More hotel tax Hermosa okays short term rentals downtown
by Jeff Mitchell
A pilot program allowing short-term vacation rentals in the Hermosa’s downtown and other commercial districts was approved by the City Council on a 4-1 vote at its Tuesday evening meeting.
The existing prohibition of vacation rentals in the city’s residential zones will remain in effect, Ken Robertson, director of community development, told the council. He noted that some 150 units on 55 properties in the city could qualify for the pilot program.
“These rentals have their benefits, such as providing additional capacity to accommodate tourists, allowing an owner to generate income from an under-utilized dwelling unit, and generation of transient occupancy taxes” which are paid to the city by hotels, Robertson said in a report to the council.
“However, they also come with potential problems, including loss of affordable housing, ‘commercial party houses,’ occupants creating a public nuisance through trash and noise, and changes to the neighborhood character,” Robertson’s report stated.
The Planning Commission rejected the proposal in 2016. Council members said they are supporting it now in part to help in a bid to get the state Coastal Commission to grant the Hermosa its own “Local Coastal Plan.” Currently, the commission must approve developments in the coastal zone — an area roughly 1,000 yards inland from the mean high tide line.
Robertson said beach cities that show an effort to be more inclusive of a diverse range of visitors stand a better chance of being granted local coastal plan authority.
“An LCP would allow Hermosa Beach to issue its own building permits related to properties in the coastal zone,” said Councilman Jeff Duclos, a supporter of the vacation rentals plan.
City Manager Suja Lowenthal agreed and urged the council to adopt the pilot program.
She said that if the council balks on the pilot program “a sign would be sent” to the Coastal Commission that would be “problematic.”
Mayor Stacey Armato cast the lone dissenting vote. She argued that vacation units will negatively impact the quality of life for nearby residents, and regulation enforcement will be difficult.
Armato wasn’t swayed by a regulation that a property owner or property manager must respond to complaints about their short term rentals within 45 minutes.
“We need more retail in Hermosa, not more of these mini-hotels,” Armato said. “And we have no guarantee that the Coastal Commission will approve our Local Coastal Plan request if we implement this.”
A majority of the public who spoke at the meeting said they opposed the proposal, arguing the short-term rentals would damage their quality of life. Several other speakers, many of whom were downtown merchants and owners of dwelling units in the commercial zones, said the increase in tourism will be a boon.
Councilman Justin Massey said he was confident the pilot program’s regulations would prevent the units from turning into disruptive party locations. He noted that a rental not complying with the rules will lose its permit.
“Basically, it’s three strikes and you’re out,” Massey said.
The pilot plan will allow qualifying units to be rented out for periods of less than 30 days, and require payment of the city’s hotel tax. Property owners will also have to pay city program fees and post a photo of the unit’s facade in all online advertisements. They must also agree to mount a plaque on their building that is visible from the street that identifies the property as a short-term rental and which provides contact information for an owner or property manager.
Jeff Mitchell is a South Bay freelance journalist. Reach him at email@example.com.