In a tentative decision last week, Ventura County Superior Court Judge Mark Borrell ruled that the City of Santa Barbara must allow short-term vacation rentals (STVRs) to operate near the beach. Borrell’s ruling upends a portion of the city’s 2015 enforcement crackdown against the burgeoning industry, spurred by complaints that STVRs violated zoning laws meant to protect family neighborhoods and further impacted an already strained long-term rental market. The lawsuit against the city was brought by Theo Kracke, owner of Paradise Retreats, a business that connects Santa Barbara visitors and vacationers to clients willing to rent their homes for stays of less than 30 days. “This is a tentative decision, so we are cautiously optimistic,” Kracke said in a statement. “Nevertheless, we are thrilled it appears the court embraced our arguments that the city acted improperly.”
Kracke — represented by Rogers, Sheffield & Campbell LLP — argued that the city’s effort to ramp up enforcement violated the California Coastal Act, which requires seaside communities statewide to provide affordable visitor lodging within a close-to-shore area called the Coastal Zone. In Borrell’s ruling, the city failed to secure a coastal development permit from the California Coastal Commission, a requirement when an activity significantly “changes the intensity of use of land or water, even where no construction is involved,” according to the state agency. Citywide STVRs outside the Coastal Zone are unaffected by the court ruling. City Attorney Ariel Calonne has said he’ll appeal. Last year, the Coastal Commission denied Santa Barbara County’s attempt to ban STVRs in unincorporated neighborhoods within the Coastal Zone.