Amid backlash from locals, vacation rentals in the city’s Old Town tourist district could soon be limited.
A law proposed at Monday’s City Council meeting would halt any new vacation rental properties in Old Town. Mayor Michael Levitt directed city staff to draft an ordinance that, if approved, would ban new short-term property rentals -- any property rental for 29 days or less.
Since the vacation rental practice is already prohibited in all other city districts, the cap in Old Town would effectively stop any owner from renting property for the short term throughout the entirety of Seal Beach for the foreseeable future.
Councilwoman Ellery Deaton, who asked for the ordinance, said she wanted to cap those permits “as soon as possible and send it through the process.”
Deaton said that the people she represents have told her, “We have enough, let’s cap ‘em. Let’s stop ‘em.”
Her proposal highlights the feelings of many Old Town residents who want no more short-term vacation rentals, and, at bare minimum, want more restrictions on it. A number of residents have long complained about the garbage, noise and carousing from some vacation rentals.
At least six people voiced their concerns about short-term rental properties and received scattered applause from a handful of people in the audience at Monday’s meeting.
“It’s not what it used to be,” Barbara Barton said about the city she’s lived in for 42 years. “Everybody loves this little town, and they want it to be Mayberry.”
“And they (short term vacation renters) come here and want to change everything about it,” she added.
In contrast, Cheri Beckerle, who owns a vacation rental position in Seal Beach and doesn’t live in the city, said she wanted to “speak in support of those that want to join this community without actually living here.”
“Not all the renters are partiers and crazy people.” Beckerle said. “Some of us are just family.”
The discussion began after the City Council scheduled a vote on whether to allow three local short-term rental properties to skip the city’s permitting process because, among other reasons, they had been issued business licenses.
According to the city staff report, the permit-skipping-process issue arose after the city’s finance department issued business licenses to a number of vacation rental businesses without consulting with the community development department and “without the knowledge of the City Council, City Manager, City Attorney, or community development department."
Under the city’s current code, Old Town short-term rental properties must receive the go-ahead from the city planning commission before they can operate.
The City Council voted 5-0 in three different public hearings to deny the property owner's requests to skip the permit process but did allow a time extension for the three properties to obtain the proper permits.
In a Tuesday phone interview, Deaton said her reasons for proposing the ordinance were about preserving “the charm of the community and the cohesiveness of the community.”
“This is what Old Town is about,” Deaton said. “It’s about community, and it’s about neighbors, and when you go on and bring in party homes, it disrupts the quality of life.”
She said she knows that there are good property owners and good renters, but Seal Beach's problem is with “the people that are coming to use us up and throw us away.”
Once drafted, the ordinance would go to the planning commission and then to the City Council for a vote.
According to Deaton, the soonest the law could go into effect would be sometime in October.