Ventura County’s cities are popular destinations for out-of-town visitors, and with the rising popularity of short-term rental housing sites such as AirBnB and HomeAway, many of said cities have raised concerns over a lack of oversight. On Tuesday, Dec. 13, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors, however, adopted a strict levy of rules regarding such rentals in the Ojai Valley and other parts of unincorporated county.
The Supervisors decided to ban short-term rentals, or vacation rentals, in the Ojai Valley unless the rental is the owner’s principal residence, all but assuring a drastic decline in the short-term rental supply once the ordinance is adopted.
A study on regulating such rental housing began in July 2015 and was followed up by a public workshop in December which asked county staff to consider the quality of life in neighborhoods with short-term rentals, the supply of housing and whether or not short-term rentals enhance the local economy. Part of the consideration was the “reasonable expectation of residents to enjoy their homes.”
At the Tuesday meeting, Supervisors strongly suggested that the quality of life for residents far outweighs the need for vacation rentals in the area around the city of Ojai. Supervisor Steve Bennett, District 1, whose district includes the Ojai Valley, was a vocal supporter of a short-term rental ban in the area.
The county does not define “short-term rental” or “homeshare” and therefore did not have regulations regarding them. The county did, however, define “bed-and-breakfast inns” and “boardinghouses,” both of which require conditional use permits. With the new soon-to-be-drafted ordinance, owners who own but do not live in the residence being used for a rental will have a short period of time to get out of the business and those who do own will have to abide by strict regulations on noise, occupants and traffic.
The board also adopted looser regulations for beach communities with short-term rentals and homeshares, such as Hollywood Beach and Silver Strand. No ban was adopted in these areas, but similar regulations on noise, traffic and number of occupants apply.
The Tuesday meeting was filled with both supporters and opponents of a ban. Instead of banning the short-term rentals outright, as is the case in the city of Ojai, supporters asked for regulations to be given a chance in the Ojai Valley so as not to kill tourism. In the area, 52 percent of all overnight guests make use of short-term vacation rentals, according to Bill Moses, director of Progressive Ventura County that supports short-term vacation rentals. Moses says that the rules were a compromise and that “Something is better than nothing.”
“Supervisor Bennet, who was really the leader on the board, really thread a very narrow eye of a needle in trying to manage all his constituents’ needs,” said Moses. “The communities benefited because of a regulated program and I think that in the case of Ojai, having at a minimum a homesharing program being permitted, whereby initially Supervisor Bennett was looking for a total ban, was the right thing to do for certain people.”
No timeline was given for when county officials would return to the Board with a draft ordinance.