Task Force Recommends WeHo Adopt Law Specifically Banning Short-Term Rentals

The West Hollywood City Council last night largely endorsed recommendations by the city’s Shared Economy Task Force to bar short-term rentals through services such as Airbnb.

AirbnbThe task force recommended that the city adopt an ordinance that specifically addresses the question of short-term rentals. Such rentals, defined as providing a room for overnight occupancy for less than 30 days, currently are not permitted in residential areas. Despite that there were nearly 800 listings for West Hollywood rentals on the Airbnb website today.

The task force also recommended that the city ask short-term rental companies to note on their websites that such rentals are not allowed within West Hollywood.

Several local residents who rent bedrooms or apartments through such services begged the Council not to ban them, saying they needed the extra income and enjoyed the company of their guests.

“I want to beg the city to not do away with it,” said Brad Keistler, who said he rents out a spare bedroom in his house to overnight guests through Airbnb. “This has just been an immeasurable asset to my life.”

Other residents said the city should distinguish between owners of homes and condos and apartment building owners, some of whom have been accused of leaving apartments vacant to they can rent them out overnight, and renters, most of whom are violating their leases as well as city law with overnight rentals.

That was an argument that resonated with Councilmember John Duran. “One of the big distinctions we’re going to have to look at carefully is between owners and renters,” he said.

Councilmember John Heilman however suggested the city help condo associations add language to their association agreements banning such short-term rentals.

The task force also looked at the proliferation of pickup services such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar. In its report to the Council, it noted that such services are regulated through the state Public Utilities Commission. A state law that takes effect July 1 will require such companies to provide insurance for drivers they contract with that will take effect when a driver turns on the pickup service application on his or her mobile phone. The task force also suggested the city explore designating certain drop off and pickup zones for such services, which would make them less convenient to passengers, some of whom use the services to go out at night and return home from bars when inebriated.

The task force, whose members included Transportation Commissioner Lindsey Horvath, Planning Commissioner Roy Huebner, Business License Commissioner Rob Lo, Chamber of Commerce President Genevieve Morrill and Bill Hynes of Vist West Hollywood, has held seven meetings since last summer to get input from residents and businesses about the impact of so-called “shared economy” services such as AirBNB and Uber, whose independent drivers provide transportation booked through a mobile phone. According to its report, hotels in West Hollywood said they didn’t see the overnight rental services as competition but did suggest the city levy its hotel room occupancy on them.

  1. There are a number of issues here, and each city needs to make their own decisions. If you don’t like that decision, change the law. Some people don’t want residential areas turned into hotel zones, others want income. Others want to set up large scale rental operations because of the huge profits, especially when you have no business costs and especially not taxes as hotels pay and they can undercut them on price. The problem is that this removes huge numbers of what would be more affordable housing. New York now has at least 22,000 short terms rentals and growing. Many cities have seen the number of these rentals more than double each year. At what point should this issue be addressed? Individuals want to operate small businesses in their rental properties in their homes and pretend it’s not a business because it’s called sharing. “The law should leave us along because we pay property tax” Try that when you are running a store. What is what is happening on other cities that have agreed to allow these rentals? None of the owners apply for permits. What do you expect cities and states to do in that situation? The sector of short term rentals that does the least harm is when a person rents a spare bedroom, and that is what Santa Monica’s law does. Those people are not taking housing from someone else, and they are the ones who likely need income. In comparison, renting an entire house or condo is a business pure and simple. Renting several or many properties is a large scale commercial enterprise. If rental property owners are allowed remove massive amounts of housing that would otherwise go to citizens in favor of tourists, that decision needs to be made by cities and states.

  2. First off, let’s separate Uber from Air B&B. We already have taxi services here in WeHo, and regulate them carefully.
    The City of LA is working with Air B&B so that anyone who uses that service will pay the “bed tax” that the City imposes on hotels. There’s no reason why WeHo couldn’t do the same, so that we capture a revenue stream that pays for our city’s services.
    Renters who charge for staying in their apt are sub-leasing. Unless the landlord approves, the renter can be evicted. I don’t think anyone wants that.
    Condo & home-owners who rent out a room can be great ambassadors for our city. We already know the best clubs & restaurants and can introduce people to the things that make WeHo great. However, you don’t want to rent a room that has bedbegs, or one where the uncleaned cat box makes it difficult to stay indoors for too long. Let’s have some regulation of Air B&B offerings by the City, and take advantage of being such a hot destination!

  3. This would be more bad news for the big new developments on La Brea like The Huxley. Many of the apartments there are on AirBNB now and according to the sheriffs crime in and around the building has spiked. Why am I not surprised?

  4. @Earthquake Weather: We can only guess… keeping competition down to manually pump up the cost of living? Along with crazy developments. & weeding out small businesses except clubs. Sounds like a scheme to attract the rich & slowly weed out non-rich. Keeps west hollywood more of a closed gay rich community destination spot than a welcoming city for all people to live. Rich middle gay or straight.

  5. Baby boomer, gen-xer, six in one hand, half a dozen in the other. Greed and selfishness is what it is, and I decline to rethink anything about someone who lets it slip what he actually thinks about the renters who pay his bills. And you can think of that whatever you may — I stand by every single word I wrote.Substitute gen-xer for baby boomer — so what?

    I don’t rent out my diggs because I am one of the fortunate who has zero financial incentive to need to. There are many things that are illegal and shouldn’t be, and there are many things that are legal that ought to be illegal, like renting out old, un-updated apartments with no air conditioning in an age of climate age. But that’s why these debates exist, to influence opinion and to eventually create change, hopefully changes that benefit everyone including the have nots — which is not how City Council has governed in the past. But something will give sooner or later.

    It remains to be seen whether short-stays will fall under “subleasing” for the purposes of California tenant law. I doubt landlords will be able to shut down Airbnb; you can delay but not prevent change as the RIAA found out as it tried to kill the mp3 economy insisting “file-sharing” was illegal. But certainly, they are welcome to try and have every right to do so. They will eventually find that fighting progress and the entrepreneurial spirit is costlier than thinking creatively to find a win-win that works for everyone.

  6. PS: @DK I’m not a Baby Boomer; I’m a Gen Xer. You might want to rethink your trigger happy labeling technique.

  7. @DK “stick it to the renters” was dripping with sarcasm when I wrote it. Though I can understand how it may not have come across that way. That said, renters do not have the right to sublease without permission, so I can see where some neighbors or owners would not dig you renting out your diggs. That said, I own a rental property and I’m happy to let my tenant sublease – with notice, and NOT regularly. But if it can help them subsidize that much needed vacation I’m all for it. Nevertheless, if anyone is going to “regularly’ profit from my building it will in fact be me and not my tenant. That’s the bottom line on that one. Think of that what you may.

    City Hall has my panties in a twist over these idiot deputies and their outrageous salaries. And that’s what they need to fix, that needs to be their priority. Until that’s done they’re all sticking it to us, each and every day, year after year.

  8. Another question: exactly what problem would banning/regulating Airbnb fix? Have there been guests setting fires and throwing poo in the streets and having screaming parties? Or is it really about collecting taxes?

  9. What’s the next step, then? City council votes on banning it? And what does it mean city council “largely endorsed” the task force recommendation? And if banned, wouldn’t that make WH the only city in the country to do so? Need more info por favor.

  10. We should allow AirBnB but tax the proceeds somehow. It isn’t fair that some people are using their homes as hotels bringing in all manner of tourists and the City cannot benefit from it. This is also leading to the rise in rents and home prices as people are using residential buildings for commercial use.

  11. I am a homeowner and I don’t want all my neighbors to start running a hotel out of their back houses. This is a residential neighborhood.

  12. Oh Well – here I go again. Has any council member ever used Airbib or Uber? Well, as I have always suspected that I may have been born in Missouri rather than Michigan as records indicate, I have always been a ‘show me’ kinda guy. That said, while in New York City, and not anywhere near one of the thoroughfares that make hailing a cab feasible, it was uber to the rescue. Not only was it on time and the SUV that picked up my colleagues and myself spotless and odor free (no stack of aging Christmas tree air fresheners hanging from the rear-view mirror), there was ample time to reach our destination in complete comfort. Bless Uber – as for the other similar services, I have yet to evaluate them, and I’ll be damned before I PAY ANGIE’S LIST for the power of the review.

    Now to Airbnb. Well, first let me say I am an adventurer at heart, and I travel with a mobility restrictive disability, I have used the service twice. Both experiences were great! I met really interesting people, not one of those miscreant, lease busting, brink of bankrupt RENTERS!!!!! that, unbeknownst to me, blanket West Hollywood as some fear, yet one was, in fact, a renter in Grad School, who was not only fascinating, but really needed the extra cash for a little financial breathing room so that she could concentrate on studying rather than constantly having that fear of insolvency when every penny counts. Not only was she sensitive to my issue, but I felt like I was helping a student in need rather than some faceless hotel chain that charges their ‘guests’ things like the ubiquitous ‘resort fee’ at a hotel that was anything but a resort in my opinion. I have yet to find someone working at the registration desk that could explain for what, exactly, that fee covers.

    Okay, so I too am a renter( I think I just heard the horses in the stables screaming in unison as if I had said Frau Blugher) and, while I think that the word stigma is grossly overused, it sure seems like renters in our fair town carry some baggage that is simply not universally accurate. I don’t believe that the city of West Hollywood perpetuates this belief, and I would hate to see us not be able to reach a sensible compromise rather than having a knee-jerk reaction and ban the likes of Airbnb or Uber. I hope that I have made sense here.

  13. “stick it to the renters who in fact don’t own their apartments ”

    Typical selfish, greedy baby boomer. Yes, let’s stick it to renters, who are the poorest and least wealthy among us. I’m sure City Council will agree with this sentiment, which is what they have been doing for years: robbing the poor to feed the rich.

    Hence the extended meter parking hours and ridiculous curbing tires laws (which even San Francisco, a city with real hills) does not have. Why? All to stick it to the poor, who can’t afford houses with driveways where they are safe from WeHo’s parking madness. Let’s regressively tax-and-fee to death the poor by hiring more and more meter maids. Provide free parking structures like Beverly Hills or free meters for residents like Hermosa Beach? Doesn’t even cross the minds of the corporatist clowns at WeHo City Hall.

    They and the entire baby boom generation should be ashamed of itself, and they way they continue to rape poor young people and make it as difficult as possible for the next generation to attain the same level of wealth and comfort they have enjoyed. What we have seen over the past three decades in this country is massive transfers of wealth from middle and working class people to the rich and well-heeled, and WeHo has been ground zero for this kind of reverse Robin Hood madness under the current City Council regime. Boomers were able to get higher education on the cheap and well-paying entry level jobs that allowed them to purchase property and amass wealth at young ages todays thirtysomethings cannot even dream of.

    How to they respond? By closing the door behind them and tearing down the gateways for the next generation. The same property they inherited or bought cheap, they new rent out at exorbitant and ever-increasing prices so the young have to live paycheck-to-paycheck. They jack up the cost of obtaining an education, so the young now have to spend their lives poor and in debt, and despite their degrees still can barely earn enough to pay for baby boomer extortion. WeHo would never dream of requiring the city’s greedy slumlords to update all their apartments with what should be by now basic amenities for the sake of public health, like dishwashers and air conditioners. But they have no problem allowing city renters to pay c. 2015 prices for c. 1955 living conditions, all the while taxing and feeing poor renters to death.

    Airbnb and Uber are used by many young poor people to supplement the piddly income they receive from their baby boomer bosses. But by all means, let’s “stick it to them” by banning these new sources of working class revenue.

    The greed, selfishness, and shamelessness of WeHo City Hall and its ilk knows no bounds.

  14. The sharing economy is booming. as a “progressive city” we should embrace this efficient use of urban space.

  15. Hey WeHo Nanny state: stick it to the renters who in fact don’t own their apartments and do not have the right to sublease for money. But stay the frak out of my way – a homeowner. If I want to rent my home to someone for 2 weeks, 2 months or 2 years it’s none of your business. I pay my property taxes as well as a city tax.

    Here’s a clue for you: Focus on other things like…firing those idiot deputies, disbanding their ridiculous union and get those city worker salaries back down to earth. Puhleeze. You sit up there waggojg your finger over vacation rentals? How about you do your job: fix the potholes, make sure the trains run on time and stop wasting MY money on hiring overpaid idiots to serve as your personal paper pushers and butt sniffers.

  16. I think there should be distinction between renters and owners.

    Our neighborhood has had a particularly negative experience with one property owner who made money with short-term rentals – often just a few days or a week. This went on for more than a year. It was party time for many of the VRBO or AirBnB “guests” and the Sheriffs were called on several occasions. This kind of behavior – irresponsible guests and owners – is very hard to police. The city was made aware of this particular owner, but nothing was ever done to rein in the abuses let alone collect taxes. Fortunately this particular property now has a long-term tenant and the neighborhood is much more peaceful.

    If the City does find a way to work with this so-called “shared economy” it should be subject to the transient occupancy tax and there should be code compliance officers 24/7 (particularly on weekends) to deal with any neighbor complaints.

    Many condos already have banned short-term rentals in their CC&Rs. If not, they are probably thinking of amending them to keep satisfy the other owners who don’t want to live next to a revolving door hotel.

    Renters probably don’t have the right to sublease and they risk eviction of they break their lease. That’s no good for anyone and it is unfair to landlords as well as other tenants.

    But in general, I don’t think we should outright ban this nascent industry as it does help supplement the high cost of owning property in West Hollywood. Let’s find a way to limit the negative impacts to the neighbors/neighborhoods but allow for these shared-economy short-term rentals.

  17. I have a feeling that the city just hasn’t identified a new revenue stream in AirBNB yet and is protecting their main revenue, the hotel tax.

    I think an outright ban would be draconian and counterproductive, the nanny city out of control. If I wanted to rent my place out for 3 weeks a year when i’m on vacation, I should be able to do this. It’s the people who abuse these services who ruin it for everybody. Let’s distinguish between private and commercial use of these services, and also between renters and owners and come up with a more reasonable solution.

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