Monterey Park City Council adopted a stern new ordinance Wednesday (4-1-15) to combat illegal boarding houses that plague the city and other communities throughout San Gabriel Valley.
The boarding houses rent sleeping spaces, sometimes with many people in a room for overnight accommodations to new Asian immigrants and tourists who gravitate to the San Gabriel Valley where there are restaurants and potential jobs for them.
A city staff report said the ordinance is intended to preserve the "residential character of a neighborhood" by prohibiting commercial enterprises, such as a boarding houses in the R-1 (single family) residential zone, and cleaning up regulations in the R-2 and R-3 residential zones where multiple housing units are permitted.
Vice Mayor Peter Chan, who led the campaign for the new ordinance, said illegal boarding houses have been the number one complaint he has received since taking office two years.
He said sleeping accommodations are rented out for a minimum of $10 a night, which he believes is still expensive because it adds up to more than $300 a month. He said sometimes property owner lease out the homes to agents who in turn rent out sleeping spaces in homes for as many as 20 to 30 persons.
City staff showed pictures of illegal construction of make-shift walls to place narrow sleeping units in homes, creating potential safety hazards. Sometimes renters add television sets and cooking devices, potentially causing fires.
City staff said that under the proposed ordinance, boarding houses are not permitted in the R-1 areas of the city. Boarding houses would be permitted in the R-2 and R-3 areas with a conditional use permit (CUP) which costs about $2,000 and requires a lengthy public hearing process before the City Planning Commission, and possibly the City Council if appealed.
Michael Huntley, city planning director, said that in the past, enforcement has been complaint drive. Last year 139 complaints resulted in 113 notices of violations, which then resulted in 35 actual citations.
One of the new city efforts will be to publicize the new law and place city flyers along side advertisements that are posted on city street. The new city flyers would inform house hunters of city laws and dangers of renting illegal sleeping quarters.
The new ordinance is intended to clarify city regulations, update definitions of boarding houses and update other definitions of residential uses to be compliant with state and federal regulations.
In the long run, the new ordinance is expected to make it easier for city code enforcement officers to find and prosecute illegal boarding house operators. The ordinance is schedule for a second reading at the next council meeting.