Legal Punches Thrown in Vacation-Rental Fight

City Delivers Uppercut in Form of Anti-SLAPP Motion

<b>NO VACATION:</b> Theo Kracke (right) speaks to the council as City Attorney Ariel Calonne listens on.
Paul Wellman (file)

Facing a lawsuit that claims the city’s position against short-term rentals violates state law supporting affordable lodging along the California coast, City Attorney Ariel Calonne countered on January 30, filing an anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) motion against plaintiff Theo Kracke, owner of Paradise Retreats, which manages vacation rentals countywide.

The common perception that the city has banned short-term rentals is “entirely not true,” said Calonne, explaining that councilmembers simply voted unanimously last summer to increase funding to enforce zoning ordinances that prohibit homeowners in residential neighborhoods from renting out rooms or entire houses for stays of less than a month. Kracke’s lawsuit, Calonne added, “constitutes a direct attack on the First Amendment rights of 70 [public speakers and] the City Council.”

According to court documents, “Kracke does not challenge the validity of the city’s ordinance, which was enacted in 1954 and amended in 1983. Instead, Kracke challenges the city’s discussions and the informal minute order documenting those discussions.”

“The City’s heavy-handed tactics continue,” Kracke said in a statement. “It’s outrageous the city is alleging I’m stifling … free speech. It’s obvious the … strategy is to delay and escalate my attorneys’ fees in the hopes that I drop the lawsuit. The [California] Coastal Commission is on record that any action banning short-term rentals amounts to ‘development’ under the Coastal Act and therefore requires an amendment to the City’s Local Coastal Program or an application for a Coastal Development Permit.”

Ventura Superior Court Judge Mark Borrell hears the case on March 2.

See PDF below for December 6, 2016, California Coastal Commission letter concerning short-term vacation rentals.


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