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Airbnb LA Style: The Draft Ordinance

EASTSIDER-There’s a lot to like in the Draft Short Term Rental Ordinance.  Check it out to see the exact text. In a nod to the City of Santa Monica’s Ordinance, the City of LA uses SM’s reference to “Home-Sharing” in categorizing the type of allowable short term rentals. Further, it requires the type of disclosures from the Hosts that we’ve been urging for some time. 

LA City Council has even adopted the Santa Monica idea of regulation through requiring registration and a tax certificate (fancy for hotel tax.) This provides the critical data necessary to track and enforce the Ordinance. 

Recognizing the lawsuit that is still giving City Attorney Feuer an identity crisis, the Draft Ordinance also specifically holds that renters of units cannot participate in Home-Sharing without an express approval by the landlord. That was the underlying issue in the case which proved for once and for all that short term rentals are not legal in residential zones. 

For the poor decimated folks who have been zapped from their rent-controlled apartments or their “affordable housing,” the Ordinance finally makes it clear that RSO units and designated affordable housing are exempted totally from any short term rentals. Pretty much a case of “after the horse left the barn” and “oh gee, what part of the zoning laws didn’t you understand?” But you gotta start somewhere. 

The Ordinance also provides for enforcement and fines for violation. 

Don’t Get Too Giddy 

Understand that Airbnb, HomeAway and their progeny are going to go nuts -- just like they did over the City of Santa Monica’s Ordinance, and for the same reason. 

Using Pareto’s law, around 80% of Airbnb’s profits come from around 20% of the listing entities -- entities that are in the vacation/party house business as a business. Eliminating those players from the mix seriously affects Airbnb’s bottom line – which is serious for this bunch of wannabe billionaire venture capitalist types who desperately need that IPO to monetize their wealth and fortune. Tank the profits, tank the IPO. 

So we can expect a fierce, incredibly well-funded, and uber-coordinated push back as the Draft Ordinance moves forward. 

Which brings me to my next point. If we want this Ordinance to pass, if we want to patch some holes and ambiguities in the Draft (like Santa Monica did in expressly prohibiting Vacation rentals,) then we are going to have to fight for it. 

Many of you will remember the PLUM Committee hearing that was held way back in August of last year. It was a serious food fight that had so many people attending that they had to use the Council Chambers to hold all of us. And of course, Airbnb was there in force. 

Going to the Hearing 

The City Planning Department knows that this Ordinance is contentious. Witness the fact that the Public Hearing is going to be held in the large auditorium next to the new LAPD building -- Deaton Auditorium, 100 W. 1st Street, LA 90012. And they’re even holding in on a Saturday -- May 21 -- starting at 10:00 am so that regular people can attend. Be there. 

Not to be cynical, but the elected officials in the City of Angels respond best to two things: (1) incredible amounts of heat, as in lots and lots of citizens getting up and attending meetings, writing to Councilmembers, telephoning, emailing and such, and (2) Money. Of the two, we can never outspend Airbnb with their billions. 

But what we can do is suit up, show up, and provide the backbone for our politicians to stand up to Airbnb. They need to do the right thing for the actual people who live in Los Angeles. In this regard, I honestly believe that our Councilmembers finally understand that if we let Airbnb destroy the character of our neighborhoods, then we will have destroyed the City of Los Angeles. 

After all, in its immense and sprawling structure, only neighborhoods truly define the City. 

Hope to see you there. 

For Contact Information on the Ordinance and the Hearing:

Matthew Glesne, Housing Planner

City of Los Angeles Department of City Planning

Policy Planning and Historic Resources Division, Citywide Unit

200 N. Spring Street, Room 667, Los Angeles 90021

[email protected] | 213-974-2666

 

(Tony Butka is an Eastside community activist, who has served on a neighborhood council, has a background in government and is a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.