Our picturesque coastal city of Santa Barbara thrives on tourism dollars. However, the City of Santa Barbara is now working on a new ordinance that could drastically change the landscape of short term vacation rentals (STVRs) as we know them, inside the coastal zone. This proposed ordinance seeks to restrict vacation rentals in all areas of the coastal zone except West Beach and East Beach, potentially eliminating the ability for homeowners to rent their homes located inside the coastal zone. These short term vacation rentals provide much needed lower cost, visitor serving accommodations which are in line with the Coastal Act. 

At $900/night for a standard hotel room in summer with $50/day in additional parking fees and only sleeping 2, this would not be a lower cost accommodation for travelers. When visitors instead choose a short term vacation rental with 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, at an average of $400/night, the property can accommodate 2 families and/or more than one couple. These vacation rentals also do not typically come with fees to park, etc. The ability to cook meals at home also allows those on limited budgets and restricted diets to enjoy the coast at a fraction of what it costs to stay in a coastal hotel in Santa Barbara. Important to also note, most of these properties are either second homes that owners share when they are not in town or primary residences owners rent while traveling. Therefore, these properties would sit vacant part of the year. As well, they are most definitely, not affordable housing.

What happened?

The City of Santa Barbara lost a court case back in 2019 and lost on appeal to the second district court which affirmed the decision. This lawsuit addressed the city’s ban on short term vacation rentals in the coastal zone of Santa Barbara. The California Coastal Commission stressed in this decision that both the city needed a Coastal Development Permit to change the “density and use” of the land and that the CCC did not agree with this arbitrary “interpretation” of STVRs being hotels. Since 2019, the City of Santa Barbara cannot enforce within the coastal zone on short term vacation rentals if the rental is collecting and remitting the TOT/TBID taxes and has no credible nuisance reports filed. In 2020, the California Coastal Commission also reiterated in a letter to the City Council that STVRs cannot be banned in the coastal zone, are a residential use and in fact, the hotel definition they are relying on to ban them, is not a CCC approved ordinance. So, in an effort to comply with the CCC and at the same time finally address regulations for STVRs in the coastal zone, the city is now working to develop an ordinance that will possibly pass the CCC requirements as outlined in the Coastal Act. Banning them is not an option but heavily restricting them seems to be the intention.

The City’s Proposal

The City of Santa Barbara is currently developing this ordinance that aims to curtail vacation rentals in most of the coastal zone within the city. While certain beachfront areas like West Beach and East Beach might be spared, other beloved coastal neighborhoods could see a significant reduction in rental opportunities or a complete ban altogether. This ordinance is only in the preliminary phases, but without proactive involvement from stakeholders like you, it could soon become a reality.

Why Should You Care?

If you own a property in the coastal zone, periodically rent your home as a short-term vacation rental or maybe just enjoy visiting Santa Barbara’s stunning coastal areas, this ordinance directly impacts you. Whether you see STVRs as a way to supplement income, support local tourism, or simply appreciate the flexibility they offer for travel, the potential loss of this option could affect everyone involved.

Why Your Involvement Matters

Your voice can make a difference. After attending this first meeting, there were only 3 of us there that spoke up regarding these proposed regulations and ideas. In 2016, we had a similar City Council meeting and it was standing room only with people forced outside the chambers. It was a packed house full of hosts in support of STVRs and against a ban back then. With the feel of a sort of Groundhog Day this meeting reminded me of 2016 but no one was there? By joining our new SBSTRA (Santa Barbara Short Term Rental Alliance) stakeholder outreach group and/or following and participating in public forums, you have the chance to shape the future of short term vacation rentals in Santa Barbara and the development of this new ordinance. Expressing your support for reasonable and responsible regulation that balances community needs with the benefits of short term vacation rentals is crucial.

Take Action Today!

Join our Facebook Group, read our blogs, go to our dedicated SBSTRA website that is being updated with crucial information. Bottom line, this may be your last chance to help preserve and shape this new ordinance the City of Santa Barbara is developing for the coastal zone of Santa Barbara.

Our Final Thoughts

Santa Barbara’s coastal zone is a jewel that attracts visitors locally, from around the nation and world-wide. Short term vacation rentals in Santa Barbara play a vital role in accommodating these visitors, granting them affordable access to the coast and supporting local businesses.  As discussions continue regarding the future of STVRs in Santa Barbara, your engagement is more important than ever! Together, we can work towards solutions that uphold the unique character of Santa Barbara while ensuring that short-term vacation rentals remain a viable option for homeowners and visitors to Santa Barbara alike. Let your voice be heard and help create a future where Santa Barbara’s coastal beauty remains accessible to all. Let us know if you wish to be a part of our working outreach group that could help shape this new ordinance! 


Here is where the city seeks to limit access and only allow STVRs:  East Beach and West Beach. The issue is that most if not the majority of these homes already have zoning that is allowed even for “hotel” use. So essentially it does not change much from the existing coastal ordinance in place but the good news is they are working to make the process not a “hotel conversion”.

Recent Articles, Court Findings and Rulings:

Time for a Change for Santa Barbara’s Short-Term Rental Policy?

About Those Short Term Rentals

California Coastal Act Trumps Local City Regulations Banning Short-Term Housing Rentals

California Court of Appeal Holds City’s Ban on Short-Term Rentals in Coastal Zone Constituted An Amendment Requiring Coastal Commission Approval

Current Position of CCC on Affordable Housing in the Coastal Zone