moving forward,” Hart said.

Councilman Eric Friedman said it would be unfair to deny the homeowner the vacation rental conversion since such land use is already allowed in that part of the city.

Newly sworn-in Councilman Oscar Gutierrez said he respects the homeowner’s ability to do what she wants with the property, but that he struggles with the idea of vacation rentals.

“I have experienced what the Airbnb has done to a community,” Gutierrez said. “I have friends who have used Airbnb just to party.”

Gutierrez said he has a friend who grew up on the Westside who can’t afford to live in Santa Barbara because of the affordable housing shortage.

“It breaks my heart to see a Latino who came from the same neighborhood I came from not be able to live in the community,” Gutierrez said.

Mayor Cathy Murillo agreed that “I would rather it be an apartment for a longterm rental, but you have followed the rules. It has been functioning as a vacation rental with no complaints."

Councilwoman Kristen Sneddon said it was time to look at the broader issue of vacation rentals and the definition of “sound community planning.” She may ask the full council to tackle the matter at a meeting.

Gott was pleased with the outcome.

“While I would have been over the moon if they upheld the appeal, I am thrilled with the decision and discussion that the council had,” Gott said. “First, the project now has parking. Second, we now have a council who wants to discuss the policy issues.

"I believe that this council may well move toward tighter regulation and I hope enforcement. We have had too many homes converted to permanent use as short-term rentals due to errors and an unsound policy, and it’s past time to make changes.”

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina 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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