SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The battle over short-term rentals in Santa Barbara is headed to court.
Catt Properties, LLC filed a lawsuit against the city in Santa Barbara County Superior Court.
The complaint stems from a residential unit on top of a commercial building at 101 West Anapamu.
The property is located in what's called the C-2 "commercial" zone where short-term rentals, for less than 30 days, are allowed under the city's existing ordinance.
The property owner rented the unit out for several years without issue, until the city ordered him to stop. The owner went through a permit "conversion" process created by the city, but his application was denied in July.
Jarrett Gorin of Vanguard Planning is advising the owner, and other property owners lodging similar complaints.
“We’re asking a judge to overturn that denial and to also determine that this is an allowed use and it is not a 'conversion' or anything else and does not require city approvals and review, which is again what the city’s current ordinance says," said Gorin.
Property owners like Wendy Gronsky are watching the case closely.
Gronsky bought East Beach Cottages in 2012 as an investment property to help with her retirement. It's located in a hotel and resort zone, where it is legal to rent out units for less than 30 days.
"At the time of purchase, we had the city come by and do their zoning report (ZIR) and everything was legal at that time," Gronsky said.
Then, last year, she was told she could only rent out her cottages for 30 days or more. Gronsky said that mandate has cost her thousands of dollars in income.
"I'm very disappointed at the city. I feel we have done everything right," she said. "We have paid our taxes and its very disheartening to know that this has happened.
City Attorney Ariel Calonne released this statement regarding the lawsuit: "We believe the lawsuit lacks merit and will defend the City Council's decision vigorously."
Gorin said the outcome of this lawsuit could apply to many cases in the city.
“We’ve got a group of about 35 different property owners all of whom want to operate their properties as short term rentals which they are legally allowed to do under the city’s existing ordinances," Gorin said. "But the city has simply decided they will not allow that use without changing the law at all.”