Neighbors Joust Over Vacation Rentals

2007_Jousting[Alvin Brickman for Metrosetter Wire]

Looks like vacation rental opponents have won the latest battle in Seal Beach, California.   Robert Beck, a vacation rental co-owner, was granted a business permit for his rental before the latest ordinance, which subjects all vacation rentals to an approval process, went into effect. His business permit notwithstanding, however, the City Council Planning Commission denied Mr. Beck approval to continue renting his property for less than 30 days at a time, due to complaints from neighbors explicitly and publicly naming his property.

One of the neighbors in question, Ed Hellwig, cited “loud parties” in his complaint, to which another resident said (in the comments section of the below article), “You can hear my family coming and going from our home. We also have people over and host parties and make noise. We have been at this address here in Seal Beach for 29 years. It’s called living.” The latter rebuttal kind of illuminates the fact that, while vacation rentals are certainly problematic, citing “loud noise” is spurious if not backed by hard data from a sound level meter, for instance.

Read all about it below.

John Crandall, “City Vetoes Bid for Old Town Vacation Rental“:

The controversial vacation rental property issue returned to Seal Beach on Monday night.

In a 4-1 vote, the City Council upheld a Planning Commission decision denying a property owner a permit that would have allowed him to rent his duplex for less than 30 days at a time. It’s the latest in a crackdown on vacation rentals in Old Town sparked by neighbor complaints about garbage, noise and carousing. However, many property owners say restricting vacation rentals infringes on their rights and the rentals don’t cause as many problems as critics allege.

The council’s decision effectively forbids Robert Beck, who co-owns a 17th Street property with his wife, from using the land as vacation rental space.

According to Beck, the city originally granted him a business permit allowing vacation rentals on the 2,500-square-foot property. However, according to city code, all vacation rental permits must go through the commission’s approval process.

On Nov. 7, the commission denied Beck’s request for a permit.

The appeal is one of a number of recent filings by property owners seeking the OK to use their properties as vacation rentals in Seal Beach. In November, the city banned all short-term rentals in Old Town, effectively forbidding all vacation rentals in the city.

As he asked the council to overturn the commission’s decision, Beck said his property was quiet, well-maintained and not rented to people who party.

“I think that the record will reflect that there was no evidence, substantial evidence to support the findings of the Planning Commission,” Beck said.

He also said that he’d heard commissioners present multiple conflicting arguments for their decision.

“It seems to me that they’re using different standards depending on what unit’s up for a vote,” Beck said.

He also took issue with the comments made by residents at the Planning Commission hearing and said that out of a dozen people who spoke, most criticized vacation rental properties in general but not his property in particular.

At the Monday meeting, neighbor Ed Hellwig, who lives nearby, said he wanted the council to end the constant noise that allegedly comes from Beck’s property and disturbs Hellwig, his wife and daughter.

“We hear all the people come in and out every few days, having friends over, having parties,” said Ed Hellwig. “He says he doesn’t rent to people who have loud parties. Well, we’ve heard them.”

“We wouldn’t be here if there wasn’t a problem,” Hellwig added.

Mayor Pro Tem Ellery Deaton said she supported the Planning Commission decision and she could not dismiss the complaints of Beck’s neighbors at the Monday meeting or at previous meetings.

“It is my personal feeling that when you have residents that came out and say ‘This bothers me,” that is the evidence,” Deaton said.  “People coming in, people going out, and I personally don’t find that conducive to raising a child next door.”

Councilman Michael Levitt cast the sole dissenting vote.

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