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City of Carlsbad Exempts La Costa Condos from Short-Term Vacation Rental Ordinance

Over the past decade, municipalities up and down the California coast have passed ordinances which limit short-term vacation rentals to properties located within the coastal zone.

The City of Carlsbad passed, approved, and adopted Ordinance No. CS-272 on May 5, 2015, which did exactly that - permit short-term vacation rentals only if they are located within the "coastal zone." The coastal zone is a term defined in the California Coastal Act, which means the "land and water area of the State of California from the Oregon border to the border of the Republic of Mexico . . . extending inland generally 1,000 yards from the mean high tide line of the sea." In Carlsbad, most properties east of El Camino Real in the 92010 or 92009 ZIP codes are outside of the coastal zone. (For more specific information, see the City's coastal zone map).

As many Carlsbad residents know, the scope of the ordinance failed to include the condominiums on the property of the famous Omni La Costa Resort, which is located on the eastern side of El Camino Real (ZIP code 92009). The condos, built in 1972, contain a restriction that allow the owners of the condos to use their property for a certain number of days each year. As a result, many of the condos owners attempt to utilize their properties as short-term vacation rentals. Additionally, some of the La Costa condo owners never utilize their property for their own use, instead purchasing the condominiums as investment properties (for short-term rentals) due to their proximity to the beach and their location on the resort property. Under the ordinance, as originally adopted, neither usage was permitted.

Much to the relief of the La Costa condo owners, the City of Carlsbad, in a contested 3-2 vote, agreed to exempt the condominiums from the short-term vacation rental ordinance. Now, the condos, which are technically outside of the coastal zone, will be allowed for the purpose of short-term vacation rentals. Although it remains to be seen, several City Council members were concerned that the exemption may be a "slippery slope" leading other property owners requesting similar treatment.

Short-term vacation rentals have been rising in popularity in large part to companies such as VRBO and Airbnb. This latest installment in the City of Carlsbad is surely not the last we have seen regarding the fight over short-term vacation rentals in California.

Ariel Bedell is an experienced attorney at The Loftin Firm. For questions relating to any other California real estate, corporate governance, land use, or estate planning matter, contact Ms. Bedell at (760) 814-9649. 

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