The Honolulu City Council is scheduled to vote Dec. 16 on a bill that would legalize bed-and-breakfast operations on Oahu.
Bill 7 was approved by the council’s zoning committee in a 3-2 vote Dec. 1 after two hours of reportedly heated public testimony.
That approval cleared the way for a full vote by the City Council that, short of a veto by Mayor Mufi Hannemann, could repeal an islandwide ban on B-and-Bs that dates to 1989.
According to City Councilman Charles Djou, the 1989 ban grandfathered in all the B-and-Bs in operation at the time of passage, with the expectation that the business model would die out over the next 20 years.
"That obviously has not occurred," said Djou, who told Travel Weekly he would vote against the measure.
"There are still something like 150 licensees that got their licenses back in the 1980s, but clearly most informal estimates are ballparking around 10 to 20 times that number of illegal bed-and-breakfasts operating around Oahu."
Illegal vacation rentals and bed-and-breakfast operations are a touchy subject on Oahu and are regularly the subject of parking- and noise-related complaints.
"I think the city has done a woefully poor job of enforcing the law as it is right now," Djou said. "I think allowing legalization would cause only more of these B-and-Bs to crop up with the same general lack of enforcement."
Bill 7 would cap the number of new bed-and-breakfasts at about 1,275, one-half of 1% of the total number of Oahu’s residential properties.
Under the new law, property owners able to prove that the home being used as a bed-and-breakfast is a primary residence would be eligible for a $500 license good for two years.
Djou said he wasn’t sure what impact more legal B&Bs might have on Oahu’s visitor industry.
"Certainly in 2009 the economy has not been very kind to the visitor industry, and all of the hotels in Waikiki are well, well below full occupancy,” he said. “So with or without these B-and-Bs, their impact I think would be negligible."
In a Honolulu Star Bulletin report, bill author Councilman Ikaika Anderson said Bill 7 was an effort to maintain neighborhoods’ residential character while giving homeowners the opportunity to augment their incomes so they can keep their houses.
"I think it's clear that this committee, and hopefully this council, is looking at providing this tool so that our local families and our local people will be able to hold on to what is theirs," he said.