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Newport Beach

Volume 5, Issue 7  |  January 24, 2020


Take Five: Meet Seimone Jurjis, Newport Beach Community Development Director

By AMY SENK

Last fall, City Councilwoman Joy Brenner held a town hall meeting, attended by dozens of residents. Homelessness was a hot topic, but the second-most talked about topic was short-term rentals. The group had tons of questions, some about how to stop their neighbors who rented out homes to loud guests, and others who wanted to make sure they had the right to rent their own homes as they wished. Newport Beach Community Development Director Seimone Jurjis was on hand to explain the situation, and I caught up with him recently to find out more.

Take Five Seimone Jurjis

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of Seimone Jurjis

Seimone Jurjis

Q: The City Council may change the city’s ordinance on short-term lodging early this year. What factors caused this issue to come into the spotlight?

A: The City Council and staff receive continuous complaints from residents that live next to or adjacent to short-term lodging units. The complaints range from noise, too many guests in one unit, shortage of available street parking, or overflowing trash. The City Council formed an ad hoc committee of City Council Members Diane Dixon, Joy Brenner and Jeff Herdman to look into the complaints and to recommend any changes that may be appropriate. The committee is working hard to find the right balance between allowing short-term lodging units and ensuring their operation results in the least impact to neighboring residents. There are approximately 1,450 short-term lodging units permitted and operated within the City.

Q: What are the main changes that are under consideration?

A: The changes under consideration relate to the occupancy, parking, information provided and hosting platforms. The ad hoc committee is recommending to limit the number of occupants per rental unit using a formula that many cities utilize of two occupants per bedroom, plus two in the living room. Next, the committee would like to ensure that the short-term lodging property offers onsite parking. One unit would need one space; two rental units would need two spaces. The space could be in the garage, driveway, carport or anywhere on the property that a vehicle can access and park. The committee is recommending that the interior of all units has information posted related to trash collection, street sweeping and a 24-hour contact number. Outside the unit, the recommendation is to post the contact name, the overnight occupancy and a contact phone number that an answering service will answer. The thought is the City would contract with an answering service, and the service would relay any concerns from the neighboring residents to the property owner or property manager. Another recommendation is all permitted short-term lodging units shall post the permit number on any platforms or advertisements. The platforms have responsibility too: They will be required to remit the City’s transient occupancy tax if they are collecting it from the booking. Additionally, the platforms cannot complete any booking unless the unit is in the City’s registry as a permitted property.

Q: What were some of the concerns that people mentioned in the public forums about the topic?

A: The participants shared many great, but differing, opinions and ideas. The feedback from some residents that live next to short-term lodging units was that the proposed changes are a good first step, while other residents did not feel the changes under consideration go far enough in restricting the operation of the units. Feedback from some of the participants that own and operate short-term lodging units was that some of the restrictions are okay, while others thought the proposed changes go too far, such as restricting occupancy and requiring parking. This illustrates the challenge in finding that right balance of allowing for a robust short-term lodging market and improving the quality of life for residents.

Q: How many rogue units are there in the city, are they spread out evenly or in one area, and what kinds of problems do they cause?

A: We consider “rogue” units to be illegal units. They are illegal because they are either located in the wrong zone, or the unit does not have a permit or a business license to operate. In 2018 we had 95 illegal units, and in 2019 we had 27 units that are considered illegal. Units that are located in the wrong zone may be problematic to surrounding residents. The City does not allow short-term lodging units in single-family zones, except for a limited number of units that were “grandfathered” a while back. Most residents of the single-family zones do not expect to live next to short-term lodging units. Illegal units that do not obtain a short-term lodging permit or a business license are avoiding paying the tax to the City that is required per the Newport Beach Municipal Code.

Q: If someone said that these changes infringe on property owners’ rights, how would you respond?

A: I can completely understand someone making the comment, but California law distinguishes between stays exceeding 30 days and stays 30 days or less. Charging someone to stay in your home for 30 days or less is a short-term lodging, which is not a property right. A city has the authority to regulate any stay that is 30 days or less, very similar to regulating hotels. In fact, cities in California can prohibit short-term lodging completely and we are starting to see that more and more. The ad hoc committee is recommending restricting the opportunity to rent property outside of the City’s coastal zone. About 59 residential units outside the coastal zone are permitted for short-term lodging that would be “grandfathered” to operate for another 10 years. After 10 years, the 59 residential units may no longer operate as a short-term lodging property. Within the coastal zone, there are approximately 1,400 properties that are permitted to operate as short-term lodging units. The committee is recommending that a maximum cap of 1,600 units be established in the coastal zone. This cap will allow property owners to continue to operate short-term lodging units, but it will also ensure a maximum number of units permitted.

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Amy Senk is a longtime resident of Corona del Mar and a regular contributor to Stu News Newport.

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