The city should reconsider the Vacation Rental Ban and definition of a “vacation rental” and instead issue common-sense regulations to specifically address certain issues of safety and operations so legal vacation rentals can continue in the City of Santa Barbara.
A ban is a mistake for many reasons:
• The City of Santa Barbara will lose its 12 percent Transient Occupancy Tax and its business license fees — more than a million dollars per year. Implementing good regulations could allow the city to continue to get this much-needed revenue from which it could allocate the $180,000 per year for enforcement.
• The Santa Barbara downtown improvement association will lose its $2 per night tax that it gets from vacation-rental owners, which it uses to promote tourism.
• Restaurateurs, shop owners, grocery stores, shuttle buses, tour operators, wineries, movie theaters, and other tourist-related businesses will lose millions that vacation-rental guests would have spent here.
• The city did not consider the impact on visitors. In the first seven months of 2015, more than 3,000 groups have inquired about renting our three-bedroom, two-bath vacation home. With each group averaging four people, that’s approximately 12,000 possible vacationers looking for a home in just the first seven months of this year! Imagine what the demand is for larger or smaller homes than ours. Santa Barbara’s vacation rental ban would affect tens of thousands of potential visitors.
• Families and visitors with pets will go somewhere other than Santa Barbara for family reunions, getaway weekends, holidays, and events where they want to comfortably and affordably visit together. These vacationers prefer to have their family events take place in a home, or they can’t afford high hotel and motel rates for so many family members. A rental like ours, at $295-$395 per night for up to six, is more affordable. And how many people can afford $150 per pet, which some hotels charge?
• For many of us who use our second home as a vacation rental, it’s part-time and the only way we can afford a home here. Many vacation homeowners in town use their houses for their own vacations, for family gatherings, as well as a place to work from. The city proposes allowing the vacation rental only if the owner is present at the same time as the guests. This is too narrow, unfair to us homeowners who rent part-time, and unenforceable. We should be able to have private enjoyment of our home when we want to stay there. The city should include the part-time presence of the homeowner in the definition of allowable “home share,” perhaps at least 30 days per year. This eliminates strictly investment properties. Another route would be to limit homeowners to one vacation rental.
• The city’s reasons for a ban are unsupported by the facts:
Noise: The statistic of something like six noise complaints over a two-year period from vacation homes, as cited by the city, is meaningless without knowing how many noise complaints occur in general. Our rental agreement has a clause prohibiting guests from causing disturbances and mandates quiet from 10 p.m. till 7 a.m., a rule enforced by a $1,000 fully refundable security deposit.
Negative Impact on City Services: No increase in city services occurs from a part-time vacation home that wouldn’t occur from a full-time, fully occupied home. In fact, most rentals are on weekends; the house is not occupied during the week. Full-time renters have a greater impact on city services since they use schools, public transportation, parks, social services, police, etc.
Negative Impact on Residential Areas: Like any business, a vacation home is extremely well kept. Yards are free of trash and unsightly accumulations of things; houses are maintained. Landscaping services trim regularly; trash and recycling are picked up. We are on good terms with our neighbors, some of whom rent our house when family comes to town.
Effect on Full-Time Rental Housing: If we had to rent our home full-time, we could not enjoy it ourselves. If we cannot have private enjoyment of our own property, is that fair? Are all full-time renters “better” for neighborhoods than second-home owners? We plan to eventually retire here, and we want to have a place to invest our time and money. A full-time rental would not afford that, and we would have an overall economic loss. From our point of view, a ban would put more houses on the market for sale, which would lower home values. The city makes an erroneous assumption that a ban would improve the full-time rental market.
Adversely Affects Hotel/Motel Owners: If hotels paid their housekeepers better and had better working conditions, maybe they would not choose to work at vacation homes. The city should not favor one type of business over another. The last time I checked, the U.S. has a free-market economy.
• A complete ban on part-time vacation rentals will result in a lawsuit. More than 350 homeowners have been paying the city a 12 percent Transient Occupancy Tax, business license fee, and Downtown Improvement fee for years. We were told we had “amnesty” when first asked to pay the tax and fees. The city condoned vacation homes and collected millions. To take away vacation rentals is to take our income without any compensation. The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article 1 of the California State Constitution prohibit this.
• The rental minimum of 30 days is arbitrary. Most people don’t have a 30-day vacation.
Regulations like a noise curfew, requirements for smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers, licensing, off-street parking, water use, and a local property manager would be more effective than a ban on vacation rentals.
Santa Barbara’s proposed ban is another systemic way to squeeze the middle class. We are not rich people; this second home was our way to eventually retire in Santa Barbara. The city’s proposed ban says the wealthy with a guest house on the estate may keep the status quo. It’s another example of inequality and how politicians favor the rich over the middle class.
Prospective guests whom I’ve told about the ban have said: “Sounds like Santa Barbara is not interested in tourism.” “Short-term vacation rentals are a benefit to the renters as well as the homeowners.”
In their own words, some of our vacation renters explain why they want to rent a home instead of hotel rooms. These are the people the City of Santa Barbara would turn away by its ban:
“We are looking for a house to rent for Christmas. Our 91-year-old parents live in Samarkand, and it looks like your place is close to theirs. We’re hoping to have a four-generation Christmas with great-grandparents, us, our kids, and one granddaughter.”
“I would love to rent your home. My son is coming home from the military for the first time in a year and a half. I would love for him to see Santa Barbara.”
“I’m planning an S.B. vacation to celebrate my husband’s 50th birthday. We live in the Bay Area and will be joined by our best friends from L.A. They have two sons, and we have a 6-year-old. We’re a bunch of academics who love watching movies, spending time with our kids, going on hikes, and cooking together. I realize we are one toddler over the six-guest limit; hopefully you will still consider us.”
How can the city make us say no?