Planners recommend council approve new short term rental rules

Court rulings make it necessary for Seal Beach to update Municipal Code

The Planning Commission on Monday, Nov. 7, voted 4-zero to recommend that the council approve a proposed amendment to the Zoning Code that would regulate vacation rentals in Seal Beach.

The matter will now go to the Seal Beach City Council.

The planners directed staff to make two changes to the proposal: that staff limit the number of approved vacation rentals to 25 and to review the program in 18 months.

“Staff proposed a limit of one percent of the total units in the Coastal Zone (see list number 4 on page 2 of the staff report),” wrote  Community Development Director Alexa Smittle in a Tuesday, Nov. 8 email. According to her staff report, that would equate to 45 units.

District Three Commissioner Michael Thomas initially suggested the city use half of 1 percent.

However, Thomas later suggested limiting the number of short term rental permits to 25.

According to Smittle’s email, the existing conditional use permits in Seal Beach run with the land and those CUPs are separate from the proposed program.

Currently, there are 14 CUPs allowing short term rentals in Seal Beach, according to the Nov. 7 slide presentation.

Permits and business licenses will be required for short-term-rentals.

During her Nov. 7 presentation to the Planning Commission, Smittle said the applicants would be selected by lottery on a date to be determined.


“Two recent legal cases related to short-term rentals were reviewed in separate California Courts of Appeal, Kracke v. City of Santa Barbara (2021) and Keen v. City of Manhattan Beach (2022),” wrote Smittle in her staff report.

“While the details of the cases varied, the respective opinions of the appellate courts both held that the California Coastal Act overrides cities’ short-term rental bans, as such bans restrict coastal access and therefore any bans would require Coastal Commission approval,” Smittle wrote.

The proposed Zone Text Amendment would, among other things:

• require operators to have a business license

• require operators to pay Seal Beach 12% transient occupancy taxes

• require operators to have insurance

• limit a short term rental to 20 consecutive days

• limit property owners to one short term rental

• limit short term rentals to two persons per bedroom

“On the one hand, an increase in overnight accommodations is likely to provide support to local businesses that benefit from tourism, and new STRs will increase transient occupancy tax revenues,” Smittle wrote.

“However, staff believes steps must be taken to ensure no negative impacts occur within existing neighborhoods, particularly related to noise and similar disruptions,” Smittle wrote.

“In addition, the use of housing as overnight accommodations may conflict with the intent of other State laws, particularly as they relate to certification of the City’s Housing Element by the California Department of Housing and Community Development. Recent housing legislation is aimed at increasing the volume of available homes,” Smittle wrote.

According to her report, staff proposes a limit (not specified) on the number of short term rentals in town.

Also according to her report, staff will work with hosting platforms to enforce the rules.