LONG BEACH — Envisioning a day when some of the city's oldest neighborhoods will be dotted with quaint bed-and-breakfast inns, the City Council has unanimously approved an ordinance allowing the small overnight establishments in several high-density residential areas and commercial zones.
At the request of Councilman Tom Clark, the council agreed that the inns will be allowed only in older homes that bear some historical, architectural or cultural significance, or played a role in past community events.
Harold Simkins, a planning associate for the city's Department of Planning and Building, said the new ordinance will introduce Long Beach to a booming trend that has been embraced by tourists in Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, San Diego and many other coastal areas.
"It's really a charming use of existing structures that would complement the tourist trade here," Simkins said. "We'll try to maintain the character of the original house, and protect the surrounding area from something that would be too obtrusive."
Under the ordinance, bed-and-breakfast inns will not be allowed to cater to live-in tenants, nor to throw parties or receptions for which a fee is charged. Commercial signs must be designed in keeping with the house's architecture, and will be limited in size, Simkins said. In addition, the owner must live in the inn.
Focus on Drake Park
Rita Woodbury, chairwoman of the Cultural Heritage Committee, said that Drake Park, which is within the Willmore City district, is expected to become the hub for bed-and-breakfast activity, and already has two small inns that have been operating since late last year.
Woodbury, who lives in that area, said that because of the many private restorations under way, combined with the new bed-and-breakfast ordinance that will encourage preservation of older homes "in five years this will be an area of town that visitors will want to come and see."
Simkins agreed that the Willmore City district is expected to undergo dramatic change, and said that the addition of small inns to the area "will make it perfect for the Grand Prix or any other activity where people want to be near downtown."
Two establishments have already opened in anticipation of the city's ordinance, and Simkins said applications for anyone else interested in establishing an inn will be available in a few weeks.
Patricia Soultanakis, owner of the recently opened Whimsical Cottage Bed and Breakfast, said she believes the ordinance will encourage other homeowners to open inns, and will bring more tourists into the area.
'Like Best Tourist Communities'
"This is really going to let the public know that Long Beach will have bed-and-breakfasts just like all the best tourist communities," said Soultanakis, who owns two early 1900s houses next to each other on Park Circle and is operating both of them under a single name.
Ione Washburn, who opened the Crane's Nest in her three-bedroom home on Cedar Avenue a few months ago, agreed. "My house is a real find, done by the architects Greene and Greene, but there are dozens of beautiful old homes that would make lovely places to stay," she said. "I hope others see the opportunity to open their homes, and find out what fun this is like I have."
The residential areas designated under the new ordinance include Willmore City, the oceanfront area generally west of Bixby Park, the neighborhood between Redondo Avenue and Mira Mar Avenue south of Belmont Heights, the Belmont Shore peninsula, the Belmont Park area, the west side of Virginia Road north of Roosevelt Road, and a section of Naples Island at the end of Naples Plaza.
Bluff Park, which had been considered a choice potential area for the small establishments because of its architecturally significant homes, was excluded from the ordinance after residents there protested that the inns would create parking problems and disrupt the neighborhood atmosphere.
'In five years this will be an area of town that visitors will want to come and see.'