Keeping the California Coast Accessible to All

We achieved a Court of Appeal victory affirming important tenets of the State Coastal Act. This win upholds the requirement that cities obtain a local coastal program amendment or coastal development permit before regulating short-term vacation rentals in the coastal zone.

We represented Theodore Kracke, whose company manages short-term vacation rentals (STVRs) in the City of Santa Barbara's coastal zone. We prevailed on the argument that the city’s decision to ban STVRs along its coast and regulate them as hotels constituted “development.” In overturning the city’s ban, the Second District Court of Appeal for the State of California agreed that such development requires the city to either seek a coastal development permit or undertake an amendment to its certified Local Coastal Program.

The court reasoned that the STVR ban constituted development because it changed the density or intensity of use of land and the intensity of use of water, or of access thereto.  The court also found that the city’s action was inconsistent with the Coastal Act’s goal of improving the availability of lower cost accommodations along the coast, particularly for low-income and middle-income families.

Santa Barbara began regulating STVRs as hotels in June 2015—prohibiting STVRs from operating in most residential areas of the coastal zone. The decision stated that, “The city cannot act unilaterally, particularly when it not only allowed the operation of STVRs for years but also benefitted from the payment of transient occupancy taxes…Instead of 114 coastal STVRs to choose from, city visitors are left with only 6.”

The case is Kracke v. City of Santa Barbara, case number B300528, in the Second District Court of Appeal for the State of California.

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