Santa Barbara City Battles over Vacation Rentals and Coastal Housing

It could not have been the clash of the titans, but the sq. off concerning attorney Joseph Liebman and Metropolis Legal professional Ariel Calonne might be the next most effective factor when it arrives to selecting how significantly Town Corridor can regulate land-use near, or along the city’s waterfront. 

Centered on the dueling press releases issued late this week by these two authorized heavyweights,  Liebman and Calonne have evidently transcended the simply expert, and have now taken on an edge of own animus. 

Both of those situations are so intricate that even their respective wrinkles have wrinkles. Boiled down to most straightforward conditions, Liebman and Calonne each individual received a single and misplaced a single. By natural means, it is not that basic. 

Liebman gained what could be a landmark circumstance that will very likely price City Corridor $3.6 million plus attorney’s costs above the legal rights of a Mesa assets-owner—Thomas Felkay—to establish on steep shoreline bluffs overlooking the ocean considered by Metropolis Corridor to be geologically unstable. 


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Calonne received a considerable but potentially pyrrhic victory that upholds City Hall’s ordinance limiting wherever trip rentals are permitted to function in just town limitations. This decision—issued by Superior Court Decide Thomas Anderle—could perfectly be rendered moot, nevertheless, right after an appeals court docket panel in Ventura decides no matter if to restrict Metropolis Hall’s authority to implement its short-expression rental ordinance. 

Coincidentally, the same working day the courtroom of attractiveness in Ventura issued its $3.6 million ruling in favor of Thomas Felkay, it also read arguments on that enforcement scenario. 

The Felkay situation, it seems, has been a authorized prepare crash prolonged in the generating. It requires a postage stamp of a piece of land on the Mesa’s Camino De la Luz which Felkay obtained in 2006 for $850,000. The land consists of a skinny extended driveway that slopes down from the road to a bluff top parcel overlooking the ocean. Felkay in the beginning proposed making a three story 3,100 sq. foot property, then modified that to 2,700 square feet. In accordance to the city’s regulations and polices, the land was found at an elevation considered geologically as well unstable to enable that diploma of progress. The Arranging Commission shot down his proposal and it got shot down again  when he appealed to the City Council. 

Felkay did much much better taking his scenario to court in 2017. He argued that the metropolis had correctly condemned his property by denying him any economically viable land use. He should be compensated accordingly, argued his lawyer Joseph Liebman. In 2019, Judge Thomas Anderle agreed with Felkay. In a individual jury demo, it was decided Felkay’s land was really worth $2.4 million as well as attorney’s service fees. 

The council opted to enchantment all over again, arguing that the rulings placed Town Corridor in the untenable position of acquiring to approve developments unsafe and incompatible with the city’s land use necessities. What occurs, Calonne questioned, when the sea level rises and threatens other coastal homes. Will City Corridor be precluded from proscribing advancement then, also, for worry of having to fork out the charges of inadvertent condemnation ?

The arguments proffered by the attorney hired by City Corridor to cope with the circumstance in front of the Court docket of Charm, nonetheless, was a great deal more specialized and administratively wonky. The city argued that Felkay’s lawsuit had been premature mainly because he experienced not nonetheless fatigued all his administrative solutions. For example  Felkay  need to have submitted different plans that may possibly tackle its geologic worries.  The Court of Attraction turned down this, agreeing with Felkay and his attorney Liebman that there basically have been no ideas they could have potentially drawn up to deal with Metropolis Hall’s geological considerations nothing at all could be crafted on that land. This time, the panel of appellate judges observed the city would have to fork out Felkay $3.6 million plus attorney’s service fees, estimated to be in extra of $1 million. 

Liebman issued a push release on Thursday getting Metropolis Corridor sternly to job. Felkay’s award, Liebman wrote, would have to arrive straight from the City’s basic fund  “at a time the City can unwell find the money for to invest taxpayer’s cash having to pay out damages to residence proprietors. And this was entirely and conveniently avoidable.” 

Liebman blamed the council’s final decision to go after litigation right on “poor advice” provided to the council by Metropolis Legal professional Calonne and Town Administrator Paul Casey. With an in-your-encounter conclusion uncharacteristic of Santa Barbara’s more genteel courthouse lifestyle, he wrote:. “Bad actions has implications. This is the stop of the highway and the Metropolis will pay back for its inadequate conclusions.” 

The irony below is that Casey and Calonne reportedly suggested the counsel to prevent litigation at the very outset of this conflict. According to councilmembers current during  these closed doorway deliberations, Calonne and Casey both of those suggested the council approve the venture because it was likely a neighbor would attraction to the Coastal Commission. This way the city could stay clear of litigation, and the Coastal Fee would, in all likelihood,  quit the challenge.

Councilmembers rejected this on the grounds that non-public citizens really should not be required to bear the expenses of an attraction. Considering the fact that these deliberations have been privileged, neither Calonne nor Casey could confirm this account. Calonne did bristle at Liebman’s remarks, stating, “I’m not likely to get down in the gutter with Mr. Liebman listed here, but he has no plan what information I gave my clients. He can say no matter what the hell he needs, but he has no thought what he’s talking about.”

The very same working day the Felkay ruling was launched, Calonne announced a victory he’d received previously in the year–in January–over the city’s suitable to limit limited-term rentals in many parts of the metropolis. In this occasion, it was Liebman suing Town Corridor again, but on behalf of Santa Barbara Inland and the Coastal Home Legal rights Association—two groups started out by James Fenkner, a outstanding group activist improved recognised for his critique of the Santa Barbara University Board’s aid of ethnic equity. In this circumstance, Fenkner owns a downtown earnings assets that he’s applied as a shorter-time period rental. 

At difficulty was the city’s work to regulate holiday vacation rentals on the grounds that they skilled as lodges under city ordinance. Fenkner and Liebman argued that the city’s lodge ordinance dated back again to 1986 effectively before quick expression rentals have been an concern and it experienced not been amended right until March 2020. To limit trip rentals this way, Fenkner argued, was arbitrary, capricious, outrageous and egregious  it violated due procedure and constituted a violation of his constitutional legal rights.

 Judge Thomas Anderle upheld the city’s ordinance, obtaining it relates “to respectable governmental purposes, people of preserving housing, regulating advancement, and making certain compatibility of adjoining works by using.” 

At Calonne’s instigation, the Metropolis Council voted very last March to amend its resort ordinance to explicitly include language relating to brief-time period rentals. At that council listening to, Fenkner and Liebman showed up to item, predicting that he would defeat the city in court docket as he experienced several occasions prior to. 

All through the trial,  Liebman enlisted testimony by the head of the California Coastal Fee, John Ainsworth,  and a superior position deputy administrator, Steve Hudson, who argued that the city’s ordinance was invalid due to the fact it had not been vetted by the Coastal Fee. 

The Coastal Fee has been crucial of endeavours to restrict brief-expression rentals together the state’s coast, arguing that they offer cost-effective lodging to point out inhabitants properly barred  from experiencing coastal accessibility by the substantial value of most inns. Decide Anderle dismissed this testimony as irrelevant, noting that the Coastal Fee itself—as a governmental agency—had opted to get no formal motion. Simply because of that, he argued, this sort of testimony should really be regarded as only an person viewpoint. Calonne made substantially of Anderle’s statements on this score in his press launch, noting, “We caught them purple handed.” 

For the time being, the city’s brief expression rental prohibition stands. But waiting in the wings is a courtroom of appeals ruling—yet to be issued—about a scenario brought in opposition to the city by Theo Kracke, a quick-expression, rental entrepreneur. If Kracke ought to prevail it would severely restrict the capability of nearby governments to enforce shorter-phrase rental ordinances.

James Fenkner was acerbically dismissive of Anderle’s ruling.  “This certain, really narrowly outlined skirmish is over with Ariel Caloone getting home  a worthless plastic trophy. Let us see what happens with Theo Kracke’s attractiveness.” 

It’s value noting the city’s ordinance all but banning shorter-phrase rentals was passed unanimously with help even from conservative property-legal rights minded councilmembers Randy Rowse and Dale Francisco. The ordinance was strongly endorsed by developer-banker Michael Towbes. All apprehensive that holiday vacation rentals threatened to further more restrict the city’s previously tight housing stock. “The difficulty was housing then,” mentioned Calonne, “and I detest to say, it even now is.”


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