NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — Newport Island lies at the crux of a controversy that has held up progress in Newport Beach for the better part of a year.

Among the island’s narrow streets and dearth of parking, a clash over 18 permits for short-term rentals has regularly surfaced at city council meetings. The discussion has stalled questions on how to manage the roughly 1,400 citywide permits better.

What You Need To Know

  • The Newport Beach city council is grappling over 18 short-term rental permits on Newport Island

  • Some would prefer a ban on all of them, pointing to noise and parking congestion as key grievances

  • A lack of clarity on how to enforce the 18 permits has raised questions about rules on the roughly 1,400 other permits citywide 

  • Further complicating things, the California Coastal Commission must approve added rules, restrictions or bans to short-term rentals on Newport Island

Newport Beach is just one of a growing list of cities that have looked for ways to curtail or better manage short-term rentals. The rentals, often found through the smartphone app Airbnb, offer enticing benefits to owners and cities alike. Local governments can often take a 10% Transient Occupancy Tax while giving tourists an extra tool for visits; property owners can pull in extra cash, crucial for some who have retired or live on a fixed income. Newport Beach makes roughly $4 million, much less than from hotels, but a valued-added source of money.

But irksome complications can come with this revenue. With so many permits citywide, a particularly busy weekend could see hundreds of extra cars filling street parking or noisy visitors jolting quiet neighborhoods.

Demand for short-term rentals isn’t likely to slow down. Airbnb stock has been red hot in 2021 as hotels have been held up by shutdowns and added coronavirus protocols and costs.

The question at the heart of the Newport Island discussion may come down to enforcement rather than an outright ban on permits there.

“I lean more toward property rights, so I support heavy enforcement of restrictions on the use of the property,” said City Council member Kevin Muldoon.

That philosophy was prevalent enough in the city council to form a committee to look into what kinds of enforcement could improve problems with short-term rentals on the island.

Some suggestions included requiring owners to be home along with renters, even during the day. That particular restriction would automatically cut the number of units eligible for a permit.

The jurisdiction of the California Coastal Commission, which has to approve restrictions proposed by the Newport Beach city council, is adding to the confusion.

Right now, Muldoon said the main concern is harmony and how to get residents on the same page. 

Residents complain visitors take up all the parking on Newport Island, while others say a shortage in spaces is nothing new. So far, fines have been rare, but two hearings to possibly suspend permits are on deck. 

The next step is for the California Coastal Commission to examine the proposed new rules.