Take a walk through downtown Manhattan Beach and it’s easy to tell what makes the place so attractive to residents and visitors. Bustling retail shops, restaurants, bars and coffee shops line the streets, giving the district vitality.
Downtown businesses want to keep it that way, according to Kelly Stroman, executive director of the Downtown Manhattan Beach Business and Professionals Association.
“If one day we wake up and there is offices replacing retail everywhere, then we are going to shrink downtown,” Stroman said. “Visitors don’t come here to see offices. They come here to shop and eat great food and see the pier.”
In an effort to preserve the downtown feel so many have grown to love, the Manhattan Beach City Council last week passed an urgency ordinance putting restrictions on exactly what type of business could occupy the downtown core.
The city council has been working on putting a "downtown specific plan" in place since 2014 and passed a series of interim ordinances beginning that year. Because the plan falls within the coastal zone, it needs approval from the California Coastal Commission before it can be made permanent. The commission, meanwhile, has been sitting on a certification request from the city since March 2017.
Earlier this month, Coastal Commission staff in meeting with officials from Manhattan Beach, detailed 17 issues the state agency had with both the downtown specific plan and the overall Local Coastal Program.
For example, the commission—whose main function is to preserve access to the coastline for everyone—does not like prohibitions on short term rentals. Also last week, the city council gave direction to city staff to draft an ordinance regulating short term rentals.
On the downtown specific plan, details include a prohibition on banks, catering services and offices on the ground floor, unless the business obtains a use permit. Optometrists and veterinary services, meanwhile, would be allowed on the ground floor.
In addition, the ordinance requires a use permit be obtained for retail floor spaces of more than 1,600 square feet. The question of outdoor dining on the second floor was prohibited in the ordinance for now, though council will have the opportunity to amend their direction at a later date.
The council will take up further study of the outdoor dining component at its Aug. 7 meeting, at which time they will also consider a permanent ordinance addressing these and other aspects.
Some of these components, such as prohibiting second floor outdoor dining and barring ground floor offices, were previously incorporated in an interim ordinance extended in 2017 that expired July 5, meant to bridge the gap before the Coastal Commission's certification.
The Skechers retail store on Manhattan Avenue, which was expanded to 2,183 square feet of retail space, received a use permit in June 2017.
Short-term rental restrictions
With regards to short-term rentals, at a study session on Thursday, the city council gave direction to staff to come back at a future meeting with a draft ordinance that permits short- term rentals, something currently barred in the city though plenty of listings are available online.
Restrictions under consideration include the following limits:
- Units must be owner-occupied at least six months per year.
- No multi-unit dwellings can be rented on a short term basis.
- Short-term rental units would apply for a permit with the city and must designate four months per year they plan to rent it.
- Guest houses would be permitted, but not accessory dwelling units.
- Just one unit per property can be rented and to only one group of people at a time.
- One on-site parking site must be provided.