City Council Seeks to Regulate, Not Ban, Vacation Rentals

The La Cañada Flintridge City Council decided Tuesday night not to ban short-term rental units and instead try to regulate them, starting a subcommittee to investigate the issue further and bring its findings to the municipal Planning Commission and the council.
Short-term rental advocates who stated their case appeared to have swayed the council.
City Manager Mark Alexander said after the council’s meeting that there was no timeline for bringing the matter back to the panel. The city’s staff had recommended the introduction of an ordinance to prohibit short-term rentals.
Councilman Gregory Brown said the city had received emails from residents favoring the ban and citing worries about parking, traffic and security, but “I think we can address those things.”
The ordinance was similar to what the LCF Planning Commission recommended during its Jan. 23 meeting. That panel also advocated stopping the vacation rentals that have been made popular by platforms such as Airbnb and VRBO.
Under the proposed ordinance, a city statement said, a short-term vacation rental is described as “a dwelling unit or portion of a dwelling unit as defined by the city’s zoning code that is rented for dwelling, lodging, sleeping, parties or weddings by the owner to another party for a period of 30 consecutive days or less in exchange for any form of monetary or non-monetary consideration, such as, but not limited to, trade, fee swap, or any other in-lieu of cash payments.”
The term “short-term vacation rental” did not include the terms “rooming and boarding houses” or “bed and breakfast,” the statement said.
Eight residents, including some who found out about the ordinance from a short-term rental website, spoke against banning the units but were open to regulations of them.
William Moffitt, chairman of the La Cañada Flintridge Community Prevention Council and former LCF Educational Foundation president and former La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board member, spoke about his positive experience.
He said he started hosting guests in his home eight years ago through Airbnb and was one of the first in Los Angeles to do so.
“We found it was an amazing experience,” Moffitt said. “We pride ourselves in welcoming people in our house. The dogs meet them as they come in. It’s a family, and we sit around and talk and chat and have some wonderful times with guests. We have had absolutely no problems. No complaints at all.”
Christopher Lastrapes, who said he moved to LCF in January 2019 with his wife and two sons, said he rented the guest house for additional revenue.
“It obviously benefits my family directly,” Lastrapes said. “It helps pay for our son to go to La Cañada pre-school. It helps pay for the property tax bill.”
He said the family has never had anyone stay longer than three weeks and the average stay is five days.
“Airbnb benefits us and the economy,” said Lastrapes, adding he had put in about $5,000 worth of improvements using local businesses as well as encouraging guests to eat at restaurants locally. Banning short-term rentals is “not the right proposal … regulations have to be made.”
Councilman Michael Davitt said that if the Planning Commission had a little more vocal feedback it might have drawn a different conclusion than recommending an outright ban.
“I think the program of short-term rentals does need to be regulated,” Davitt said. “I heard that acknowledgement of people who spoke. There are some avenues to get there to where short-term rentals could continue under some guidelines that make sense.”
Alexander recommended that two planning commissioners be on the subcommittee along with some audience members who spoke in favor of short term-rental units.
Alexander said staff members would research and gather information about the issue, including looking at cities that allow short-term rental units, and then reconvene in the subcommittee.
The proposed ordinance would have added a new section to the zoning code, specially prohibiting short-term rentals within the city as well as banning the advertising of them.
During the meeting, LCF Director of Community Development Susan Koleda said there had been complaints about the short-term rentals of a house on Gould Avenue where a large pool party was held last June 15 as well as a home on Ivafern Lane that also generated numerous complaints to the staff.

LIBRARIAN RECEIVES AWARD
La Cañada Flintridge Library manager Mark Totten told the council that children’s services librarian Sarah LoVerme won a Charlotte Award from the Los Angeles County Library Department.
Totten said the department, which has 1,200 employees in 86 libraries and offices, had an annual staff meeting on Feb. 13, when LoVerme was announced as the 2019 winner of the award for best children’s librarian for service to the community. LoVerme, the children’s librarian at LCF for the past four years, has grown the story time and book club programs, among others, and visits public and private schools, Totten said.

SOUND WALL UPDATES
City Public Works Director Patrick DeChellis reported on the third phase of 210 Freeway sound wall construction.
The phase, approved in December 2018, involves the south side of the 210 and includes a continuation of the project’s second phase from Alta Canyada Road to the bridge under Foothill Boulevard at Memorial Park; the south side of the freeway from west of Vineta Avenue to the eastbound on-ramp east of Georgian Road that overlaps part of the first phase; and the north side of the 210 from the intersection of Baptiste Way and Vineta to the Crown Avenue/Foothill westbound exit.
DeChellis said three proposals were received on Jan. 23 in response to a request for proposal for environmental and design services and that negotiations have been completed. A contract will be presented on the City Council agenda for the March 2 meeting for approval with the consultant planning on starting work the next day. Final plans and an estimate are due at the end of March 2021 for Caltrans approval, DeChellis said. Construction should start in fall 2021 and be completed in spring 2023.
For the second sound wall phase, DeChellis said city Public Works is still working with Caltrans and Southern California Edison regarding the relocation of a power pole in a Caltrans right of way affected by construction of the wall. He said that when that issue is resolved, the city could receive Caltrans approval to advertise for a bid for wall construction by June and that building could begin in the fall and finish by spring 2021.

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