City’s Task Force Will Invite ‘Shared Economy’ Business Input

Uber drivers can be reached through mobile phone apps.
Uber drivers can be reached through mobile phone apps.

The city has established a task force to review the local impact of “shared economy” businesses such as AirBNB and Uber.

City Council members Abbe Land and John Heilman asked in February that the city establish such a task force, noting the impact of shared economy business on existing local businesses and the fact that some of them violate local ordinances. The Council agreed to create the task force, with Mayor John D’Amico and Councilmember John Duran asking that it include representatives of the shared economy businesses.

Two of the six task force members, announced today in a city press release, represent existing business interests. The remaining four are members of commissions that advise the council on various business or development matters.

There are no representatives of Uber, Lyft, AirBNB or other such shared economy businesses. But City Manager Paul Arevalo said that representatives of different niches of the “shared economy” businessess — vacation rentals, taxi services, etc. — will be invited to appear before the task force to discuss their operations and policies and offer their opinions.

Local business representatives on the task force are Genevieve Morrill, president of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and Bill Hynes of Visit West Hollywood, which promotes tourism and local hotels. The other members are Lindsey Horvath, a city Transportation Commission member, former Council member and civic activist; Roy Huebner, a city Planning Commission member and architect, and Rob Lo, a member of the city’s Business License Commission.

The shared economy is an emerging market in many towns and cities across the country in which people rent rooms, cars, products, or services directly from one another. New technological advances in broadband internet connectivity and smart phone applications are changing the ways in which consumers source goods and services. Entities such as VRBO, Airbnb, Lyft, and Uber are a growing presence in the West Hollywood.

These businesses serve as extra sources of revenue for individuals, while also providing efficient and affordable services to those that use them. However, short-term vacation rentals are currently prohibited in the City of West Hollywood. Apartments and homes rented to visitors through services such as AirBNB don’t have to pay the occupancy tax charged by the city to local hotels. Uber and Lyft compete with taxi companies, which must secure a franchise to provide services in West Hollywood.

There is debate across the country about whether shared economy activities may violate existing municipal regulatory schemes and zoning codes. In many cities policies and regulations are being enacted to both support the growth of sharing economy businesses and to protect consumers. To deal with that, Uber recently announced that it has hired David Plouffe, President Barack Obama’s former political strategist, to run its political and public relations operations.

The first meeting of the task force took place July 23. Future meetings are set for Aug 27, Sept. 24 and Oct. 22 2014, all at 5 p.m. A date and time for a November meeting have not been set.

Each meeting will take place in the Community Meeting Room at West Hollywood Library, 625 N. San Vicente Blvd, south of Santa Monica.

  1. Rob I respect your argument although I feel it may be prone to exaggeration. How often is it really that noisy? I’ve rented my condos and apartments on Airbnb for the last three years to literally hundreds of visitors and never once had a noise complaint. Most of them are tourists who don’t know enough people here to throw parties. They are here to see the sights. All of my guests have been super respectful, clean, and pleasant. I’ve lived in Weho for 15 years and see way more parties / barking dogs from residents. Let’s be honest, not that many people take their dogs on vacation.

  2. My issue with the Airbnb, et al, is that not only are landlords removing residential rental units from the market, but from my experience with my next neighbor having done so with a number of her units, those that those that come and rent on such a short term basis are not “neighbors”. They have nothing invested in living in West Hollywood and again, from my experience, don’t care that they leave their dogs outside for 12-14 hours of non stop barking because they are merely tourists, here for a few days, and there are no repercussions. They don’t care how loud their late night parties are because again, they are not neighbors, just tourists. Having those short term (and my neighbor rents out her apartments for 2-3 days at a time) has dramatically decreased the quality of peaceful life here on Genesee.

  3. I have never had a bad experience with either Uber or UberX. I can tell you that in 5 years and a lot of rides I had very few good experiences with taxi’s in Weho. From Dads obviously driving using son’s permits to almost clipping pedestrians and veering at the last moment due to back seat screeching. Then do not get me started on the smells etc… So with ex POTUSCOS David Plouffe as Uber in Chief at least they can put up a good fight. The battle of campaign donations begins.

  4. Can you say Dysfunctional? The same people get put on Commissions over and over whether or not they have expertise in the subject at hand or not. It is inexcusable to have a task force on this subject without the other side being represented on the Commission. Mr. Arevalo failed putting this together.

    1. Please note that we have updated this story to include information from City Manager Paul Arevalo that representatives of different niches of the “shared economy” businesses will be asked to present to the task force.

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