Business & Economy

Anaheim plans to go forward with short-term rental restrictions

Hotel union workers attend a press conference October 15, 2015 in a South Anaheim neighborhood organized by an Orange County community activist group petitioning Anaheim city officials to ban short-term rentals.
Hotel union workers attend a press conference October 15, 2015 in a South Anaheim neighborhood organized by an Orange County community activist group petitioning Anaheim city officials to ban short-term rentals.
Erika Aguilar/KPCC

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The city of Anaheim is dropping efforts to get Airbnb to help it enforce restrictions on short-term rentals. 

Earlier this week, city officials said they would no longer seek to fine Airbnb for not removing unpermitted listings of short-term rentals in Anaheim. In response, Airbnb dropped a lawsuit it had filed against the city. 

Anaheim officials say they will instead concentrate on efforts to track down property owner who placed the listings -- a move they're already pursing, said Anaheim city spokesperson Mike Lyster.

“It means no change from what we have been doing,” he said.

Anaheim wanted home sharing companies such as Airbnb and Homeaway to remove listings from their websites that don’t have permits from the city to operate a short-term rental.

In June, the city passed an ordinance banning short-term rentals from residential areas. As part of that ordinance, hosting websites faced fines from $500 to $2,000 for not removing unpermitted listings within ten calendar days.

Airbnb answered back with a lawsuit filed July 28.

“The ordinance treats Airbnb as the publisher or speaker of those listings, whose content is provided by third-party host,” the lawsuit stated.

Airbnb argued that the ordinance also violated its First Amendment rights by targeting the company and not the speech.

“The city instead could simply enforce its short-term rental laws directly against hosts who violate them – as the city acknowledges it already does successfully,” the complaint stated.

This isn’t the first time Airbnb has sued a municipality challenging its regulations. San Francisco supervisors are considering walking back a similar ordinance because of a lawsuit from the company.

After reviewing federal communications laws, the Anaheim city attorney promised the city in writing on August 10 that, although they will keep the ordinance on the books, it would not enforce the part that calls for penalties against the hosting websites. 

“We will identify them on our own,” Lyster said. Code enforcement teams will continue to go after unpermitted short-term rentals, he said. That includes issuing fines and cutting off electricity to the property in extreme cases.

Lyster said the meaty parts of the short-term rental ordinance will still be in effect. That is, the approximate 360-permitted properties in residential areas will have 18 months from August 11 to phase out their operations.

However, in about a month, the Anaheim City Council is expected to discuss a proposed home-sharing pilot program that would allow homeowners interested in renting a room or a separate unit as a short-term rental to operate as long as the homeowner stays on-site while the guests are there too.