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City to Consider Ban on New Vacation Rentals in Old Town

Councilwoman Ellery Deaton proposed the cap and said it would protect the city from the renters who only come to Seal Beach "to use us up and throw us away.”

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.

Edgar September 12, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Seal Beach is a microcosm of what has happened to California, yes we want business , collect big taxes, but don’t put any money makers in my back yard, just send me the results from the other taxes where business has flourished. I am always mystified by the small minded people in Seal Beach who have some claim on being special……maybe they have told themselves that they are, and now believe it. Get real, this state needs all the money, jobs, revenue it can make, we’re in deep yogurt….take off you blinders and see the world as it is. And gag me with a spoon about Mayberry by the Sea....oh please..........
Doug Coates September 13, 2012 at 05:15 PM
Most coastal towns need tourism. These types of laws have a direct negative impact on local economies.
Frank Carvajal September 21, 2012 at 02:34 AM
Councilwoman Ellery Deaton is out her mind. It is a fact, that out of the 45 vacation rental homes(approximate) in old town, less than 5 have been a problem, And yes problematic vacation home owners should be dealt with! But Councilwoman Ellery Deaton doesn't think is enough to just deal with the real issues at hand. She thinks that taking away another property right, is the answer! Just because a handful of residents oppose vacation rentals, she insist that the majority have spoken. what about the other 4800 or so Old town residents. what about the widow that needs rent out her vacation rental, in order to pa her mortgage? what about the elderly lady who has to supplemeent her retirement income, in order to pa her proprty taxes? another family needs the money to pay for outstanding home repairs. Do these people count Councilwoman Ellery Deaton?
Christine Becksted September 22, 2012 at 04:08 AM
The arguments that short-terms are noisier, generate more trash and more traffic, seem to be the anti-short term rental mantra for all cities trying to eliminate this form of business. So, if I have a neighbor who owns their home and is also noisy, has parties all of the time, generating more trash and traffic, do I have the right to tell them they no longer can live in their home? No. You go through specific processes to lodge complaints and try and get that neighbor to be more neighborly. And if that neighbor doesn't comply with citations, fines, etc. YOU'RE STILL STUCK WITH THAT NEIGHBOR. I completely understand that it is not fun living next to an owner that doesn't give a flip about the people around them but not every homeowner is a nasty neighbor and not every short term rental is bad for the community. It's actually bad for business to piss off your neighbors as a short term rental. Angry neighbors can make a horrible experience for people who just want a nice holiday. And reviews will then warn away future guests. Regulate short-terms and make them apply for business permits and you will have another form of tax revenue and source of employment for the community. It would be nice if the media would stop sensationalizing the short-term horror stories and cover the other side of the story too - the one where families can have more cozy holiday get togethers which are cheaper and easier than a hotel experience - stories that show the benefits to the community.....
Dana Caffrey September 26, 2012 at 12:57 PM
Let's not forget that vacation houses are someone elses's house. All vacationers should learn to respect it and the owner as well. It's really sad to know that there are vacationers who doesn't know how to take good care the house they're renting. http://www.vs-sr.com/

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