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Is there political will in Malibu for an all-out ban on short-term rentals?

Perhaps.

But that political will is taking a back seat to pragmatism this time around, with most of those outspoken against the practice acknowledging an attempted ban would likely hit a stone wall at the California Coastal Commission, which has proven itself time and again committed to pushing against similar bans. An attempted ban would also likely cost the city in both time and legal fees, neither of which seem quite as expendable as they may have the last time this issue came before council a year ago—before the Woolsey Fire. 

And, stopping just short of singing Kumbaya together around the speaker’s podium, Malibu’s political leaders—often at odds with one another—seemed united in their desire to tighten up restrictions on the practice during the Monday, Oct. 28, Malibu City Council meeting.

“You know it’s serious when Sharon Barovsky and John Mazza are on the same side of something,” Michael Lustig, a resident who organized a petition that garnered 385 signatures in support of new restrictions, said Monday. Barovsky, a former council member, and Mazza, a current planning commissioner, have a decades-long reputation for butting heads over city politics. The remark drew laughter from the audience.

Similarly, property developer Norm Haynie and La Chusa Highlands Property Owner Association President (and former Malibu first lady) Lucille Keller found themselves in support of the restriction. “I agree with Lucille Keller—that’s a shock,” Haynie remarked, to laughter from those assembled.

Council Member Rick Mullen said those remarks were the “coolest comments” of the evening. Mullen went on to say the restrictions were “not perfect, not what I want,” but ended up favoring them in an effort to get restrictions of some kind enacted. 

In the end, Malibu City Council voted, 4-1, to request city staff draw up an ordinance and Local Coastal Program amendment modeled after a short-term rental restriction enacted last year in the City of Santa Monica. 

In brief, that ordinance—the City of Santa Monica “Home Sharing Ordinance”—allows homeowners to “host visitors for compensation for a period of less than 31 days, as long as the resident and visitor are both present in the home,” according to the City of Santa Monica website. In 2018, the city won a court case upholding the ordinance, making it attractive to Malibu leaders seeking to avoid costly legal fees defending a similar restriction.

The one hiccup in this plan came when city staff was asked how quickly the enforcement of the restrictions could begin—and Planning Director Bonnie Blue replied that it could take “12 months or longer.”

Bonnie explained that the changes would constitute a change to Malibu’s Local Coastal Program, so the planning department would have to draw up a proposed ordinance, which would then go to ZORACES (Zoning Ordinance Revisions and Code Enforcement Subcommittee), then to planning commission, then city council and then coastal commission, which would likely send it back to the city with suggested modifications. 

That timeline was not sitting well with council so, in the interim, the city will enact a less dramatic restriction, which establishes a need for short-term rental permits for homeowners, plus the following restrictions:

• Limits individuals to one active STR permit

• Requires a 24/7 contact that can address STR issues  

• Establishes maximum occupancy rates based on the number of bedrooms  

• Establishes parking restrictions  

• Requires a valid OWTS Permit for the property

That ordinance will be superseded by the Santa Monica-style ordinance if and when it is finalized.

Council Member Skylar Peak was the sole dissenting vote—Peak specified that he supported the long-term LCP amendment, but did not agree that the city should have an interim ordinance in place before that solution is set in stone.

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