VOICES--Recently, the LA Times wrote an editorial urging our LA City Councilmembers to “put the brakes on all these tax breaks,” and as a Los Angeles taxpayer, I couldn’t agree more. The piece mentioned several specific examples of tax breaks conceded by “City leaders,” worth “half a billion dollars that have been approved in recent years,” to fund various hotel projects underway in Downtown Los Angeles. Moreover, there was a tax break recently awarded by the City councilmembers to a private Hotel developer worth $103.5 million dollars that was taken without public or council comment.
My wife and I share a portion of our home with guests that stay with us from all over the United States and across the globe. The issue of tax breaks being awarded without public comment is relevant to me because as an Airbnb host and a homeowner here in Los Angeles, these decisions impact me personally. Powerful hotel union lobbyists like Unite Here Local 11 are not only vying for these monumental tax breaks, but they’re actively working to influence the City Council’s decision on short-term rental regulations which are currently being crafted and debated at the city level. Simply put, that’s a conflict of interest and it isn’t fair to folks like me who are looking to share our homes with visitors. Not a single home sharing host that I know of has gone to City leaders (hat in hand), asking for “$100 million dollars” to fund our home sharing activities. As a matter of fact, Airbnb has collected and handed over $56 million in revenue to the City of Los Angeles on behalf of hosts in a little over one year.
So -- let me get this straight -- the same Hotel Union that relies on tax dollars generated by home sharing activity in Los Angeles to fund their lavish development projects is eagerly trying to outlaw home sharing? I hope the irony isn’t lost on you. One hotly debated aspect of the Ordinance remains placing a “cap” that would limit our ability to serve as hosts to half (or one quarter) out of the year. By doing so, these same City leaders would be cutting off, by that same proportion, the revenues that are now being generated for the City. When you are quick to hand out Other People’s Money, I think it would be fiscally prudent to keep at least one sure source of money coming in.
The guests that we host in our home are primarily families who appreciate having the option of staying in a private home away from the hustle and bustle of an expensive room in Downtown Los Angeles. Our guests spend money at local, family owned restaurants and shops that we recommend. We all know the value that tourism plays in our local economy, and we play a role in that now by choosing to serve as hosts. We deserve support from both City leaders, who should appreciate the economic impact we make in their own council district, and the Hotel Lobby who apparently rely upon us to generate tax revenue to fund expensive (and speculative) projects.
(Tony Valle is a CityWatch reader.)