Airbnb Rules Appear Close as After 3 Years of Debate at L.A. City Council

Airbnb Rules Appear Close as After 3 Years of Debate at L.A. City Council

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A City Council committee is expected today to continue its three-year effort to create an ordinance regulating Airbnb and other home sharing platforms in Los Angeles and appears close to the finish line.

The question over allowing some low-income residents who live in rent-stabilized units to be home sharing hosts has been one of the final outstanding issues.

The Planning and Land Use Management Committee last examined the home sharing regulations in October, when it approved a ban on all Rent Stabilization Ordinance qualified units being available for home sharing, but two major events have happened since then. For one, Councilman Jose Huizar was removed as chair of the committee by Council President Herb Wesson, who stripped Huizar of all committee assignments following FBI searches of his City Hall office, home and a field office on Nov. 7. Councilman Marqueece Harris- Dawson was named the new chair.

The Housing Committee has also since weighed in, and it asked city staff to develop a plan which would allow some low-income residents in rent- stabilized units to be home sharing hosts. The exact guidelines the committee wanted were somewhat vague, but its members expressed hesitation at a blanket ban.

Harris-Dawson was one of them, and pointed out that non-RSO units tend to be luxury and only available to high-income renters, suggesting that an RSO ban would benefit the rich while punishing low-income residents.

“So it's an opportunity to add income, and we weigh it towards people who already presumably have a way of paying a high rent,” Harris-Dawson said.

Councilman Gil Cedillo, who chairs the Housing Committee, said he had specific kinds of renters he was concerned about.

“I'm looking for a space that allows for us to exercise discretion and judgment in those circumstances,” Cedillo said. “I don't want to make a policy around an anecdote. On the other hand, we should not be draconian in the design of the policy, to the extent that we cannot hear from this person who's got a fixed income, he's a Baby Boomer, he's disabled, he's a veteran, and he has the unfortunate circumstance of being in duplex or a fourplex or a triplex.”

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.

The report from city staff on allowing some low-income residents of RSO units to have home sharing has not yet been drafted.

The city's RSO was passed in 1978, meaning only units built after that date are not subject to rent stabilization. About 15 percent of the available multi-family units in the city are not subject to the RSO, city staff told the Housing Committee.

“I think we've always acknowledged this is a tough question, what to do with these RSO units,” Matt Glesne of the Planning Department told the Housing Committee.

He added there was a concern that a single person would purposely rent an RSO three-bedroom apartment with the intention of renting the other two rooms out on Airbnb, which could prevent a family from renting the unit.

The draft ordinance coming before the Planning and Land Use Management Committee would allow qualified hosts to rent year-round, something industry advocates have been pleading for. Hosts could petition for more than 120 days by meeting certain criteria, including owning property that has not been the subject of any recent nuisance violations.

City leaders are attempting 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 affecting quality- of-life issues in some neighborhoods by allowing for rental “party houses” to overtake otherwise quiet neighborhoods.

A Department of City Planning report says there were about 456,000 nights booked on Airbnb alone in 2016, and an estimated 550,000 nights booked by all home-sharing companies in 2017.

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