City Council Committee Appears Close to Finalizing Airbnb Regulations

L.A. City Council Committee Appears Close to Finalizing Airbnb Regulations

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A Los Angeles City Council committee that has struggled for more than two years to draft an ordinance for Airbnb and other short-term rentals is set to meet today and appears close to finalizing the regulations.

At a February meeting of the Planning and Land Use Management Committee, Councilman Jose Huizar, the committee's chair, said he believed the proposed ordinance was on the verge of being completed and sent to the full council.

The panel is trying to craft a policy that pleases both short-term rental hosts who say their livelihood depends on the practice and critics who say it is contributing to the city's housing shortage and adversely affecting quality of life in some neighborhoods.

The committee has been considering a proposed ordinance that would limit the number of rental days per host to 180 a year, but at the February meeting asked the Planning Department to report back on options that would create a discretionary process allowing hosts to appeal for additional days. Such exemptions could be granted if hosts meet certain criteria, which could include that adjacent neighbors within 100 feet do not object, and that the property has not been the subject of any recent nuisance violations.

Along with the appeal process, which could allow for a homeowner to rent out up to 240 days a year, the committee is considering lowering the regular cap to 120 days.

``I hear what people are saying on both sides of this issue, in terms of people wanting to have a business and do this and keep their homes, I get that,'' Councilman Bob Blumenfield said at the February meeting. ``I also get that you can't have a carte blanche business in your home just like you can't have another business in your home. At some point it's not just an ancillary use of your home, it's just a business in a residential area.''

The city does not have an ordinance regulating Airbnb, which connects travelers with hosts looking to rent out their home or a bedroom in their home, but struck a deal with the company in 2016 for it to pay hotel taxes on behalf of its hosts under a three-year agreement.

Los Angeles projects it could collect about $30 million annually from Airbnb and other short-term renal companies in taxes, but the company has warned that capping rental days would significantly cut into that number.

The Department of City Planning said in a report that there were approximately 456,000 nights booked on Airbnb alone in 2016, and an estimated 550,000 nights booked by all home-sharing companies in 2017. The department also estimated that removing the cap for primary residences could result in the continued loss/conversion of about 1,500-2,500 units of housing per year to full time short-term rental activity.

The committee is also considering a surcharge on all rentals to help pay for the administrative costs associated with regulating short-term rentals. Councilman Mitchell Englander had originally asked that a surcharge be contributed to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, but the Planning Department said the surcharge would be limited by Proposition 26 and the California Mitigation Fee Act, which require government taxes go toward the specific costs of administering services. A surcharge of $3 to $5 per rental could raise between $1.65 million and $2.75 million, the report said.

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