Short Term Rental Conversion Appeal on Tuesday

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By Anna Marie Gott

This is an open letter to Santa Barbara’s Mayor and City Council who will hear the Appeal of a project denied by the Historic Landmarks Commission (HLC) on Tuesday, July 18th. The project consisted of the conversion of a residential home to permanent use as a hotel/Short Term Vacation Rental (STR) (i.e., overnight accommodations).

If you are concerned about this issue you should attend the City Council Meeting or send an email expressing your concerns. – The Mayor and Council Members do not hear enough from residents who have been negatively affected by STRs, while they hear from STR Operators often.

Mayor and City Council:

A quote from the 2015 Housing Element should be instrumental in the finding you make regarding the conversion of a residential home at 101 W Anapamu St. to permanent use as a hotel/STR:

“The use of residential units as short-term vacation rentals and/or only occupied as second homes poses a housing challenge to the City because these uses decrease available long-term housing opportunities for local residents as well as contribute to the increase in housing costs.”

This quote is pertinent to this and two other Appeals of hotel/STR conversions you will rule on. In each case, you should be aware that the owners never lived in the homes and that the homes were purchased solely for use as a STR or to be converted into a hotel/STR.  Two owners do not live in Santa Barbara, while one is a resident, and one owner has three homes dedicated to STR use in three California cities. - Each owner could be defined as a speculative investor, as they are subsidizing their ownership by converting a home to use as a STR or hotel/STR and removing a home from the ownership or rental market of residents.   

STRs and any hotel/STR conversions “decrease available long-term housing opportunities for local residents” and “contribute to the increase in housing costs.” - It is impossible to see how this project could be approved knowing the City’s severe housing shortage and that the conversion of this unit would open the door to more speculate investors doing the same. – It would be more unfathomable if this was approved knowing an unlimited number of conversions could occur annually when a single unit is converted.  

The loss of housing, the severe local and State housing shortage, the hotel vacancy rate and the number of illegal STRs, were critical factors in HLCs unanimous denial of the project.  Who made the decision was also a deciding factor. Staff only recently instructed the HLC and Architectural Board of Review (ARB) that the loss of housing could factor into the “sound community” plan finding and that THEY, NOT Staff, were responsible for making it. – Not one conversion was approved by either reviewing body once they considered the “sound community” plan finding.

Staff states that development trends indicate that the City will likely exceed construction objectives and the loss of a single housing unit is balanced by new construction. Here is what’s not considered: the reported 800 homes that have been lost to illegally operated STRs, the fact that speculative investors or Commercial Hosts, with second homes or multiple units, will benefit disproportionally when converting units to hotels/STRs, and finally renters are not considered - and they make up 60% of residents. Also not considered, is that the number of homes lost to illegally operated STRs is dwarfed by un-built ADUs and AUDs - which are expected to be radically more expensive than the current (older) housing stock. – But perhaps more importantly, Commercial Hosts, who could eviscerate rental housing markets in places like Santa Barbara, when they remove multiple units from the market at once, were not considered either.

Staff’s acknowledgement that a single unit conversion does not fall under the Condominium and Hotel Conversion Ordinance, and thus not subject to any annual limit of hotel/STR conversions, strengthens the case for denial and adds to the tally of things not considered. – The majority of hotel/STR Applications are single unit conversions, with 10 units operating or approved and 19 in the pipeline, while 3 Applications have a total of 17 units. – Another 8,900 units lie within the R-4 and commercial zone where hotels are permitted. - Given the cumulative effect each successive hotel/STR conversion has on the housing stock this Ordinance, and Staffs application of it, cannot be considered to be sound planning because by Staff’s rational every conversion would be approved.

Today, Santa Barbara has a residential vacancy rate under 1%, an average hotel vacancy rate of 24.38% and spiraling housing costs with double digit increases. This has resulted in decreases in disposable income and an exodus of moderate and middle income earners from the City as housing costs rise and become scarcer, due to illegal STRs. At the same time the City has made substantial concessions to create new housing units, but they will remain largely unrealized for years even as concern grows about the number of entitled AUD projects failing to secure building permits. – Given these circumstances it’s inconceivable that elected officials could believe that encouraging non-residents and residents to permanently convert housing units to hotel/STR use could ever be “consistent with the principles of sound communing planning.”

Reason and logic should prevail in this decision. The conversion of a single residential unit to a hotel/STR use should not be found to be “consistent with the principles of sound community planning” at this time. Residents need housing, not more hotels. - I urge you to uphold the HLC’s decision or to deny approval of this project. Further, I request that you ask Staff to come back with a discussion on a moratorium on hotel/STR conversions until the residential vacancy rate is 5% for a sustained period of time.

Meeting Details:

  •       Tuesday July 18th at 2:30pm
  •       735 Anacapa

Email City Council:

hschneider@santabarbaraca.gov, jdominguez@santabarbaraca.gov, ghart@santabarbaraca.gov, hwhite@santabarbaraca.gov, rrowse@santabarbaraca.gov, cmurillo@santabarbaraca.gov,
fhotchkiss@santabarbaraca.gov

Future hotel/STR Appeals:

  •     August 1st, 812 Jennings Ave.
  •     August 8th, 2017 Bath St.

More Information:

     homesnothotels@gmail.com

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30 Comments

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sbarover Jul 19, 2017 01:02 PM
Short Term Rental Conversion Appeal on Tuesday

Be on the look out for the plain white envelope "stealth mailer" from the STR folks -" Alert! City Hall has Secretly Reduced Your Property Value! " Claims the city took action "without due process of law" and took away property rights, severely impacted your property values and limits the legal options you previously had for the use, title and future sale of your property. " Calling themselves "R-4 Property Right Group" -- but the tone, tenor and misrepresentations it sounds like just a new tact from the same self-serving and rapacious STR folks who just cannot seem to get their way.

a-1511589727 Jul 19, 2017 01:00 PM
Short Term Rental Conversion Appeal on Tuesday

The council made the right call on shutting down STR. Give one out, next time it'll be an army. If SB is having serious trouble with even offering housing to local employees, how could you allow houses/apartments be turned into hotels to entertain tourists? Will that help the economy? Maybe only the owners. This objection is on top of the priority of protecting the traditional community & neighborhood from people trucking in strangers night after night in all directions.

oops Jul 19, 2017 12:41 PM
Short Term Rental Conversion Appeal on Tuesday

its easy to pick on STR's because they don't have a face. Look at rents since the city has decided to enforce this ordinance - they have continued to go up not down. Demand is still higher than supply could that be because SB is a sanctuary city. Per the Independent, there are approx. 100,000 undocumented immigrants in SB county - guarantee they are not living in the streets, they are in your housing. Even if they lived 10 to a house (Pini), that is 10,000 houses occupied Conversely, there are approx. 2500 STR's in the County...... OP is barking up the wrong tree

SurfisUp Jul 19, 2017 11:56 AM
Short Term Rental Conversion Appeal on Tuesday

I see now why so few brave souls put themselves out there to stand up to change something they believe. It seems that seeing someone rally people behind a local issue and allowing Democracy and the process to work has resulted in a lot of bitter people trying to defame Ms. Gott. ------------ In my very humble opinion this woman is a Hero and should be celebrated for the fight she has just won. She's clearly done her homework and the outreach needed to ensure a successful outcome. -------------------------------------------------------------- My only question now is: Will she run for Mayor? We need people like her in office!

a-1511589727 Jul 18, 2017 11:14 PM
Short Term Rental Conversion Appeal on Tuesday

Keep livin the dream. It's almost over. She's wasting all our tax payers dollars. Property rights are just that. How many court cases does the city need to lose in a year before they start realizing maybe just maybe they make poor decisions with no basis in the Law? Sorry my friend these multi million dollar homes will never be affordable housing as Anna Gott tries to convince everyone. The owners won't share them with long term tenants either since 80% of these owners live in them 3-6 months or more a year. She says we shouldn't allow people to purchase second homes in SB. Really? Last I checked that right is protected under the constitution. Maybe we should also say if The color of your skin is darker than mine, you shouldnt buy a home on Bath. That's how this is going... Better yet, if you have a family with 4 kids you are no longer welcome in SB because guess what? Hotels don't allow 4 kids in a room with their parent. BOOM!

a-1511589727 Jul 18, 2017 01:22 PM
Short Term Rental Conversion Appeal on Tuesday

Has the county banned STR in residential zones within the unincorporated areas? My reading says it hasn't yet, but it'll ban STR in such areas, soon. I support county to take this measure to ban STR in residential areas. One-night standers (or a few night standers) only have short-term interest in mind. It appears to me one of my neighbors bought their 2nd home just for STR. Guests come & go every few nights, not much different from a shady massage parlor .... "On June 6, 2017 Board of Supervisors directed staff to return to the Board as appropriate with revised Short Term Rental (STR) Ordinances that will provide for the following: Allow STRs in Commercial I Mixed Use Zones; Prohibit STRs in Residential Zones; Prohibit STRs in AG-I Zones; and Prohibit STRs in Resource Protection, Industrial, and Certain Special Purpose Zones." ... ....

SurfisUp Jul 18, 2017 10:05 AM
Short Term Rental Conversion Appeal on Tuesday

Someone should give this lady a medal. She is spot on and I can't thank her enough for standing up and fighting for residents. People like her should be running this town and its a shame she isn't on the City Council. They should take note of what she says. Her logic is well reasoned and the City Council should deny that project.

shardin1 Jul 17, 2017 08:51 PM
Short Term Rental Conversion Appeal on Tuesday

Using the logic of Ms. Gott, no existing home should be taken out of circulation for any reason. No new daycares or any other businesses for that matter. There is a council member who did that very thing albeit twenty some or more years ago. Nonetheless, a rental/home was taken out of circulation and a daycare installed. Additionally, having all the discussion lumped into one category makes it difficult to sort out of couple of issues. R-4 and the Coastal Zone should be one topic of discussion and the rest of the zones another. There should be absolutely no reason to not grant licenses to people who own in those zones as it is already zoned for such use. The rights of those owners have been taken away and it would appear that they are now in the quasi official capacity of providing workforce housing whether that was their intention or not. Not all rental situations fall into long-term ones or even ones that you have heard about. I had a rental for a fellow who only wanted to rent nine months a year as that was how long he stayed in town to run his business. Yes, he owns a business which pays taxes and employs people! I would then rent the cottage as an STR. He would come back in the Fall and the relationship began anew. This was a win for me, a win for him, a win for tourists, and one for business health of the City!

a-1511589727 Jul 17, 2017 07:32 PM
Short Term Rental Conversion Appeal on Tuesday

First of all, anyone that knows this woman knows she operates from a personal vendetta. Her new target is STR and in fact we have contacted many of her associations she "represents" and they are against her latest mission. Let's be clear here these owners do NOT wish to convert their homes to hotels!!! Your city council and city attorney is MAKING them! Yes, they own in the LEGAL zone and they themselves live in these homes half the year. They are NOT investors as fake news Anna Gott media frenzy tells you. When they don't live there themselves, they are allowed to rent less than 30 days. It's their bundle of rights. So tread lightly. There will be attorneys at the hearing. These owners will not back down and names will be taken down. Anna Gott is doing a wonderful job in setting the city up for one huge lawsuit. Ever watch the Chick Fil A controversy? She's wasting all our tax dollars right now, creating wars in our neighborhoods and instead of thinking about how these legal STRs could generate solutions with $ for affordable housing and helping with solutions for our homeless situation. Remember people, these are not Residentially zoned homes in residential neighborhoods. This one tomorrow is a commercial property in a commercial building!!!

a-1511589727 Jul 18, 2017 11:01 PM
Short Term Rental Conversion Appeal on Tuesday

Good luck lady. Keep up the great work. The court system will be the decision maker not this horrible City Council that has ruined our city. Aren't you also against all the new housing in our town. Quite hypocritical. The sky is not falling and spreading your crazy scenario and fake statistics that all owners want to do this is insanity. Are you offering to pay these $2-3 million dollar mortgages and $30,000 a year property taxes because this does not equal affordable housing. If you think there is a fairy that sprinkles this town with subsidized mortgage payments like your housing you live on, please do tell. Get a real job and stop creating wars with neighbors spreading false information. Everyone is on to you. Do you honestly think these are "affordable"? City council made the hugest legal mistake of their careers tonight. Grab your popcorn Anna. You are spending tax dollars better than anyone in this town. Oh but that's right, do you pay in?

SBCountyLocal Jul 17, 2017 11:42 PM
Short Term Rental Conversion Appeal on Tuesday

OP Here... Personal vendetta? Fake news? Organizations I represent? You don't know of what you speak. - It don't deal in Alternate Facts, but it looks like you do. You don't know me (no personal vendetta here, this is a social issue) and you don't know the organizations or people I've reached out too about this issue. I don't claim to represent an organization on this, but I have asked some to take a position. I've also gone door to door in the neighborhoods where there are homes that are in line for conversion. I've spoken to many people. Very, and I mean very, few people have been against this. - Some organizations don't want to take a position, but some do. Have you looked into the ownership of the homes I mentioned? I do my research and I really try to stick to facts. I was at the meetings of each project when the owners stated their case. Some had some great lies to tell the ABR. Some told the truth. It was a toss up. I don't know where you got your information, but I assure you , I have gone so far as to go to the Tax Assessors office to check the home tax exemptions and I've read everything I can get a hold of in the street files before a meeting. I've simply presented information and these are real (and repeatable) scenarios that the City Council needs to make a decision on. -At the end of the day they need to decide if converting this residential home to commercial use as a hotel/STR is right or not... They may decide it is, but they can also decide that it isn't. In any event I'll know I did what I could to highlight a issue I see as wrong on a number of levels. - If we win great. If we loose there are two more chances coming up to get the City Council to really look at the long term impacts of the crazy ordinance. As for taxes, going to affordable housing the small amount (yes millions is small) can't offset the loss of residential housing because of the volume of residential housing we are talking about.

Goodland Momma Jul 17, 2017 06:29 PM
Short Term Rental Conversion Appeal on Tuesday

Also - I don't understand where this idea that long term renters are all angels and having anything other than a long term renter threatens our neighbohoods came from. Our neighbors at the first place I lived in SB were drug dealers with people coming and going all hours of the night and fights often breaking out - many times in our front yard - one time over fence and into our backyard!! Every time I hear a 'horror' story about a short term renter I am reminded of our situation and how I wish they had been out of there in a few days. The fact is that they hadn't paid rent for months and the landlord had to hire an attorney and spend thousands of dollars to get them out. And I've had my share of bad (and good!) neighbors since then. The point is that we can't ban things to avoid the bad apples - there will always be some - but - common sense regulation helps to minimize the number of negative experiences - and that's where our City Council has failed us!

Goodland Momma Jul 17, 2017 06:27 PM
Short Term Rental Conversion Appeal on Tuesday

Well, I don't know this woman, but it seems to me that if she's so 'pro-housing' she should spend some of that energy going to hearings supporting housing projects. However, given the Allied Neighborhood group has never met a housing project they liked, and given the comments on the Independent article about the messages she sent on NextDoor, I have to conclude what many have said over at the Independent article - this is not about supporting housing, or even protecting neighborhoods. This is about ego and the power trip that she's getting from being '3-0' in getting STRs denied - never mind how those denials affect the property owners, and that no affordable housing will come from those denials given that most of the STR operators that I know live in their units part time and are not about to rent them long term and lose that ability. Result - they will sit vacant and SB will be worse off. This is not to say I support unbridled STR conversion. Frankly, I think the City Council was being lazy by just saying these are hotels and need to be converted as such (AND - going as far as saying that once you've converted you can never use that unit as a house again! What? That seems counter-productive if the end goal is to protect housing). A little hard work to create some common sense regulation into the STR process would go a long way to ensuring a reasonable amount of conversions that won't affect neighborhoods.

a-1511589727 Jul 18, 2017 11:36 PM
Short Term Rental Conversion Appeal on Tuesday

Can the "residents" you speak of pay $4500/month for a 1 bedroom 1 block from the beach? Is that work force affordable housing? Sorry but do you want a handout? You live in paradise! These owners have worked their entire lives to own these homes and you want them to go in then hole every month to give you affordable housing? This isn't Bakersfield. Home prices aren't $300,000. Get real people. Be grateful you have owners that have owned since the 50's that paid $20,000 for some of these properties and $200/year in property taxes and can offer lower rents. When they sell, those rents will be GONE! When a new buyer like most in SB getting denied purchased, Daddy Warbucks doesn't come rescue them to pay the difference in a mortgage of $30,000 to todays $3,000,000. It's reality people! And no, Short Term Rentals cost wayyyyy more to operate have 50% occupancy rates, all utilities they pay for and it's far more economical to long term rent! Management fees alone are 20-30% where long term rentals are 5-7%. IT's a simple math equation. Most people and smart investors want no vacancy, no furniture, low overhead and low management. These owners are second home owners or people that travel that share their HOMES not HOTELS. They are in the allowed use zone.

SBCountyLocal Jul 17, 2017 08:08 PM
Short Term Rental Conversion Appeal on Tuesday

OP Here: I started this because tourists were replacing residents and I know, and have met dozens of people, who have been forced to move or could not find housing because of this. - Tourist now stay in their old homes. - And personally, I know of 4-plexes to 12 apartment buildings that have 75% + units set aside for tourists. - These units were built for residents not for uses as STRs or hotels. I have attended a dozen + meetings just on housing in the last 6 months and this doesn't include the 1 1/2 years before that... Housing affordable for residents and our workforce has been a key issue I have followed and I am a huge proponent of it, but the AUD has failed us with luxury housing and loopholes you can drive a mac truck through. - The intention was great, but execution was a disaster IMHO. And please keep in mind that every project that I rallied people against were for projects that had nonresident owners or where an entire home was purchased for use only as a STR or hotel/STR. - Why should the city allow conversions of second homes by nonresidents when residents can't find housing. - And allowing conversions increases costs for anyone who rents or whats to buy.... Finally, why are were giving goodies to nonresidents when our residents need housing? - This does not make sense for the City. The STR platforms refuse to follow local laws. Any time or money spent on an ordinance is wasted. We need an easily enforceable ordinance that ensures compliance until such time as all platforms follow our laws. More importantly, we need a decent rental vacancy rate first...

420722 Jul 17, 2017 05:51 PM
Short Term Rental Conversion Appeal on Tuesday

I don't have to be negatively affected by an STR to know that I don't want them in our neighborhoods. Thank you for all those fighting in opposition of these hotels in residential areas. Jut because you own your home does NOT give rights to run a hotel. Go buy a hotel.

SBCountyLocal Jul 17, 2017 05:23 PM
Short Term Rental Conversion Appeal on Tuesday

OP HERE It's a multi-use building. There is a residential unit on the top floor. - Should have said this. A question about owners living in their home and renting out rooms or a unit out as a STR is proposed as a middle ground. This is an UNWORKABLE situation. - Airbnb, Homeway, VRBO and every other platform FLAT OUR REFUSE to remove listings of those that are not licensed or where STRs are prohibited. They are more than happy to break the laws and hide the Hosts address and contact info. They will not do anything about prohibiting Hosts from advertising for less than 30 days or accepting payment for less. They WILL NOT PLAY BY ANY RULES, but the one's they want. They also make more money when entire units are off the market. They want their $30 billion $ valuation and Casual Hosts won't get them there, nor will playing by any local rules.

a-1511589727 Jul 17, 2017 04:32 PM
Short Term Rental Conversion Appeal on Tuesday

Well written post. However, there is a middle ground here that never seems to make this conversation. Many people ran STRs in their own homes (i.e. primary residence). In many cases this was while they were home. These were not converted rental units and the income generated helped middle income families deal with high cost of living. Smart regulations (limiting the number of units, preventing whole home rentals, limiting # of rental days etc.) should be considered rather than an outright ban. Too many people see this as a black& white issue.

a-1511589727 Jul 19, 2017 02:36 PM
Short Term Rental Conversion Appeal on Tuesday

Good to see a reasonable response. I wasn't aware of what Carp has done. Limited #'s and an annual lottery sounds like a great solution reasonable people should accept. Why is no one proposing this in SB?

mm1970 Jul 19, 2017 09:19 AM
Short Term Rental Conversion Appeal on Tuesday

There are plenty of ways that STRs can be good for the community at large. Like it or not, SB is a tourist destination. If you want to bring in tourist dollars (income has to come from somewhere), then tourists need a place to stay. It is best for a tourist location to have options that are not just hotels. Houses, condos, etc. I prefer to stay in houses and condos. I have stayed in STRs in residential areas, and they were very nice and laid back. But even with that, SB doesn't need to allow STRs in residential areas - what we are discussing here is in areas zoned for hotels. Various types of STRs also bring in money that would not otherwise come in. I don't know the numbers, but I gather that a certain % of them are homes that are lived in by the primary owner part of the year. Those houses would otherwise be empty the rest of the year - why not bring in tourist money? They aren't going to help the vacancy rate. The same goes for people who are older and on fixed incomes who are interested in homestays. They can afford to stay in their homes, are not forced to get roommates (who wants a roommate when you are 65 years old?) To be honest, this trend is only growing - the vacancy rate of hotels in SB is pretty telling. From a personal standpoint, I much prefer condos and homes, and frankly - I don't vacation in a place where my only option is a hotel. How much TOT tax will we be losing by banning STRs? Gee, how will we pay for our roads, policemen, and our underfunded pensions... Finally, which would I prefer - a well-run STR next door that rents to laid-back families, or a main house with 2-3 single renters and an extra "granny unit" with 2 more renters, adding an extra 2-3 cars on the street. Hm...tough choice.

sbarover Jul 18, 2017 08:33 PM
Short Term Rental Conversion Appeal on Tuesday

Notice how STR folks always tell us why STRs are good for themselves: but never why STRs are good for the community at large. STRs are very selfish propositions.

mm1970 Jul 18, 2017 03:18 PM
Short Term Rental Conversion Appeal on Tuesday

Not even just that kind of middle ground. Especially for units in the hotel zoning area, where it is supposed to be allowed. It's not rocket science. Goodness, I was renting condos for week-long vacations in Hawaii in the late 1990s. Condos that were a mix of people living there full time, and owners who would be there several months of the year and rent them out the rest of the time. Just look at Carpinteria. They have a maximum % of units that can be STRs by zone, and it's a lottery. Have to reapply every year. Embrace it. God I hate hotels. Hate them. When I travel (with kids), and am staying for more than 2 nights, I MUCH prefer a condo, townhouse, or house. Who the hell wants to share a queen sized bed with a three year old or a ten year old? And go to bed at 8 pm. Not me. Okay, the bedtime thing isn't true, but sharing a bed with my kids, totally true! Allow it in certain zones, limit the total number of rentals, require an annual lottery.

Flicka Jul 17, 2017 04:06 PM
Short Term Rental Conversion Appeal on Tuesday

If out of town investors want to make money from SB let them invest in a hotel. They don't care about your family neighborhood. Hotels had a 24% vacancy rate and available housing for residents is down to 1%. How hard is it to figure out the problem?

a-1511589727 Jul 17, 2017 01:29 PM
Short Term Rental Conversion Appeal on Tuesday

Thank you for posting this. I don't support STR. It destroys or will destroy the neighborhood as it's been . I didn't buy into a nice community expecting strangers in all corners coming & going each day a new batch. If the city/county is willing to levy 30% additional tax that goes into helping the city & neighborhood, I'd consider a reluctant OK. Otherwise, it only benefits the owners and the hope for permanent or long-term newcomers to settle here. Absolutely, NO.

yin yang Jul 17, 2017 01:05 PM
Short Term Rental Conversion Appeal on Tuesday

Ms. Gott, I truly appreciate the work you have put in. Thank you! (I'd rather see a nurse or doctor living at 2017 Bath; used to live two blocks away.)

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