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It has been a while since I posted about the laws and regulations as they affect short term rentals and vacation rentals in Santa Barbara. While there still exists some “gray area” as it relates to the City of Santa Barbara and their interpretation, just know, anything located in the coastal zone of Santa Barbara is currently “license-able”. If that’s even a word.

Well, it meanders through Santa Barbara and has no definitive line however, as the crow flies but here is a photo for reference.


For more information on other areas located in the Coastal Zone, here is the link:
Santa Barbara Coastal Zone Info

There have been a few lawsuits to hit the City of Santa Barbara since they attempted to shut down all vacation rentals and short term rentals in Santa Barbara in 2015. One important decision has paved the way for ALL homes (no matter what zoning designation) to be able to rent their homes for less than 30 days however ONLY applies to those properties in Santa Barbara that are located in the Coastal Zone.


While we have fought the City of Santa Barbara Zoning and Planning Department, hired attorneys, planners and just about any and every expert in the field, we realized early on that the California Coastal Commission was our biggest ally in the fight to save vacation rentals in Santa Barbara. Coastal Zone properties in Santa Barbara have prevailed!

Well, there still exists a “controversy” between the highest courts decision and how the City of Santa Barbara interprets this decision.

Just recently, we helped an owner that owns a second home on the Mesa secure a business license to operate a short term vacation rental. Their home is located in the Coastal Zone of the Mesa and according to the decision by the second district court of appeals, allowed to rent as a vacation rental or short term rental. However, when we contacted the city, here is what they told us…

Any attorney would find this contradictory to say the least:

City: Home is in the E-3 Zone of the Non-appealable Jurisdiction of the Coastal Zone. The E-3 does not allow for short-term rental use.

Tiffany: E-3 does not restrict STRS. There is nothing in the zoning ordinance that “restricts” vacation rentals in E-3.

City: Short-term vacation rentals are unlawful in Santa Barbara, including in the coastal zone, unless they are permitted by the City and they are located within zoning districts that allow for hotels or motels. The City will not issue business licenses for unpermitted STRV’s outside of the Coastal Zone.

Tiffany: Please define: Permitted. Are you saying that no business license will be given for this property?

City: The City will enforce against all illegal short term rentals in non-coastal zone areas while enforcement against illegal short term vacation rentals in the Coastal Zone will occur in response to the City receiving nuisance complaints.

Are you saying this is an “illegal short term rental”?

City: Property owners that have operated short-term rentals lawfully or unlawfully are subject to and liable for the City’s transient occupancy taxes.

Tiffany: How can a city collect taxes for what they deem is “unlawful” acts or is illegal? That makes no sense.

City: Paying these taxes do not give a legal right to operate unpermitted Short term vacation rentals.

Tiffany: Yet again, this makes no sense. Please confirm that the property WILL receive a business license and IS legal in the coastal zone as defined by both the lawsuit and the California Coastal Commission. I will be reaching out to them today as well as the attorney handling this. What the city keeps doing is not legal…

City: (no response)

2 days later, in the mail we received the Business License for this home on the Mesa in Santa Barbara to vacation rent the home.

This is all so confusing, what do you recommend we do if we live in the Coastal Zone of Santa Barbara and wish to rent our home as a vacation rental or short term rental?

We know this game the City of Santa Barbara continually plays and until they can figure out regulations that will get approved by the California Coastal Commission, the City of Santa Barbara must allow vacation rentals in the Coastal Zone. We have been to every City council meeting and Planning Commission hearing since 2015 and fought to keep vacation rentals where they are legally allowed and/or zoned for this use. While they may say they are “unlawful”, nothing exists in the current zoning ordinance as it applies to the Coastal Zone that forbids or requires a permit for this use. If you speak to the City of Santa Barbara Zoning and Planning Department you will most definitely get a different answer. That is why we encourage you to contact us to know your rights as property owners of vacation rentals in Santa Barbara. As local Real Estate Brokers and Property Managers of Vacation Rentals in Santa Barbara, we can help you with the entire process from start to finish.

We are here to help you navigate vacation rentals in Santa Barbara!

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Happy renting!
Tiffany & Kurt
Haller Coastal Homes

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