The Huntington Beach City Council voted unanimously Monday to have staff look into the feasibility of legalizing and regulating short-term vacation rentals, which are illegal in the city.
Mayor Pro Tem Joe Shaw brought the item to the dais with the intent to impose stricter enforcement laws on homes rented out for 30 days or less, which are illegal in the city, after he received multiple complaints from downtown residents about rowdy tenants.
However, Shaw suggested there could be another way to deter bad guests while allowing owners to use their homes how they choose.
"I've expanded my idea of what the possible solution to this could be," he said. "I don't want the City Council to just look at stepping up enforcement, I want them to look at all the possibilities that we have for creating a quieter, less party atmosphere downtown with the vacation rentals."
City staff was directed to research cities that allow short-term rentals, such as Palm Springs and Newport Beach, and see if those laws could be applied to Surf City.
For example, homeowners in Palm Springs pay the city $200 each year to register their homes as a vacation rental and prohibit guests from playing music outside the building.
Huntington Beach downtown resident Angie Karkut told the council that she and her family have lived next door to a short-term rental home for about five years "and it's been nothing but a nightmare."
"The renters that come, they're on vacation," she said. "They're there to have a good time. I love the Irish girls, but they love to drink. They go to the bars and I know when they come home … Drunk people are loud."
Various vacation rental websites, such as Airbnb.com, HomeAway.com and VRBO.com, have listings on more than 100 short-term rentals in the city, with the majority of the rentals near the downtown area.
Some homes were found to be as low as $770 a week to bunk walking distance away from the beach. On the other hand, one property owner listed a three-bedroom villa off 22nd Street and Pacific Coast Highway for $12,250 a week.
City Planning Director Scott Hess said property owners that manage a vacation rental are given a warning before being fined $250 for their first offense, $500 for their second offense and potentially $1,000 a day if they are continually in violation.
Councilman Joe Carchio suggested that property owners should be required to post a bond with their property as a way to discourage rowdy guests.
"If there are continual problems, then that bond is forfeited and that bond should be pretty significant," he said. "I think that's important because then it would have some teeth."