You Gotta Fight For Your Right… to Rent

Beastie Boys Fight For Your Right to Vacation Rentals

[Alvin Brickman for Metrosetter Wire]

One vacation rental owner in Seal Beach, CA, is suing the city after a new ordinance was passed banning all vacation rentals whose owners had not already applied for a permit. Robert Beck, the owner in question, along with 20 other vacation rental owners, has possessed a business license and paid a transient occupancy tax  since 2010. But despite their legitimacy, they have not been exempted from the ban, while those who have operated illegally — and who’ve only recently applied for permission — are exempted. Mr. Beck rightfully argues that the replacing of the business license system with a conditional-use permit system attacks those who’ve played by the rules, viz. licensed units, rather than the “cheaters,” viz. unlicensed ones.

I predict that Mr. Beck and the other business-licensed property owners will be granted exemption from the permit requirement. After all, their inclusion in the ban is not unlike a university raising its GPA-requirement for admission from 3.5 to 4.0, and then expelling all students admitted prior to that with below-4.0 GPAs. Or is it?

Roxana Kopetman, “Vacation rental owner sues Seal Beach over law“:

The ink was not yet dry on the city’s new law related to short-term vacation rentals before it was challenged in court.

Seal Beach recently adopted one of the strictest ordinances in the county. It prohibits property owners from renting out their homes or apartments for less than 30 days. Only existing owners in Old Town, the neighborhood closest to the beach, who already had applied for a permit, would be considered for an exemption.

Attorney Robert Beck, who owns rentals in the neighborhood, said he understands the city’s concerns about unruly guests disrupting residents’ lives. But as the owner of duplexes on Ocean Avenue and 17th Street, he said he’s been following the rules and so have his tenants.

Beck filed suit against the city asking the court to rule that the ordinance should not apply to previously existing licensed units.

“I didn’t want to go down this road, but they left me no choice” said Beck, a former councilman and mayor for Rolling Hills Estates in the South Bay.

Beck’s initial request was denied in Orange County Superior Court, but he is in the process of amending it, he said. On Monday, the City Council is scheduled to discuss the lawsuit during closed session.

Beck has had a license and has paid the city’s transient occupancy tax since 2010. So have approximately 20 other vacation rental owners.

Residents have complained to the council that tourists bring noise and create a party atmosphere in an otherwise quiet residential beachside neighborhood.

Beach and tourist communities handle such issues in different ways. Cities such as Newport Beach and San Clemente, for example, regulate parties where at least eight people gather and cause “loud and unruly” behaviors. Huntington Beach is one of the few that, like Seal Beach, bans them. But that city has some 95 homes listed for weekend and weekly rentals, according to one website, Vacation Rentals by Owner,

Since passage of Seal Beach’s law in October, Councilwoman Ellery Deaton said she has talked to “only one person in this town that is in favor of vacation rentals who doesn’t own one.

“But by far and away, everyone I’ve talked to is against them,” Deaton said Sunday. “People have emailed me, solicited me on the street and called me. They say this is where they live. This is our home. And commercial areas are unacceptable in our residential neighborhoods.”

Beck said only one property has created problems in the city–at least 23 noise complaints over the last five years. City officials failed to deal with the problem unit and instead created a blanket ordinance affecting all vacation rental owners, he said. Noise, trash, loitering and other complaints can be handled with the city’s existing ordinance, Beck said.

In addition, Seal Beach has 35 vacation rentals according to, but only 22 paid the transient occupancy tax, according to court documents.

“Instead of going after the unlicensed units, they are going after the licensed units,” Beck said.

A weekly rental in Old Town ranges from under $1,000 for a one-bedroom to $9,900 for a beachfront five-bedroom home that sleeps 12.


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