In June, the council expressed serious concern over how many short-term rentals city Finance Department staff had identified versus the 103 hinted at in 2010 census data and dozens more on the websites that advertise them.
City Finance Director Genie Wilson explained that census and website data can encompass more or different rentals than would be covered by the ordinance.
According to the Finance Department, census data on “seasonal, recreational or occasional use” properties don’t indicate how long they’re rented for, if they’ve been sold in the meantime and are no longer operating as a rental, whether they’re merely a second home for only the owners’ use, or if only individual rooms are rented.
The data may also include rentals advertised on channels not investigated by city staff, according to the department.
Additionally, websites don’t always indicate whether the whole house or only rooms are rented, and don’t show which rentals fall within the city boundary.
“I’m very pleased with what I see so far, this is a pretty decent update,” Councilman Michael Bennett said. “I’m looking for more as we go forward, but this is a good start.”
Adopted in February 2015 and in effect since the following July, the ordinance applies to only whole “dwelling units” that are rented out for 30 days or less. It limits occupancy to two renters per home, plus an additional two per bedroom.
The ordinance creates a registry of short-term rentals to ensure that owners warn neighbors that they’re operating one within 200 feet of their properties and that they’re paying transient-occupancy taxes, which are charged to hotels, motels and other places where visitors stay for less than 30 days.
The application requires a $75 fee, a plan for responding to complaints from neighbors, proof of transient occupancy registration, a $1,500 bond to ensure compliance and proof that neighbors have been notified.
If the rental transaction takes place within the city, a Goleta business license is also required.
According to the Finance Department, its staff researched websites like Airbnb and cross-referenced their results with Google Maps and street-view photos to find the number and addresses of local rentals.
The public works inspector then visited the properties to confirm staff’s results, and vacation rental permit application packets were mailed out to owners.
Only a handful initially responded, Wilson said.
To date, according to the Finance Department’s staff report, the city has taken in $525 in registration fees, $756 in business-licensing fees and $40 in transient-occupancy-tax revenue from the seven permitted short-term rentals.
The city will soon notify all residents via an informational postcard, created in partnership with the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors, and will notify realtor companies, Wilson said.
“I do believe the postcard approach is going to be quite huge,” she told the council. “Getting the word out is important.”
During the ordinance’s initial roll out, Wilson said, public outreach included a press release and two articles in The Monarch Press.
“We’ve become quite the model for a lot of California on this issue,” Councilman Tony Vallejo said.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the council voted 4-0, with Bennett excusing himself, to not make it a policy of the council to enforce transient-occupancy-tax compliance for those who only rent out individual rooms in their homes.
Room rentals are exempt from the short-term rental ordinance, Wilson explained, but not from paying transient occupancy tax.
Room rentals are a common form of supplementary income for many Goleta residents, especially in Old Town, Councilman Roger Aceves said.
Ensuring that TOT is paid on room rentals, the council members said, would be prohibitively difficult and more trouble than it’s worth.