WeHo’s Ban on Short-Term Rentals Gets Push Back from the Planning Commission

A two-bedroom house marketed by Elite Luxury Homes as being located in West Hollywood and renting for $595 a night.
A two-bedroom house marketed by Elite Luxury Homes as being located in West Hollywood and renting for $595 a night.

West Hollywood’s ban on short-term rentals apparently is not doing much to stop them and is getting push back from local residents and the city’s Planning Commission.

The Planning Commission on Thursday was asked by the city’s economic development staff to adopt a resolution clarifying that the current zoning ordinance makes illegal the rental of residentialproperty for 30 days or less in an area zoned for residential use. The Commission, in a two-to-four vote, passed that resolution, which now goes before the City Council. But the Commission also voted unanimously in favor of a resolution by Commissioner Heidi Shink that asks the Council to take a look at other models for regulating such rentals like that in force in Santa Monica. Shink and Commissioner John Altschul voted against the zoning law clarification proposal.

In May the Santa Monica City Council adopted a ban on full-time vacation rentals, which occur when owners of apartment buildings or houses rent them only to short-term visitors rather than lease them to local residents. Some landlords have been accused of effectively taking apartments, which are governed by rental control, off the market in order to make more money by renting them out to visitors.

The Santa Monica Council did, however, make it legal for home or condo owners to rent out spare bedrooms or cottages on their property so long as the home owners was present on the property during the rental. The Santa Monica regulation took effect on Monday. Those who want to participate in the home-sharing program are required to obtain a business license from Santa Monica and pay a 14 percent hotel tax, revenue from which will be used to enforce the law and monitor online sites such as AirBNB for violators.

The proposal before the Planning Commission Thursday night is the result of deliberations by a task force created by the West Hollywood City Council last year to look at shared-economy business models such as AirBNB and Uber and Lyft, the taxi-service providers, and their impact on public safety and the local economy. In February the Council endorsed the task force’s recommendation that the city rewrite its zoning ordinance to make clear that short-term rentals were illegal. At its February meeting several residents asked the city to make an exception for short-term rentals in houses or condos occupied by their owners. Councilmember John Duran said he supported making that distinction.

At Thursday’s Planning Commission meeting a number of local residents asked the Commission to press the Council to rethink the ban on short-term rentals, with several saying they wouldn’t be able to afford their homes unless they could rent out extra bedrooms. “AirBNB has saved my home,” said Chris Zee. “If it were not for AirBNB I would not be able to afford my mortgage.” Kevin Stalter, owner of a condo on Kings Road, said the city is “looking to ban something that for me… will probably make me lose my home.”

That the law banning short-terms rentals is not stopping them was evident in comments before the Planning Commission by several owners of real estate who admitted that they rent it exclusively to visitors. David Cooley, who lives in Los Angeles and is a partner in SBE Entertainment and the founder of The Abbey, WeHo’s popular gay bar and restaurant, told the Commission that he owns 14 residential properties that he rents to short-term visitors. “I have a property on Ashcroft, and you don’t now how many people i get referred to by Cedars (Cedars-Sinai Medical Center) because they have someone who has someone in the hospital,” he said. Cooley said the city should require those who rent houses or condos they own to visitors to register with the city and pay an occupancy tax.

Another speaker, Martin Beaurivage, a West Hollywood resident, is the CEO of Elite Luxury Homes, a company whose business is the short-term rental of houses. Its website lists several properties in West Hollywood along with others in Los Angeles County and as far away as Miami, New York City and Mexico. Beaurivage said that the guests who rent his houses and condos “go through a meticulous screening …”

Laura Minnich, economic development analyst for West Hollywood, said a major issue that cities face is enforcing laws that require landlords to be on site while they host short-term visitors. “Enforcement is the real issue,” said Planning Commissioner Sue Buckner, who asked that the Commission’s resolution include a request that the city examine ways to do that if it adopts the dual model in place in Santa Monica.

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michael winston
michael winston
4 years ago

I have a small house in west Hollywood, I stay some nights cause I work in la , I also have a place in laguna beach so I go there sometimes, why should my house sit unused with me paying the mortgage when I can easily rent it out a few nights to help offset the mortgage, why is a city like west Hollywood telling me I cant use the house to rent out short term or I cant rent out a spare room since I don’t use it, the city is not paying my mortgage and if they want… Read more »

Rob Bergstein
Rob Bergstein
4 years ago

Michael, you bought a house, not a boarding house, not a hotel. Your neighbors moved next door to you, next to a house, not a hotel, not a boarding house. By renting out your home short term and unsupervised/no onsite manager, you are allowing people whom you don’t know into our home, placing your home and your possessions at risk. Your neighbors no longer know who their neighbor is or is not. And, not to sound harsh, but to all the people who own homes & condos that are now saying that they can’t afford them without illegally renting them… Read more »

Wesley McDowell
Wesley McDowell
5 years ago

Don’t you just love all the NIMBY comments we get here? I don’t own anything. Like many in this city I rent and my rent keeps going up. Rent control..really? So how are we being harmed? We go to other cities and use AirBnB or similar services. Frankly, I’m more annoyed by all the tour buses and boutique hotel valets on narrow residential streets. Uber and Lyft are all over the place. Do they have to pay a fee like the taxis? Maybe, but probably not. This is a new day with new opportunities. Let’s not over-react and “throw the… Read more »

JJ
JJ
5 years ago

@ Jonathan Simmons – my second comment was NOT about renters cleanliness. It was about Code Enforcement’s difficult task of enforcing current code. To ask them to determine if a homeowner is present at the time part of their property is rented out on a short term basis would be nearly impossible to enforce.

Guy Privaton (@guyprivaton)

Uber freemarket capitalism at its finest
applaud

but don’t work with rent control

compromise??? 1 unit out of 20 can be uber rental?

Randy
Randy
5 years ago

To elaborate, I think that the following rules should apply:

– Apartment buildings: NO. That wasn’t their intended use, and it has too much of an impact on housing stock.

– Condominiums: Let the HOA decide. Everyone in the building has a share in it, and it should be up to the owners.

-Single family homes, duplexes and guesthouses: Let the owners do whatever they want. Regulate it, and take taxes on it, if you must.

Christopher
Christopher
5 years ago

Weho can’t even figure out laws for the cross walks to protect our community yet they are worried about people leasing their private homes. This has to be a joke! How about Mailbu has been doing this and works flawlessly with the laws in place. This is 2015 and the way of the future. Catch up!

Randy
Randy
5 years ago

I don’t think apartments or condos should be used in this manner. I do think it should be available to single family homes, duplexes and guesthouses, however. And regulated. I realize that this takes units away from the rental market, but it also has less impact on neighbors.

Mike Dolan
Mike Dolan
5 years ago

AirBnB is and has been entered on the books as illegal in West Hollywood. The item and motion to clarify the law and the language clear was before the commission. It passed with only Commissioner Lightfoot voting NO! The second motion, on the same item, only disregarded the extensive work of the Shared-Economy Task Force’s recommendations to keep West Hollywood free of ALL AirBnB. Leaving an erroneous sense that due diligence was not performed by the Task Force, City Council and staff with their visionary finding and legislative clarification for our dense-small city. If you rent, own a condo or… Read more »

Rob Bergstein
Rob Bergstein
5 years ago

I think that points that are being missed here is two-fold. 1) By renting out apartments and homes on a short term basis, as a b&b/hotel, rental units are being removed from our already very tight, short supply housing market, Supply & demand, supply & demand…with fewer units available for RESIDENTS to live in, rents will only go up. 2) Those people who stay in those short term rentals are not neighbors and they are not residents. They have zero vested in the City of West Hollywood, they do not contribute to our residential neighborhoods. Speaking from personal experience as… Read more »

Rick Watts
Rick Watts
5 years ago

Lots of good thoughtful comments here, including from Woody–though I hasten to defend Kevin Stalter and many other RESIDENT-owners whose financial circumstances changed for the worse as a result of the Great Recession, ill health, or just bad luck: Hell, it can happen to anyone, and I don’t want ANYone to have to lose their house, condo or apartment THAT THEY’RE LIVING IN if arrangements can be made to make use of a spare room as long as the arrangement is legal and respectful of other tenants/owners/neighbors, and any due taxes are paid. As a long-term resident/renter on a fixed… Read more »

Jonathan Simmons
Jonathan Simmons
5 years ago

@JJ I don’t understand how you can comment as you have. Has basic logic overcome the obvious agenda of the publisher of the blog and most of the people who comment. You think “renters” don’t clean? Ever heard of a Security Deposit? Ever hear of people not throwing the trash where they eat and sleep? Yards, gardens and buildings (interior fixtures and building and all exterior are maintained by Landlords, NOT TENANTS. Finally, from first had experience of 20 or so years across the street from a weho boutique hotel, and a block from the Ramada, RENTERS DON’T MAKE A… Read more »

Virginia Gillick
Virginia Gillick
5 years ago

Vacancy ownership and short term rentals are very bad in condos. Especially small condos. The renters care nothing for the building, nor do the owners of those units. It 100% goes against the cooperative ideal.