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Ralph Hirshman explains why short-term rentals stands against some regulations around short term rentals. (Photo by Chris Frost)
Wednesday, November 6, 2019

By Chris Frost


Oxnard— After five years and many meetings, the Oxnard City Council adopted on first reading, Nov. 5, the short-term rental ordinance it has been working on for a long time.


The council chambers were packed full of residents speaking both in favor of and against the ordinance and emotions ran high, but speakers maintained their composure and presented their arguments in a polite and fashionable way. 


The council made two changes to the item, as Councilman Bert Perello asked for the city to move the distance between short term rentals from 100 to 200 feet. The group also removed prohibiting outdoor amplified music during quiet hours, 10 p.m., and 7 a.m., which the city's current noise ordinance can manage.


The council also approved an aggressive fine structure starting at $1,000 if a property violates the rules, which progresses up to $3,000 and a permit revocation for the third violation. An unlicensed short-term rental will receive a $5,000 fine. The ordinance will require the property owner to disclose the number of parking spaces in their ad and limit the number of rental days to 100. 


The item needs more work, as the council directed staff to continue working on the subject as it moves toward its second reading. 


Each member of the council communicated with residents involved with the item, and City Clerk Michelle Ascension said she received too many pieces of communication to count.


Council members also walked through The Colony and staff prohibited Short Term Rentals in the development. The council had discussed allowing the Short-Term Rentals in the community.


Community Development Director Jeff Lambert said the item was a group effort between city staff members and the city attorney’s office, and the item at hand is a short presentation because there have been 10 separate instances where it was considered.


The 100-foot separation between Short Terms Rentals, Lambert said, shows a desire not to have a concentration of rentals on any street.


"We think that's responsive to the comments we've received," he said. "We've also added in addition to the 5 percent by general plan community that we've had in place for some time, an official 5 percent cap for the beachfront properties because that's where a higher percentage of the homes are today."  There was a desire to reduce the number of properties in those homes. We added that to the regulations."


The city also limited the number of annual days to 100 days total. Initially, there were zero days at first, and they reduced it to 180-days.


"Based on commission and council feedback, we reduced it further, to 100 days per year," he said.  "We've also reduced the distance for the property owner or responsible party to 25 miles from the site. We had 40 miles before. That responsible party has to be closer and more able to respond. We do think that most responses will be electronically, by phone, but we wanted to reduce further the distance the owner and responsible party can live to be responsible to the site itself."


There are on-site parking regulations in place, but Lambert said that one thing that came from conversations with the council, public, and the planning commission is that the unit owners must be clear about what their parking availability is and public parking in those neighborhoods is limited.


"Overflow is not going to be that available," he said. "We want to make sure that people understand that parking isn't going to be readily available, plan accordingly, and make that clear in the advertisements.


Banning parking on a public street, which the council and commission discussed while creating the ordinance, is not possible.


"We have no way of doing that," he said. "If it's a public street, then any public can park there. We thought it would be better if we made it clear that there is limited parking in the advertisements. This is something that came from the council in March, which was to ratchet up the fines associated with the short-term rental ordinance. We went from $1,000 to $3,000. When they hit $3,000, their permit would be revoked. It's important that we put that in place."


Lambert called it unusual compared to the usual fine schedule in the municipal in the city code.


"We had to amend that specifically for short-term vacation rentals," he said. "We also incorporated the recommendations tonight the prohibition of short-term rentals in The Colony. The council has heard much about that at the meetings."


Lambert also commented on the recent Santa Monica short term rental regulations. Santa Monica banned short term rentals in May 2015, and the plaintiffs claimed that it discriminated against or violated the interstate flow of commerce, according to the Ninth Circuit Appellate Court.


"The Ninth Circuit Appeal Court's opinion was filed on Oct 3, of this year regarding Santa Monica short-term vacation rentals. The ninth circuit's opinion said it did not violate the dormant commerce clause. What that means is there was no coastal act consideration as part of that litigation. The Coastal Commission was not a party to it. That decision, although itis not relevant to the council's consideration about the short-term rentals in Oxnard."


During public comments, Victoria Chandler spoke on behalf of the Harbor Island Condominium Association (HICOA) and petitioned the city to exclude their development from the short-term rental ordinance.


"Whereas the HICOA is an HOA community in Oxnard Calif. whose articles of incorporation were filed on Sept 4, 1987,” she said. “It's reinstated and amended declarations of CC&R’s (covenants conditions and restrictions) were dated Dec 6, 2006."


The HICOA fulfills the goal of the California Coastal Act of 1976, she said, and it provides public access to the water and linear park in Oxnard.


"HICOA's CC&Rs and leasing agreement states that only 15 percent of all total units, which is 129, may be rented, leased, or let at any time.” She said.  “CC&R section 1711B says under no circumstances can the initial lease period be for any period less than 12 months, or any transient hotel or usage be allowed."


She asked the city to grant the community the same exception given to The Colony.


Ralph Hirshman is a registered Oxnard voter; he owns a beach house and said when he can't use the property, he uses it as a short-term rental.


"I have a cordial relationship with my Oxnard neighbors, and since day one, I have collected transient occupancy tax for every rental that is on the property, and I transferred that money to the city through my property manager. On behalf of short-term rental owners,” he said. “I managed a lawsuit against the Mandalay Shores Community Association that resulted in a permanent injunction against the association's interference against short term rentals and monetary payment from the association to the short-term rental owners. The lawsuit was based on the coastal act."


He supports regulating short term rental activity reasonably tailored to problems of noise, trash parking, and other irritants. 


"That includes good neighbor rules, designated emergency contacts, incident response plans, and a maximum occupancy rule. 


"I object to quantitative or percentage limits on permits, the minimum separation between rental properties, caps on the number of rental days per year, and fines corresponding to numbers 1,2,3, and 7," he said.   "Our analysis of police calls in short term rentals in Oxnard Shores shows that the behavior of short-term renters is as good, if not better than the rest of the community Including long term renters and full-time owners. The stereotype of a short-term renter as a partying frat boy is false. Good neighbor rules are an adequate solution for bad behavior."


This story will continue on Nov. 15.

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