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.
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
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
On 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
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.