No Decision on Short-Term Rentals Until the Fall

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One notoriously rowdy Airbnb is located on Paseo Hidalgo Street

Residents anxious for a resolution to the debate over Airbnbs in Malibu have a long wait ahead of them—on Monday night, council voted to hold off making any decisions on the city’s short-term rental policy until at least mid-September.

There are essentially two ordinances that council voted to create in the fall. The first is a permanent ordinance that would rigorously regulate who can and cannot operate an Airbnb in Malibu. This permanent ordinance would make it so that property owners would have to be present at the property for certain hours of the day, among other rules. 

But this permanent city ordinance must be approved by the California Coastal Commission before becoming law—a process that could take a year or more. 

In the meantime, council aims to pass an “interim” ordinance to deal with “nuisance properties.” This ordinance emphasizes enforcement tools that council could utilize to address the issue, such as creating a permit system and various fines. It could be implemented immediately, without having to go through the Coastal Commission. 

The permanent ordinance is meant to supersede the interim ordinance when it eventually passes muster, most likely in late 2021. 

As part of its decision-making process, council asked city staff to prepare two versions of an interim ordinance—one that had previously been created, then scrapped, by council, meant to serve as a template, and an alternate, simplified version.

Late in the night on Monday, Aug. 10, four council members—Mayor Mikke Pierson, Mayor Pro Tem Skylar Peak, Council Member Karen Farrer and Council Member Rick Mullen—voted to continue looking at this ordinance at the Sept. 14, 2020, council meeting, along with directing staff to also create an alternate, more stripped-down version to consider in September as well. Council Member Jefferson “Zuma Jay” Wagner abstained from the vote.

Controversy over short-term rentals has long been an issue in Malibu. Peak said at the meeting that “this item has basically been getting discussed my entire time in office, which is almost nine years.” 

More than 20 members of the public addressed council with comments during the virtual meeting. Several operators of Airbnbs described the people they have gotten to meet from all over the world and the importance of the income the rentals bring their families and the city overall. According to information from city staff, in fiscal year 2018-19, Malibu collected nearly two-and-a-half million dollars in taxes from short-term rentals.

Neighbors, meanwhile, told horror stories of parties gone wild: strangers vomiting in Malibu’s streets, urinating in plants, clogging roads with their cars and making noise all night. Several mentioned one particular Airbnb, located on Paseo Hidalgo Street, as one of the worst offenders. 

John Choi, Airbnb’s Southern California policy manager, said Airbnb was committed to taking action as appropriate and that the company had developed their “neighbor tool” and “law enforcement portal” for instances like these. He also said Airbnb had suspended the Paseo Hidalgo Airbnb for 30 days.

Pierson said he himself had been on the phone multiple nights and received many texts in the morning about the problematic nature of these Airbnbs and other short-term rentals. 

“I get to the point where I can’t do nothing,” he lamented. 

Malibu City Attorney Christi Hogin said public conversations such as the one on Monday already have an enforcement effect. 

“For a lot of people, these conversations help educate them about the fact that, while they may be handling their own business very well, there are others that are being disruptive in neighborhoods,” Hogin said. “Or they might not realize what is disruptive.”