In response to grievances from citizens regarding loud parties and indecent displays in residential yards, the Agoura Hills City Council approved interim measures for regulating short-term rentals in the city on Wednesday. The council's action aims to safeguard residential areas from excessive noise and disruptive behavior.
Agoura Hills has taken steps to regulate "party houses" and short-term rentals (less than 30 days) with a new ordinance that controls property ownership, noise levels, capacity, and minimum length of stays. This move aligns with the efforts of many other local cities to limit such rentals and preserve their housing supply, while also reducing disturbances in residential communities.
"This is a very long time coming," council member Deborah Klein Lopez said. "Our neighbors have been asking us for something like this for a while. ... I'm very much in favor of having an ordinance, very much in favor of protecting our residential neighborhoods and the vibe of our residential neighborhoods."
The ordinance, which was passed with a unanimous vote, mandates a minimum stay of 3 days for all short-term rentals in the city. It also requires property owners to comply with daily quiet hours from 10 p.m. to 10 a.m. and adhere to stringent requirements such as having someone available to address complaints within 30 minutes and obtaining and renewing a business permit.
According to Senior Planner Robby Nesovic, there are currently 47 short-term rental properties in operation in the city, which make up only 0.6 percent of the city's total housing stock. Most of these rentals are located in single-family homes, with 97 percent of properties being rented out in their entirety and 83 percent of owners renting out the entire property rather than individual rooms. Prior to the new ordinance, there were no official regulations in place for short-term rentals in the city.
Despite the limited number of short-term rental properties in the city, city leaders believe that the new restrictions are necessary to address residents' complaints about dangerous and noisy gatherings proactively. Kathy Creech, a resident of Old Agoura, commented that she lives near a house frequently rented out for parties and has witnessed outrageous behaviors, such as fire jugglers and naked pole dancers, in the backyard.
"We live next to one of the notorious 'party houses,' and we have seen some outrageous things, including naked pole dancers and multiple instances of fire juggling," Creech stated. "These types of incidents are a reality."
City officials acknowledged that some short-term rentals have caused problems; however, many emphasized that the vast majority of renters do not cause any disturbance to their neighbors. The new policy is aimed at addressing a small number of problematic operators, as noted by Lopez.
"The city has received several complaints from the public regarding a handful of short-term rental operators, which led us to consider implementing regulations to mitigate nuisance impacts," Nesovic explained.
The City Council members carefully weighed the restrictions and possible loopholes, seeking to establish standards such as rental minimums and occupancy maximums while balancing the preservation of the city's character, availability of lodging, and property rights.
City staff expressed concerns regarding the enforceability of several proposed regulations, including a limit on the number of days a property could be rented out in a year. They argued that such a regulation would require a significant amount of staff resources and would be challenging to monitor. Additionally, regulations related to lighting and decorations, fire regulations, and signage would also pose enforcement challenges. Council members also expressed concerns about potential loopholes in regulations such as limiting each owner to only one rental property in Agoura Hills and establishing rental minimums.
Representatives from Unite HERE Local 11, which represents a significant portion of Agoura Hills' hotel workers, also expressed concerns about enforceability and urged the City Council to delay the passage of the restrictions until they could be more effectively enforced.
"Short-term rentals are particularly harmful for our members, who are mostly immigrant housekeepers, dishwashers, and cooks, who are increasingly facing the housing crisis and being pushed further away from their workplaces. Short-term rentals remove housing options from them and compete unjustly with their hotel jobs," said Layal Bata, a representative from Unite HERE Local 11.
Lopez considers the ordinance to be a positive initial step in regulation, with a review planned for the next six months to assess its effectiveness and identify any practical difficulties. The Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce also expressed support for the new restrictions, with its Director of Government Affairs & Tourism, Adam Haverstock, stating that it would help to level the playing field between hotels and short-term rentals while not overly burdening the short-term rental industry.