Thursday, June 21 , 2018, 11:24 pm | Fair 61º


Local News

No Decision Yet on Santa Barbara County’s Short-Term Rental Regulations

The debate over short-term vacation rentals isn’t over for Santa Barbara County, as the Board of Supervisors decided not to adopt a proposed ordinance, and instead asked staff to come back with more information about permitting and existing units.

Short-term rentals would be allowed in certain mixed-use zones, commercial zones and AG-II zones under the proposed ordinance, but banned in residential, industrial and other zoning districts.

The details were hammered out after many meetings held by the county Planning Commission and the Montecito Planning Commission, but Tuesday was the first discussion of the issue at before the Board of Supervisors.

It showed.

The supervisors were not in agreement for the future of short-term rentals, even though most of them voiced some support for regulation over an outright ban in some zoning areas.

The board voted 4-1 to have staff come back with more information.

Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf dissented, saying, “There’s just no doubt in my mind that STRs remove housing from the housing market.”

Fourth District Supervisor Peter Adam said the ordinance was “like killing a fly with a 10-pound sledgehammer.”

The county received $1.7 million in transient-occupancy tax revenue from 535 registered short-term rental operators in 2015-16.

A search of online sites such as VRBO and Airbnb shows many more, and Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino said future plans need to include going after that tax revenue.

He signed the argument for November’s Measure B, which increased Santa Barbara County’s TOT rate to 12 percent, and said that eliminating STRs (and their TOT revenue) “makes absolutely no sense.”

Lavagnino said the county needs to create a position to track complaints and manage STRs, as well as start a permit process for operators.

There’s no enforcement to make people pay TOT now, but that would have to change, he said.

Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr said the number of STRs seemed to explode over the last three or four years.

She talked about three kinds of STRs – homestays, homes where the owner resides part of the time, and full-time whole-house vacation rentals.

The number of complaints seems to increase if property owners don’t reside at the home at all, she said.

“For me, I’m most sympathetic to what I’d call mom and pop operations – longtime residents, property owners, struggling to make ends meet in a very expensive area and have turned to STRs to stay in their home,” she said.

She said the county will have to beef up enforcement, whether there is a ban or not, do public education, and significantly increase penalties for violators.

“It’s too easy now for some people to rent out property in a way that does negatively impact neighbors,” she said.

Carbajal also supported more work on the ordinance.

Wolf said she was incredibly frustrated by the lack of support to move forward, saying, “This board studies things to death.”

The issue will come back to the board for a policy discussion and then any ordinance changes would be reviewed by the Planning Commission, according to county staff.

Board discussion came after the supervisors heard hours of public comment from short-term rental operators opposing the ordinance and neighbors asking for the ban.

Operators, realtors and residents argued that the short-term rental industry brings irreplaceable economic impact to the area. Operators, including many who said they own STRs in the Santa Ynez Valley, said they have been renting without complaint for years – all while paying transient occupancy tax to the county.

Santa Ynez Vacation Rentals president Leanne Schlinger said STRs give an experience that can’t be recreated at a hotel – visitors can connect with nature and cook together – and the industry works well when units are managed responsibly. 

On the other side, residents complained about the noise and parking issues short-term rentals bring to their neighborhoods, particularly when the properties are rented out for weddings or other special events.

County staff said the growth of the short-term rental market is affecting the housing supply for local residents by taking long-term rental properties off the market.

Some operators said as much during public comment, telling the supervisors their short-term rental visitors were better than the long-term renters they used to have.  

Noozhawk managing 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.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >