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Dozens of local landlords and property managers are suing the City of Santa Monica in hopes of overturning a ban on short-term rentals throughout the city.

“Petitioners are 32 entities with a vested interest in the right to offer flexible lease terms and furnished apartments,” according to the lawsuit, which was filed in Los Angeles County Superior on Monday.

The complaint begins by detailing a multi-year process undertaken by the city’s planning department to study a new rent-term measure. A total of 16 Planning Commission and City Council meetings were held throughout the process, according to the lawsuit. “In the course of that work, a variety of competing concerns were raised, including the need for flexible approaches to short and medium term rental options designed to serve the interests of Santa Monica tenants and landlords.”

Staff eventually recommended that landlords be required to offer and tenants be free to decline annual leases and furnished apartment options. “But for purely political reasons and without the benefit of any study, the City Council elected during the middle of a meeting to change course after hotel lobbyists and other political activists protested the staff’s recommendation and demanded that anyone needing a home in Santa Monica for less than a year go to an ‘extended stay hotel.’”

As a result, the complaint adds, “the City Council decided to force Santa Monica tenants to accept a one-size-fits-all approach: they would not be allowed the freedom to reject annual leases or request furnished apartments notwithstanding their individualized needs. It did not matter if the tenants were students or professionals needing shorter term accommodations, or a family displaced by fire, isolating from COVID-19 infections, or relocating temporarily to be near a hospital or to be near the cleaner coastal air for health reasons.”

By passing the law and keeping it in effect, petitioners allege the city is violating the California Coastal Act, which puts restrictions on city laws that govern land within 1,000 yards of the Pacific Ocean. The property managers also believe the ordinance violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause.

Santa Monica spokesperson Constance Farrell said the city has a successful record adopting balanced housing policies that protect limited housing for long-term residents. “In keeping with this, the City Council passed new residential leasing regulations earlier this year. The City believes these regulations are legally valid, but is reviewing the challenges raised in the complaint that was recently filed.”

Brennon@smdp.com