Q&A – About Grandfathering Rental Units

About Grandfathering a 2nd Short-Term Rental Unit in Sunset Beach

July 7th, 2021

Question: I own and occupy a 3-bedroom home in Sunset Beach to which is attached a 2-bedroom flat I have historically rented out short-term (30 days or less).  Since the January 19, 2021 adoption by the city of Huntington Beach (which annexed sunset beach) of its STR Ordinance 4224, I have applied to the city for STR permits for both my home and the 2-bedroom flat. However, the City is denying my application for the 2-bedroom flat on the grounds that its ordinance allows for one rental unit per owner, not more.

I want to have “grandfathered” in my historical use of the 2-bedroom flat to be exempt from the ordinance’s “one unit per owner” limitation. What are my rights?


Answer: On page 35 of the January 2017 Sunset Beach Specific Plan (SBSP), then adopted by the city of Huntington Beach, it provides that a then-existing short-term rental unit (your 2-bedroom flat ) shall be discontinued 12 months after the Cal Coastal Commission adopts a development plan unless within such time the applicant applies to the city for an STR permit. So, assuming the Commission adopted its development plan effective January 19, 2021, you have 12 months thereafter within which to apply to the city for an STR permit for your 2-bedroom flat in addition to applying for an STR permit for your home proper.

Your permit application for your 2-bedroom flat must indicate that it is exempt from the one unit per owner rule by virtue of the City’s January 2017 adoption of the SBSP which on page 35 granted you up to  12 months’ time to apply for such a second STR permit.

If despite your “grandfathered in” permit application, the City refuses to grant you an STR permit under its “one owner, one permit” rule, you may have legal recourse in court by adept legal counsel against the city for an administrative writ of mandate to compel the city to exercise its discretion fairly and not arbitrarily or capriciously, to grant you your requested permit. Its Ordinance 4224 does not expressly remove the City’s 2017 SBSP grandfathering in language for a second unit. If you so go to court, you may be able to recover your attorney’s fees as well.

Disclaimer: This article is intended for general educational purposes only and its contents should not be used except by a competent attorney familiar with the facts of your case. Attorney Pete Wittlin may be reached at (949) 430-6366 and at pwittlin@gmail.com.