Council Says ‘No’ to Short-Term Rental Ban

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Those in the city who held out hope for a complete ban on vacation rentals in Malibu saw their hopes dashed on Monday night, as Mayor Rick Mullen went down the list of council members asking if anyone would consider an outright ban. None would.

A few weeks ago, the Malibu Planning Commission shocked both sides of the short-term rental debate as it suggested all vacation rentals be banned, citywide. According to the three commissioners in favor of the ban, their interpretation of city codes meant the practice should never have been allowed in the first place.

“Let’s talk about the ‘b-word,’” Mullen told his fellow council members during the Monday, July 9 regular city council meeting. “The planning commission said [vacation rentals are] not allowed in residential areas. I know the planning department kind of ignored that, but I think we should discuss that … see if there’s any stomach on this council for an outright ban.”

Skylar Peak, Laura Rosenthal and Lou La Monte all said they would not consider a full ban.

Only Jefferson “Zuma Jay” Wagner spoke in favor of the interpretation, although he was quick to say it was likely not viable.

“I support it heartily from my soul, but the practicality is, we’ll be in court for years,” Wagner said woefully. 

“Planning commissioners, let it show, I brought it up,” Mullen said, as if for the record. “But there’s clearly not a stomach for it here.”

Of the more than 50 members of the public who came to speak on the issue, only a handful were in favor of an outright ban—many of those speaking had been rallied there in an outreach effort by Airbnb. 

Late into the hearing, which lasted until after midnight Tuesday morning, it became clear there would be no final resolution on the issue just yet.

Mullen led a point-by-point analysis of each of the 23 main points in the proposed draft of the future ordinance—in the style of an elementary school teacher, compelling various council members to read the points aloud, one by one. Some of the points will undergo more study by city staff before coming back with another proposed ordinance.

Council seemed to agree that additional code enforcement officers would be necessary to ensure compliance, with Wagner referencing the robust tax revenue the city has enjoyed in recent years thanks to transient occupancy taxes (TOTs) collected on vacation rentals.

“Let’s reach into this TOT golden chest of finance and hire someone to be here on the weekend for compliance,” Wagner suggested.

Mullen clarified there would be no limit to the number of days a home could be rented out each year.

“We didn’t put a limit on how many days per year that you can rent out—that’s important to point out,” Mullen clarified toward the end of the meeting. “We’re moving from something that was once the Wild West.”

What was not as easily resolved was a conflict over whether or not rentals would need to be primary residences that were being leased out on a short-term basis. Council members expressed concern that “family homes” owned by several people in the same family may not fit the requirements to be leased out, possibly resulting in those families giving up long-held homes. No resolution was found on that issue Monday.

Suggestions that the ordinance be more “surgical”—with differing requirements for various neighborhoods or different general rules for the beach side versus the land side of Pacific Coast Highway—were also floated. 

The next proposed ordinance is now being prepared by city staff and is set to go before council again at the Sept. 11 council meeting.