FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Theo Kracke won a battle in his ongoing lawsuit against the City of Santa Barbara over its decision to ban short-term vacation rentals (STVRs). Earlier this year, the City filed its second demurrer (this is the third time that the City has attempted to get this lawsuit dismissed). However, on June 26, 2017, the court overruled the demurrer and made certain findings that validate the core arguments of the lawsuit. Now that this major obstacle to the lawsuit has been removed, it will proceed in court.

According to Mr. Kracke, “We are thankful for the court’s thoughtful and well-reasoned decision. This is a victory for those people who could not otherwise enjoy the Santa Barbara coastline. This case is far from won, but the court’s decision is a big step in that direction.”

In the decision, the court ruled Mr. Kracke’s allegations constitute “development” under the Coastal Act since the decision to ban STVRs resulted in a change in the density or intensity of use of land or of access to the coastline.  According to the court:

The allegations establish that the City intended to [change the density or intensity of use of land or of access to the coastline]. The legislature has decided that the provisions of the Coastal Act are to be construed liberally to accomplish its purposes and objectives.  Interpreting the definition of ‘development’ as the court has here complies with that mandate.  The fundamental purposes of the Coastal Act are protecting California’s coastline and ensuring state policies prevail over local concerns. Requiring the City to obtain a CDP before implementing a prohibition on residential areas of Santa Barbara’s coastline is in harmony with both.

The City argued that its actions do not constitute a “development” under the Coastal Act since the City Council’s decision on June 23, 2015, was to enforce then-existing laws.  Disagreeing with the City, the court found:

[T]he City acted with a clear, and indeed stated, intent to ‘prohibit’ STVRs within the city’s residential areas, including the Coastal Zone. The allegations describe an identifiable choice between two existing yet conflicting policies — to allow and tax STVRs or prohibit them. The City Council chose to prohibit them as a deliberative body after public hearings.

In addition, the court ruled that Mr. Kracke’s causes of action for civil fines under the Coastal Act and declaratory and injunctive relief may proceed. The City must file a response to the lawsuit within 20 days.

Kracke’s lawsuit challenges the City’s ban on STVRs, alleging that the City’s actions are illegal and in contravention to various policies set forth in the Coastal Act.  Central among these policies are the requirements that the general public must have affordable accommodations within and access to the Coastal Zone.  In implementing its ban against STVRs, the City violated these policies and failed to apply for a Coastal Development Permit (CDP) to ensure that its actions conformed to the Coastal Act and its own Local Coastal Plan.

This decision follows another setback for the City, when in February, the court ruled against the City’s anti-SLAPP motion which argued Mr. Kracke’s lawsuit was an unlawful attempt to chill the City’s first amendment right to free speech.

In a separate ruling, the court denied Mr. Kracke’s request for a preliminary injunction (which would have stopped the City’s current enforcement efforts until the lawsuit was completed).

Travis C. Logue and Jason W. Wansor, attorneys for the Santa Barbara law firm, Rogers, Sheffield & Campbell LLP, represent Mr. Kracke.

Attachments

Kracke vs City of Santa Barbara – Injunction Ruling 06-27-2017 PDF | 1.3MB
Kracke vs City of Santa Barbara – Demurrer Ruling 06-27-2017 PDF | 4.2MB

Kracke vs. City of Santa Barbara – First Amended Writ of Mandate and Complaint PDF | 16.7MB
Kracke vs. City of Santa Barbara – Press Release 2017-06-29 PDF | 74kb

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors will be meeting to discuss and vote on a Short Term Rental ban in Santa Barbara County.

These are 3 possible outcomes of this meeting:

  1. They could approve the Ordinance prepared by Staff last year that effectively bans ALL STRs
  2. They could instruct Staff to return with a revised Ordinance
  3. They could take no action

We need your help to ensure that outcome 1) does not happen (i.e. they do not approve the prohibitive STR Ordinance prepared by Staff last year).

By Alys Martinez, KEYT

See the full original article at KEYT.com

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The battle over short-term rentals is far from over in Santa Barbara.

Most rentals were banned by the city council, but residents living in an areas where it is permitted are running into difficulty when trying to get city permits.

Betsy Kehoe purchased her home near downtown Santa Barbara two years ago as part of her retirement plan. She lives there full-time and rents out a room in the back. “Initially, it was a wonderful experience,” she said. “We got the permit and the city allowed us to do it.”

But, her pleasant experience changed soon after the city council outlawed short-term vacation rentals in 2015–except in the R-4 zone, which is where Kehoe lives.

Originally, Kehoe operated her short-term rental under a city issued business license and paid a Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) to rent out the room.

But, once that license expired, Kehoe said she has been unable to get a new permit from the city. “We have to pay a huge fee to go through the permit process, to even sit down with a planner in the planning department to discuss it,” Kehoe said. “Then, it’s wait, wait, wait.”

Kehoe said city officials have not provided a path for her and other owners in R-4 to get re-permitted as short term vacation rentals. “They essentially want us to comply with some process they seem to make up as they go,” she said.

Kehoe was given recommendations by city officials to go through a ‘conversion’ process to comply with commercial hotel ordinances. “I don’t want to become a hotel,” she said. Kehoe was instructed to tear down a wall inside the room she rents, which Kehoe said would cost $70,000. She was also advised to make a parking covenant.

“I don’t think it’s their right to take my property and decide what I should do with it,” Kehoe said. “Now they are making us jump through hoops, and it seems like they are doing this to keep us running around in circles so they don’t have to deal with us and keep us spending our money, hoping we will fall away one by one out of exasperation and frustration.”

Widow Dorothy Wallstein is fighting a similar battle with the city. She relies on her short-term vacation rental to stay afloat. “I was reassured personally by the mayor, the city attorney and two city councilmembers during their changes to the residential areas that I had nothing to worry about because I lived in R-4 and I took them on their word,” Wallstein said.

But, when her license came up for renewal on Dec. 31, city staff told her she too had to go through the planning department.

“When you talk to the planning department on the phone, they won’t answer any questions,” Wallstein said. “They say you have to apply to convert your residence into a hotel and that, that costs hundreds of dollars to even talk to someone.”

Wallstein said she feels the city is demonizing citizens who are trying to abide by the law. “They are making us out to be criminals,” she said.

Wallstein said she may lose it all if something isn’t done soon, “I will not be able to stay in my home if this continues.”

Jarrett Gorin, of Vanguard Planning, is helping his clients with property in the R-4 zone navigate the city’s permit process, which he claims is “made up.”

“They’ve really made up a permit that doesn’t exist. They didn’t go through any of the proper legal procedures to do that. They haven’t proposed an ordinance and the public never had a chance for review and input on this,” Gorin said. “The public is deprived a chance to challenge it because there is nothing to challenge.”

Gorin, Wallstein and Kehoe all said they believe there is a serious disconnect between the city council and the planning department.

“It seems like the staff and the city attorney are keeping the city council in the dark,” said Gorin. “I wonder sometimes who is running the city. Is it our elected decision makers or is it the bureaucrats in the planning department?”

Deputy City Attorney John Doimas said the city previously issued business licenses and collected TOT, but those are tax and regulatory licenses, and not land use licenses which don’t grant a resident to use a property in a ‘specific way’.

Doimas said the city stopped extending business licenses as of Dec 31, 2016 and told the public in August, 2015 that short term rental businesses licenses would not be renewed for people in zones where it was not allowed. “There are areas in the city where it may be permissible, R-4 and C-M,” he said.

According to Doimas who referred to the municipal code, a person has to go through a conversion process to get a permit–on a case by case basis.

City Planner Renee Brooke forwarded the a Short-Term Rental Permitting Process memorandum to the NewsChannel 3 newsroom. To read it click  here.

Tiffany Haller is a real estate broker and property manager helping her clients navigate the permit process. She started a group called, “R-4 Property Rights”. So far there are about 36 members.

Haller said she went to the city in August, 2015 to find out how to get a permit. Haller said she could not get a straight answer. “We are really hoping the city council can step up and show some leadership and help property owners get through the process together,” she said.

Haller started a blog about short-term vacation rental enforcement, to read it click here.

See the full original article at KEYT.com

By Paul Gonzalez, News-Press Staff Writer

A lawsuit against Santa Barbara’s ban on short-term rentals can proceed, according to a ruling in Ventura County Superior Court.

At the same time, a motion by the city to strike the challenge by vacation-rental business owner Theo Kracke under a statute aimed at quashing malicious lawsuits was denied.

See the full article at Newspress.com or in the Tuesday, March 14, 2017 edition of the Santa Barbara News-Press.

Challenge to Santa Barbara's Short-term Rental Ban Survives

 

By Joshua Molina, Pacific Coast Business Times Staff Writer

Entrepreneur Theo Kracke is at the center of an emotional debate over short-term vacation rentals in Santa Barbara, one that could deliver a significant financial blow to his business.

So he’s putting up a fight against the City of Santa Barbara, which has banned short-term rentals in most residential areas of town. Kracke sued the city, alleging it was violating the California Coastal Act, and then the city fired back, calling for Kracke’s suit to be thrown out of court.

See the full article at PacBizTimes.com or in the March 3-9, 2017 edition of the Pacific Coast Business Times.

Fighting City Hall

 

By Scott Steepleton, News-Press City Editor

A judge is considering whether a lawsuit challenging Santa Barbara’s short-term vacation rental ban should be tossed out on the grounds that, according to the city attorney, it is a frivolous attempt to stifle free speech.

Attorneys for Theo Kracke, owner of the vacation rental service Paradise Retreats, argue in court papers before Ventura County Superior Court Judge Mark Borrell that the California Coastal Act of 1976 mandates that cities in the coastal zone take steps to ensure low- and moderate-priced visitor accomodations with access to beaches.

See the full article at Newspress.com or in the Friday, March 3, 2017 edition of the Santa Barbara News-Press.

City argues Short Term Rental lawsuit tramples free speech

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

On January 30, 2017, the City of Santa Barbara filed an anti-SLAPP Motion against Theo Kracke, who recently sued the City over its vacation rental ban. Kracke’s lawsuit argues the City should have amended its Local Coastal Program or sought a Coastal Development Permit because the vacation rental ban contravenes the policies set forth in the Coastal Act.

In its anti-SLAPP motion, the City cites to Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) § 425.16. SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. Customarily, anti-SLAPP motions involve first amendment issues, like defamation. Ironically, the statute was enacted to protect the “little guy” from companies with vast resources who could file lawsuits against those who voiced opposition. Section 425.16(a) describes the Legislature’s intent for the law, “The Legislature finds and declares that there has been a disturbing increase in lawsuits brought primarily to chill the valid exercise of the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and petition for the redress of grievances. The Legislature finds and declares that it is in the public interest to encourage continued participation in matters of public significance, and that this participation should not be chilled through abuse of the judicial process.” While the statute’s purpose was to protect the expression of first amendment rights and curb litigation that would otherwise suppress people’s right to free speech, the statute is being abused by attorneys attempting to gain a tactical advantage in lawsuits. Attorneys have used anti-SLAPP motions in a variety of creative yet improper contexts, with the net result being increased attorneys’ fees, delays, and more litigation.

The City’s motion alleges Kracke’s suit is “frankly outrageous,” was “brought as a result of acts in furtherance of the City’s rights of petition or free speech” and “is an attempt to stifle free speech on an issue under consideration or review by the City Council and should be summarily dismissed.” If the City prevails, Kracke’s lawsuit will be thrown out and he could be held liable for the City’s attorneys’ fees. Even if Kracke prevails at the Anti-SLAPP hearing, the City will have the right to immediately appeal the decision which will automatically delay the litigation until the appeal is resolved, possibly as late as 2018.

According to Kracke, “The City’s heavy-handed tactics continue. It’s outrageous the City is alleging I’m stifling its right of free speech. There is no precedent for the City to file such a motion against a suit like ours. Now we have to consider whether to file a CCP § 128.7 motion for sanctions based on the motion’s frivolous nature. It’s obvious the City’s strategy is to delay and escalate my attorneys’ fees in the hopes that I drop the lawsuit. The Coastal Commission is on record that any action banning short-term rentals amounts to ‘development’ under the Coastal Act and therefore requires an amendment to the City’s Local Coastal Program or an application for a Coastal Development Permit. The City just refuses to acknowledge its wrongdoing and now resorts to underhanded legal tactics.”

###

Contact: Theo Kracke
Phone: 805-275-1851
Email: theo@paradiseretreats.com

To read, print and/or download the full text of the press release in PDF format, please click below. The following enclosures are included in the document:

California Coastal Commission letter Re: Short-Term/Vacation Rentals in the California Coastal Zone
City of Santa Barbara anti-SLAPP Motion

STR Press Release with Enclosures PDF | 1.5MB

On November 30, 2016, the California Coastal Commission provided comments to the County of Santa Barbara Board of Supervisors which are consistent with what would have been provided to the City of Santa Barbara had the Commission been duly provided the opportunity.  According to the Coastal Commission, the prohibition of short-term rentals violates various tenets of the Coastal Act.

In past actions, the Coastal Commission has found that vacation or short-term rentals, including those in residential zones, can provide an important source of visitor accommodations in the Coastal Zone. In some instances, residential short-term rentals may provide a lower cost alternative to renting hotel or motel rooms, especially for large families or groups of individuals.

For the full text of the Coastal Commission’s letter to the Board of Supervisors, please see the PDF link below.

Coastal Commission Comments to SB County PDF | 209 kb

Rogers, Sheffield & Campbell, LLP

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Theo KrackeOn November 30, 2016, Travis C. Logue and Jason W. Wansor, attorneys for the Santa Barbara law firm of Rogers, Sheffield & Campbell, LLP, filed a Petition for Writ of Mandate and Complaint for Civil Penalties for Violation of the California Coastal Act against the City of Santa Barbara (the “City”).

The suit stems from the City’s decision to ban short-term vacation rentals (STVRs). The prohibition will apply to all STVR properties beginning January 1, 2017.

The petition was filed on behalf of the firm’s client, Theo Kracke, a 35-year resident of Santa Barbara, and proprietor of Paradise Retreats World Class Vacation Rentals. Mr. Kracke has been engaged in operating, managing and servicing vacation rentals in and around the City since 2006, many of which are located within the City’s Coastal Zone, as defined under the Coastal Act.

The California Constitution and the Coastal Act require coastal access to be protected, provided, and maximized for all. STVRs serve as an alternate form of visitor-serving accommodations within the Coastal Zone, that provide a lower-cost alternative to renting hotel or motel rooms for families from diverse demographic sectors and range of incomes to enjoy unique local coastal resources. In recognizing these benefits, the Coastal Commission has urged local municipalities to regulate rather than outlaw STVRs. The suit alleges the City’s prohibition against STVRs contravenes both State and local law. The ban violates the City’s certified Local Coastal Plan (“LCP”) and Chapter 28.44 of the Santa Barbara Municipal Code, which was established for the purposes of implementing the Coastal Act and ensuring all public and private development in the City’s Coastal Zone is consistent thereto.

In 2014, the California Coastal Commission awarded a $123,000 grant to the City to update its LCP and address “the very old LCP policies and development standards.” Yet since that time, the City has neglected to take any action towards an update. In light of the ban, the City missed a key opportunity to act in a thoughtful manner and apply the grant award to hold public workshops, analyze the impact of STVRs from diverse perspectives, seek and obtain Commission input, and employ reasonable and balanced regulation designed to address the primary concerns of neighborhood compatibility and diminished affordable housing stock while allowing for regulated STVRs in residential and other zoning districts.

Mr. Kracke is seeking a writ of mandate requiring the City to either (i) submit and process a Coastal Development Permit; or (ii) amend its LCP and pursue certification by the Commission.

###

Contact: Theo Kracke
Phone: 805-275-1851
Email: theo@paradiseretreats.com

To read, print and/or download the full text of the complaint, please see the PDF link available at the Rogers, Sheffield & Campbell, LLP web site.

By Keith Hamm, Santa Barbara Independent

The City of Santa Barbara’s escalating crackdown on short-term vacation rentals has experienced plenty of expected backlash, the latest of which claims in court that the city’s position violates California’s formidable Coastal Act, a 40-year-old law designed to balance development pressures along the coast with conservation efforts and public access. The lawsuit — filed this week by Theo Kracke, owner of Paradise Retreats, which manages 27 short-term rentals within city limits — is buoyed by state law requiring relatively affordable overnight lodging along the coast. According to the suit, “[Short-term vacation rentals] serve as a lower cost alternative to renting hotel or motel rooms for families and small groups from diverse demographic sectors and incomes to enjoy coastal access.”

See the full article at Independent.com.


1 2 3
Support Our Cause

We have several expensive projects underway which need funding.

If PayPal system does not work, or if you would prefer to pay by Check, please send your donation to the following address:

STR Santa Barbara
16 E. Arrellaga St.
Santa Barbara, CA 93109

Sign Our Petition & Join Us

Join these organizations and individuals in supporting our mission!

1038

SUPPORTERS
as of 10/11/17

View Supporters & Comments »

Reach Our Decision Makers

Let the Santa Barbara City Council and Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors know that you are in favor of well-regulated short term rentals!

Click here for Contact Info

Promote Our Cause

Promote our cause and show your support for short term rentals with an 18" x 24" Yard Sign, 5.5" x 3" window sticker or 11" x 3" bumper sticker!

Contact Us to Get Yours

Copyright © 2017, Save the Rentals Santa Barbara. Photographs are courtesy and copyright Scott Gibson Photography and may not be copied, reproduced or redistributed without permission.