Six LA Council Members Oppose Potential Vacation Rental Law

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Five Los Angeles City Council members gathered with union officials today to oppose weakening the city's ordinance against unpermitted and non-compliant Airbnbs and other short-term rental operations.

Councilwomen Nithya Raman and Monica Rodriguez, and Councilmen Mike Bonin, Bob Blumenfield and Paul Koretz spoke outside City Hall on Tuesday along with UNITE HERE Local 11, which represents over 32,000 workers in hotels, restaurants, airports, sports arenas, and convention centers throughout Southern California.

Raman, Blumenfield and Koretz introduced a motion last month to strengthen the ordinance.

The city's current ordinance, which was passed in 2018, limits home sharing to primary residences and requires the hosts to register for a permit. It prohibits platforms like Airbnb from processing bookings for listings that don't have a city home-sharing registration number.

The five council members, along with Councilman Kevin de Leon – who was not at the news conference -- say they will vote against a proposal being considered to allow short-term rentals in non-primary residences, which opponents say would allow 14,000 homes to be taken off the market and converted into short-term rental units.

“We need to put a stake in the heart of this harmful vacation rental proposal, which would take thousands of units off the rental market in the middle of a housing and homelessness crisis,'' said Bonin, who was one of the sponsors of the city's 2018 ordinance. “The proposed vacation rental ordinance would shred any hope of enforcing existing short-term rental rules and would do real harm.''

A study from McGill University prepared for Better Neighbors L.A. found that a third of the city's advertised short-term rental listings have been illegal since the ordinance went into effect in 2018.

“If the city is struggling to enforce the home-sharing ordinance we already have on the books, what makes us think we're ready to put in place a new vacation rental ordinance that, even when properly enforced, would allow almost 15,000 additional units to be taken off the rental market and turned into Airbnbs,'' Raman said. “I pledge to vote no on the Vacation Rental Loophole currently being considered.''

Raman introduced a motion in an attempt to strengthen enforcement of the city's law on Aug. 25 with Blumenfield, Bonin and Koretz. It was seconded by de Leon.

If passed, the motion would instruct the Department of City Planning to report back within 90 days on:

-- recommendations for how the city can address non-compliant hosts who rent out properties listed as a primary residence but are not used as such, the conversion of affordable housing stock into short-term rentals, the conversion of multi-family residential structures to short-term rentals, short-term rentals engaging in commercial uses/activities, and properties that are rented for longer periods of time than permitted;

-- enforcement mechanisms such as citations, fines, license revocations and criminal penalties;

-- home sharing regulatory and enforcement models of other cities, including San Francisco, Austin and New Orleans;

-- strategies for ensuring all home-sharing platforms that operate within the city enter into platform agreements requiring them to share data with the city;

-- strategies for implementing and improving data collection; and

-- what staffing or dedicated unit, office or department is needed to consolidate various aspects of home sharing compliance and enforcement in one multidisciplinary team.

“If we're going to take home sharing and its many challenges seriously, we need to provide the Planning Department with the resources necessary to effectively enforce the ordinance, and this needs to be done before we start digging a deeper hole with a vacation rentals program. We currently require primary residency for a reason. What possible excuse is there for this change?'' said Koretz.

The department would also be instructed to draft a report within 90 days for a plan to create a centralized, digital database or platform to better coordinate tracking of non-compliant properties. The platform would be used for monitoring and enforcement purposes.

The Department of City Planning would also be instructed to ensure that the public be able to view whether any property in the city has a home-sharing license, a home-sharing license renewal or an extended home-sharing license.

“We need to protect our housing stock and ensure that we're maximizing the amount of units available for Angelenos; it's imperative that we don't allow `vacation rentals' to become a loophole that decimates the protections in the short term rental legalization policy we adopted a few short years ago,'' Blumenfield said.

Copyright 2021, City News Service, Inc.

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