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Vacation Rentals Take Homes Away

Commercial Uses in Residential Zones Are Illegal


At present there are more than 1,400 short-term vacation rentals in Santa Barbara available on one Internet site alone, Tripping.com. Other sites, such as Airbnb.com, list even more. Most of these one-night or longer vacation rentals are in neighborhoods zoned “R” for “residential.” They are illegal under the Santa Barbara Zoning Code, Chapter 28!

In order to take in more taxes and to further turn Santa Barbara into an ever-growing, giant tourist trap, the Santa Barbara City Council has continued to ignore our Zoning Ordinance, Chapter 28, which makes vacation rentals in R-zoned neighborhoods illegal. This City Council has aided and abetted in the stealing of your city for the benefit of a relative few but at a terrible social and economic cost to our local population, especially to our working people, our elderly, and those on fixed incomes.

Below, I quote from a letter that I just received from Rob Pearson, executive director of the city Housing Authority. Also, this link will take you to the agenda and the vacation housing impact report that he and his staff presented to the Housing Authority Commission on May 6, 2015.

“I have observed and read some of your strong and vocal campaign pieces to try and reign in (if not halt) short-term vacation rentals on the South Coast of S.B. County. As we both know, these are illegal uses per most R zoning designations and eat up precious housing supply. Thus, I share many of your concerns.

My professional opinion (and one that I am providing to the HA Commission) is that short-term rentals reduce housing supply that would otherwise be available to not only the low-income renters we serve but also middle-income members of our community; both are very important members of our workforce. It is a conundrum to watch our tourist industry grow in a way that takes housing from the very folks expected to serve tourists; and rising housing costs (against stagnated wages) is now recognized as the biggest culprit when it comes to income inequality in the U.S. Having one’s workforce living in over-crowded situations or commuting for low- to middle-wage jobs, is simply not smart nor is it sound planning. Residential units were never meant to be hotels or motels. We have zoning laws that forbid such use … and when you have a long-standing housing supply problem, like in S.B., it makes no sense to remove even one unit of inventory from that supply.

Everyone acknowledges that the conversion of residential units to this otherwise illegal short-term, commercial use reduces housing supply/availability for the given community’s workforce. I believe that short-term rentals are getting out of hand and reducing desperately needed housing for the community.”

Vacation rentals in our residential-zoned neighborhoods, as defined, are clearly against the City of Santa Barbara Zoning law, Chapter 28, even while the mayor and City Council continue to disregard this fact. I do not want people who disregard our laws running my city. We will see how many other residents feel the same way in the coming election cycle.

The question is: what do you, the people of Santa Barbara want your city to be? Do you want it to be a community that serves you, or do you want it to be a community that serves hordes of outsiders with a city administration that needs more and more of your money and takes more and more of your quiet enjoyment of your homes and neighborhoods just to fuel a tourist-based economy that cannot pay for itself and its police service demands.

The mayor and council closing their eyes to this vacation rental issue is one of the most destructive public policies I have seen in Santa Barbara. Other cities have already acted to stop it, but not here. The time for meetings and talk is over. Mayor and City Council: Do your jobs!



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