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.