Santa Barbara Responds to Coastal Short Term Rental Ruling

Santa Barbara Responds to Coastal Short Term Rental Ruling title=
Santa Barbara Responds to Coastal Short Term Rental Ruling
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Source: City of Santa Barbara

In response to the May 4, 2021, Court of Appeal ruling in Kracke v. City of Santa Barbara, the City of Santa Barbara today announced its interim Coastal Zone Short Term Vacation Rental (STVR) Enforcement Policy.  Consistent with the Court of Appeal’s ruling, the City will continue enforcement against unlawful STVRs in the coastal zone “on the same basis” as enforcement had been conducted before June 23, 2015.

Coastal zone and inland short-term vacation rentals (STVRs) are illegal in lower density Santa Barbara residential zoning districts, and remain so after the Kracke case. The Kracke ruling means that enforcement actions against illegal STVRs in the coastal zone will be limited to situations where complaints are received due to tenant behavior, or other nuisance-like conditions.  The City will not “proactively” initiate vacation rental-related enforcement actions against unlawful STVRs in the coastal zone, except with respect to business licensing and transient occupancy tax collections.  In addition, the City will take enforcement action against any property-related health and safety violation in the coastal zone, regardless whether the property is a STVR.

Coastal Zone vacation rental operators that do not currently have business licenses must contact the City’s Finance Department by June 30, 2021 to arrange licensing and tax payments.  Operators can access online information about obtaining a business license at  Information on how to remit transient occupancy tax is available online at

On May 25, 2021, the Santa Barbara City Council also announced its decision to seek California Supreme Court review of the Court of Appeal ruling in Kracke v. City of Santa Barbara, or in the alternative, depublication of the case.

The City Council also directed staff to place consideration of coastal zone STVR regulatory options on the agenda for discussion at a future City Council meeting.  The date of that future discussion has not been determined.

By way of background, the Kracke Court of Appeal upheld Ventura Superior Court Judge Mark Borrell’s ruling that: 

“a writ shall issue commanding the City of Santa Barbara to allow short-term vacation rentals in the coastal zone on the same basis as the City had allowed them to operate prior to June 23, 2015, until such time as the City obtains a coastal development permit or otherwise complies with the provisions of the Coastal Act of 1976, including Public Resources Code section 30600, and Title 28 of the Santa Barbara Municipal Code. (Alternative compliance may consist of obtaining a certification by the commission of an amended land use plan in the manner provided for in the Coastal Act or a waiver from the Executive Director of the California Coastal Commission.)”

The trial court generally described “on the same basis” as follows:

“Prior to 2015, it was the City's de facto policy to allow STVRs in both commercial and residential areas. More than simply tolerating STVRs, the City issued business licenses to owners of STVRs and encouraged them through ‘amnesty’ programs to remit TOT to the City. The City acknowledges that the only time zoning enforcement action was taken against the owner of a STVR was when tenants created a nuisance resulting in a complaint.”

Related Articles

 May 7, 2021: Court Rejects Santa Barbara's Coastal Vacation Rental Ban

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JG_in_SB May 28, 2021 09:17 AM
Santa Barbara Responds to Coastal Short Term Rental Ruling

The City needs to develop an actual, reasonable ordinance to regulate STVR's. That's what other coastal communities have done. That's also what our planning staff presented as an option for City Council back in 2015. Instead, our City Attorney advised the City Council that they could change the law without actually changing the text of the law. Pretty clever isn't it....

"Why would he do that?" you might ask. Because, he, and everyone on City Council knows that the Coastal Commission, who the City must get approval from in order to change land use regulations in the Coastal Zone, will never approve a universal ban on short term rentals. Since that was (and remains) the City's goal, complying with applicable regulations was a more-than-minor problem for them.

The City proceeded to do something in the Coastal Zone that requires a Coastal Development Permit without getting the permit. If you or I did that, the City would come after us like a rabid pit bull on steroids. But apparently the City affords itself more "flexibility" when it comes to their own compliance with the law than any of us enjoy.

Theo Kracke sued the City on the basis that the City violated the law. The Trial Court agreed. The City appealed. The Appeal Court upheld the Trial Court's decision. Now the City has decided to try their luck at the State Supreme Court with the same loser arguments that have produced their stellar 0 for 2 record to date.

Have you ever observed a compulsive gambler continue to lose money placing ridiculous bets and thinking "I know I'll win the NEXT time for sure!!" If so, the City's behavior probably seems familiar. Speaking of gambling, I'm betting the next time this ends up in the news cycle, we will be reading about the City losing yet again. If anyone wants to take the other side of that bet, let me know. I could use some extra cash.

You might be wondering who is paying for the City to continue with its frivolous and costly defense of its poor decision to violate the Coastal Act in 2015. The answer: YOU are!

NotReallyDave May 29, 2021 08:56 AM
Santa Barbara Responds to Coastal Short Term Rental Ruling

JG, You mentioned the "flexibility" of the City regarding compliance with their own laws and regulations. The City Community Development Dept. has actually violated previous existing ordinances in a pattern for years within the EastSide of the City. It has been ongoing and the current City Attorney has decided that previous actions should be kept in the dark. This is more than flexibility, too. You would think that with a salary of $350,000 PER YEAR, we citizens would have better service.

a-1622218924 May 28, 2021 09:22 AM
Santa Barbara Responds to Coastal Short Term Rental Ruling

The City staff is locked into the idea that vacation rentals are hotels and that is how they continue to deal with them. But anyone with a bit of intelligence can see that they are not hotels and are not normal single family housing but are something different than both of those. So why is the City staff unable to craft an ordinance that deals with the reality of the situation like other communities? Their foolish intransigence ends up costing us a LOT of tax dollars.

Snbinsb May 28, 2021 08:42 PM
Santa Barbara Responds to Coastal Short Term Rental Ruling

I don’t get this. What’s the incentive to get the license? It just seems like you can maintain an “illegal rental” if you are never faced with a neighbor complaint. I truly believe in the short term rental concept. I hope this is just a short term policy .. there is a huge untapped resource for city revenue.

biguglystick May 29, 2021 10:58 AM
Santa Barbara Responds to Coastal Short Term Rental Ruling

STRs do NOTHING for the community except make rents insanely expensive for locals. This town is overrun with hotels and tourists already. There is a crippling housing crisis. What should be done is legislation to ensure that locals are able to afford rental units. In a time when the rental availability is less than 1%, NO WAY should STRs be allowed.

a-1622311472 May 29, 2021 11:04 AM
Santa Barbara Responds to Coastal Short Term Rental Ruling

STRs are hotels if they are charging per night, case closed. They should pay the same sales occupancy tax as hotels. The city can also let the state and the IRS know that they are earning income that should also be taxed.

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