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Short-Term Rentals Banned in Laguna Hills; Could Other Cities Follow

In a move to address concerns over noise, safety, and neighborhood disruption, city officials in Laguna Hills have voted unanimously to ban short-term rentals and advertisements for such properties in all residential areas. The decision comes after discussions that began last year, prompted by residents' complaints about a disruptive house party. While the City Council acknowledged the need for regulations, some short-term rental operators expressed concerns about losing a significant source of income.

The ban aligns Laguna Hills with several other Orange County cities that have already implemented regulations on short-term rentals. As of June 2023, Laguna Hills had 29 short term rentals. In 2016, Anaheim banned any NEW short term rentals and gave pre existing ones 18 months to phase out. Newport Beach tightened restrictions in 2020 due to noise and street parking. Fountain Valley was the most recent to ban all existing and future short term rentals. What cities will be next?

Laguna Hills' municipal code did not explicitly address short-term rentals until now. According to Larry Longenecker, the Community Development Director, the city's development code did not list short-term rentals as permitted use in the development code use tables. This lack of clarity created a need for clear regulations to be established.

During discussions leading up to the ordinance, Councilmember Don Caskey expressed skepticism about the ban's practicality, suggesting that enforcing the law would be challenging and unlikely to result in significant changes. Caskey questioned the need to actively monitor and shut down every short-term rental, given the limited number of such rentals in the city.

Councilmember Erica Pezold echoed Caskey's concerns, highlighting the potential costs associated with monitoring short-term rentals. Hiring a code enforcer could cost the city between $80,000 and $100,000 per year. This consideration raised questions about whether the City Council was prepared to allocate funds to enforce the ban effectively.

Adrian Placinta, who had converted his Laguna Hills home into a short-term rental to supplement his family's income, expressed concern about the financial burden the ban would impose on his family. He also noted that a ban might lead to distress sales and lower property values, potentially impacting the entire neighborhood.

Residents offered differing viewpoints on short-term rentals. Patrice Mills, a short-term rental owner, compared the impact of short-term rentals to that of a drug rehab house, stating a preference for short-term rentals. However, Bruce Freeman, another resident, described negative experiences, including disruptive parties and increased traffic, that he attributed to short-term rentals.

Safety and quality of life emerged as significant concerns among residents, with a city survey revealing that 71% of respondents supported banning short-term rentals. One resident cited safety and crime as growing issues that impact the city's quality of life negatively.

Laguna Hills' decision to ban short-term rentals in residential areas reflects a balancing act between addressing residents' concerns and considering the economic impact on short-term rental operators. While some residents fear the loss of income and potential property value decline, the City Council aims to prioritize the safety, tranquility, and residential character of the community. As the ban takes effect, it remains to be seen how it will influence the local housing market and the overall atmosphere of Laguna Hills.

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