Home Sharing Ordinance Inches Toward Full City Council Vote
by Ben Nicolas
on Monday, November 12th, 2018 at 10:19am.
Believe it or not, Home-Sharing aka Vacation Rentals aka Airbnb is technically illegal in Los Angeles. It seems everyone has done it, or has friends or family who has; whether they host or travel. For the past few years, the Los Angeles City Council has been waiting to vote on a controversial ordinance with rules and regulations about who can home share, how they can do it, and what they have to pay in order to stay compliant. On Tuesday, November 6, the Planning and Land Use Management Committee heard comments from critics and advocates of this politicized ordinance for the sixth time since the motion was introduced in December 2014.
While the November 6 meeting drew numbers for another issue on the PLUM Meeting Agenda, the City Hall's hallways were crowded with people. At the start of the meeting, 2:30pm, roughly 50 people were waiting to get in. The line grew until 3:15 when the crowd was escorted to a nearby overflow room with audio of the proceedings. This was on an Election Day, too, which is a great sign for civic engagement generally in Los Angeles.
Many homeowners who participate in short-term rentals (STRs) through platforms such as Airbnb and Homeaway spoke up about their concerns around having to pay high fees in order to keep operating a full 365 days a year. The Commission has currently recommended a 120-day cap on STR in addition to a $5/night fee; in order to extend this cap, homeowners would have to pay a hefty suggested $1149 in order the be able to legally participate in "extended home sharing". Many who spoke stated their reliance on the extra income afforded by home sharing; rather than profit, like many corporate developers, many are simply making ends meet.
Many complained of the added costs involved in supporting the development and staffing of a home-share regulatory department. John Choi, Airbnb’s Southern California Policy Manager, spoke on behalf of hosts and the company citing a recently commissioned report on the impact of Vacation Rentals in the area and insisting on reasonable measures that are air, affordable, and streamlined. According to research, the typical host only earns $9,000 a year. He also said that the current included language around the ban on RSO units in the ordinance is inequitable as it send renters the message that they are second-class citizens.
City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield, lead the close of the meeting by thanking everyone involved in the long process so far of creating this ordinance and highlighted that he hopes to keep thing moving forward. He mentioned that all hosts who came forward in the meeting were admitting to breaking the law and that it was high time to “legalize [home-sharing]." with several comments and a motion for more information from the City Planning Office about the enforcement and administration of the proposed city department. For example, would there be a 24 hour hotline for complaints, or any resources for hosts? He requested the extended home-sharing fee be reduced to $849, reinstated RSO ban, and asked that other fees be negotiable. The City Planning Office and City Attorney has until November 30 to deliver their reports on incentive compliance, negative impact enforcement systems and timelines.
After the meeting, Choi and Airbnb Community Organizers met outside City Hall to answer questions from hosts. “The opposition is snowballing” said Choi, referring to renter’s rights groups and the hotel lobby. They encouraged their group to stay dedicated and active, write to their City Councilmember, and reiterated that this was not the final vote. It needs to pass the Housing Committee before it can be voted on by the full City Council. Choi guessed that vote might happen in the first half of 2019. Many hosts complained that they fee the fees should be less than $100 and still don’t understand the justification for them.
Many who have been involved in this increasingly political matter were nervous of the potential impact of Proposition 10 on delaying the ordinance. However, Prop 10, which would have expanded Rent Control provisions, did not pass, at a nearly 2:1 vote.