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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

Where is everyone with this Airbnb now?

By Barbara Broide

This article claims Airbnb (http://www.dailynews.com/20160718/los-angeles-airbnb-guests-on-the-hook-for-new-lodging-fees)   will collect taxes on behalf of LA properties that are listed on Airbnd and do so for a three-year period. Airbnb sues San Francisco to block rental registration  ( http://www.wsj.com/article_email/airbnb-sues-san-francisco-to-block-rental-registration-law-1467081805-lMyQjAxMTE2NDIzODgyMTgyWj ).Santa Monica convicted a violator.

At its meeting where the Planning Department staff report on short term rentals was considered, the City Planning Commission increased the number of days allowed for renting short term (now renamed and referred to as “shared housing” by the City) to 180 days/year per property. The staff report recommended 120 days. The measure hasn’t yet returned to PLUM or full Council but there is an apparent agreement to have Airbnb collect and pay the transient occupancy tax to the City for those hosting on its platform.

How is the agreement structured to ensure host compliance with City law and what else is in the agreement?

How does this agreement compare to the agreement/ordinance passed in San Francisco that Airbnb is now contesting in court?

Does the City have the ability to enforce an adopted ordinance as a result of the agreement?

What happened to the City registration requirement and the listing of only registered units? How will this be monitored?

Will Airbnb be providing information to the City to ensure that hosts will not rent for days beyond the legal limit? How will the City be able to monitor hosts who advertise on multiple (or other) platforms beyond Airbnb?

What happens on those platrforms that claim that they cannot collect taxes for the City? Will they provide the information needed to enforce and regulate the short-term rentals? Can they be halted from listing properties in the City if they do not provide data and/or collect taxes?

How can the City enter into an agreement with Airbnb to collect taxes on an activity that is illegal?

Will it be collecting taxes on illegal units (or will the City rush to adopt an ordinance without doing outreach)?

It would be an understatement to say that the City lacks credibility on matters of enforcement. Where is the framework for enforcement and the full enforcement plan? What are the legal tools, penalties, staff plans and costs (for enforcement and litigation)?

Why isn’t the City taking action NOW to enforce against operators who are renting out multiple locations NOW (as opposed to just going after the most obvious violators who own rent controlled units and who have evicted their tenants in preference to doing short-term rentals)? Operators/”hosts” have left Santa Monica and are now renting properties in LA exclusively to operate as short term rentals. Many operators list multiple locations. Where is the plan for inspectors and the numbers of inspectors needed per a specific number of units? How will the City enforce?

Or, as many have suspected, was this just about getting the money from the tax and the rest doesn’t matter….. ?

THE CITY OF LOS ANGELES CLAIMS TO BE FOCUSED ON ADDRESSING THE AFFORDABLE HOUSING CRISIS AND THE HOMELESS ISSUE. SO, WHAT DOES IT DO? IT MOVES FORWARD TO LEGALIZE SHORT TERM RENTALS THAT WILL DISPLACE TENANTS IN HOMES AND APARTMENTS THAT ARE NOT RENT CONTROLLED. IT HURRIES FORWARD TO LEGALIZE SHORT TERM RENTALS THAT WILL ADD TO RENTAL PRICE INFLATION BY ALLOWING LANDLORDS TO RENT SHORT TERM FOR MORE $$$, RATHER THAN HAVE MORE PERMANENT TENANTS SUCH AS REGULAR WORKING PEOPLE, FAMILIES, THE ELDERLY AND/OR STUDENTS.

WHEN YOU DISPLACE REGULAR TENANTS IN FAVOR OF SHORT TERM VISITOR RENTALS, WHAT DO YOU DO? YOU DECREASE THE SUPPLY OF AVAILABLE RENTAL UNITS TO LA RESIDENTS. BY DECREASING THE SUPPLY YOU INCREASE THE COST, AND ALSO INCREASE THE NUMBERS OF THOSE AT RISK OF BECOMING HOMELESS.

THERE IS A RATHER HUGE PARADOX AT PLAY HERE. THE MAJORITY OF THE 10 PERCENT TAX THAT IS BEING COLLECTED ON THE SHORT TERM RENTALS WILL BE USED TO FUND HOMELESS HOUSING EFFORTS. DID ANYONE ATTEMPT TO ESTIMATE HOW MANY UNITS WILL BE LOST SHOULD SHORT TERM RENTALS BECOME LEGAL? THERE IS AN EDUCATED ESTIMATE AS TO THE NUMBER THAT EXIST IN TODAY’S MARKETPLACE WHERE “HOSTS” ARE WILLING TO BREAK THE LAW TO TAKE IN SHORT TERM RENTERS. WE DO NOT KNOW HOW MANY MORE WILL CHOOSE TO ENTER THE SHORT TERM RENTAL MARKETPLACE ONCE THE PRACTICE HAS BEEN DEEMED LEGAL BY THE CITY. IT DOESN’T SEEM AS THOUGH THOSE IN CITY HALL CARE.

This discussion doesn’t begin to address the issues related to the challenges of enforcing any ordinance eventually adopted. How will the City know whether a host has reached his/her/their maximum number of days for renting? How can the City ensure that all short term rentals are reported? How do you stop a repeat renter from dealing directly with the host and therefore bypass the platform? There are many questions and issues that have not yet been answered and that apply no matter the number of days eventually permitted. They include: negative impacts on neighborhood stability, inabiity to maintain neighborhood and individual building security integrity, undermining of neighborhood watch programs that encourage neighbors to get to know their neighbors and look out for one another which is difficult to do if your neighbors are changing every night or two (or three). The ability of a block to absorb large parties with multiple vehicles and many individuals. What are the cumulative impacts on neighbors’ and neighborhood quality of life? How to reconcile the operation of a business in a residential zone? What does it mean to live in a residential zone?

On the labor side of things, it is the hospitality industry that provided for the most significant job increases in the May LA employment report. Do we really want to encourage the undermining of the hotel segment of our business community? There were no smaller operators of franchised or individual hotell/motel operations speaking at the hearing. What is the potential impact on their business and occupancy figures? Which segment of the industry is likely to be most impacted and how?

AS THIS IS A CITYWIDE ISSUE OF GREAT INTEREST AND CONCERN, IT IS CRITICAL THAT NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCILS AND COMMUNITY GROUPS HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO BE INFORMED ABOUT THE CITY PLANNING COMMISSION’S RECOMMENDATIONS, THE AGREEMENT WITH AIR BNB, AND TO REVIEW THE PLANNING DEPARTMENT STAFF REPORT BEFORE PLUM MEETS TO CONSIDER THE ORDINANCE. WITHOUT OUTREACH AND ADEQUATE TIME TO CONSIDER THE ISSUE, THE VOICES IN THE HEARING ROOM WILL CONTINUE TO PRIMARILY BE THOSE HOSTS WHOSE LAWBREAKING ACTIVITIES ARE AT RISK — AND THEIR LOBBYISTS.

I end where I started. What to do?

Comment (1)

  1. Nick Z

    Just an observation, but writing in ALL CAPS for entire paragraphs puts a strain on the eye and is hard to follow. Better to underline areas of importance or use all caps just for key words or phrases.

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