Elected officials on Tuesday enacted strict rules banning boarding homes and short-term vacation rentals in residential zones after residents raised concerns in recent months about what they called the changing character of Burbank neighborhoods.

The Burbank City Council unanimously approved changes that city officials said would strengthen the city’s code following public backlash over language in its state-required housing element that allowed group homes that don’t require licensing in single-family residential neighborhoods.

According to the document, if six or fewer people live in the home, which may include sober-living homes, it would be considered a standard residential use and not have to obtain a permit.

The changes approved Tuesday have no impact, however, on sober-living homes, which are still allowed in residential neighborhoods.

While resident concerns initially stemmed from group homes, public feedback grew after months of community meetings to include complaints about so-called boarding homes causing over-density, parking problems and traffic, as well as mansionization and what appears to be a growing popularity of short-term vacation rentals in residential neighborhoods through websites like Airbnb.com.

“Until you are that neighbor who is facing the scraping of the lot next door to you and the possibility of an enormous property going up, you just can’t understand the fear it really rakes into the existing neighbors,” said Jim Casey, a local real estate agent and member of community group Preserve Burbank.

The ordinance explicitly bans boarding houses — which it defines as homes with residents not living as a single common household who pay for lodging for at least 30 days — from residential zones. That means property owners can’t rent out individual rooms in their homes, unless the renters meet the city’s new definition of “family.”

“Family” is now defined as people in a single household that share common areas, housekeeping and household expenses. Additionally, the definition states that the household must rent no more than two individual rooms for compensation under separate leases or rental agreements, unless additional leases are required by a governmental funding program, and new residents must be selected by all existing adult members of the household.

The rules also prohibit homeowners from renting out their properties for short-term vacations if the length of stay is less than 30 days.

City officials called the changes “quick wins,” adding that in coming months, the council will consider a moratorium on development while officials draft more extensive rules, like operating standards for group homes.

“It’s our best attempt at addressing the issues we’ve heard in the community while still being respectful and mindful of disabled members of our community that certainly deserve the protection that the state and federal laws allow them,” said Joy Forbes, community development director.

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Follow Alene Tchekmedyian on Google+ and on Twitter: @atchek.

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