WeHo Formalizes Its Ban on Short-Term Rentals

The West Hollywood City Council has adopted an amendment to the city’s zoning text to clarify that short-term residential rentals are illegal.

The Council’s decision last night comes after months of study of the impact of such rentals, offered by services such as Airbnb, on the local economy and quality of life. The existing zoning law bans rental of residential properties for 30 days or less. But a task force appointed by the Council in February 2014 recommended the zoning ordinance make clearer that the ban applies to property rented through so-called “shared economy” services such as Airbnb, VRBO and Housetrip‎.

AirbnbIssues raised by opponents of short-term rentals include disruptive behavior by vacationers and the fact that the services have led some property owners to take rental units off the long-term rental market, a major issue in West Hollywood given the city’s high rents and shortage of available housing. A study by the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), released in March, argued that that the “shared economy” business has a negative impact on the availability of affordable housing and on hotel revenue. The study said West Hollywood is one of the top 10 revenue-generating neighborhoods for Airbnb in greater Los Angeles. The LAANE study also said that while Airbnb markets itself as a way for homeowners and apartment renters to share their homes with tourists, the bulk of its revenue actually comes from rental of “whole units,” which are apartments and houses where the renter or owner is not present. Such “whole unit” rentals accounted for $3.7 million (88 percent) of Airbnb’s $4.2 million in revenue from West Hollywood rentals in 2014 according to the LAANE study. If the city’s 12.5 percent hotel room occupancy tax were applied to that revenue, it would generate $463,000.

Supporters of short-term rentals argue that they provide an extra source of revenue for renters or home owners who otherwise would struggle to pay their housing costs and that they make it possible for people who otherwise can’t afford hotel room rates to visit WeHo. Several of the more than 30 speakers at tonight’s City Council meeting who supported short-term rentals said they wouldn’t be able to afford to live in WeHo without the extra revenue provided by renting out their apartments or houses. One renter, Rebecca Ewing, said she began renting out a room in her West Hollywood apartment after she lost her job for a year. Ewing said she wanted the city to allow residents to rent out rooms while they were present but agreed that entire apartments should not be rented and thus taken off the long-term rental market.

Ray Artuhur, another West Hollywood renter, said he used the money he received from renting his apartment on Airbnb to start a tech company and hire two people. Another supporter of short-term rentals, Gregory Marcel, said he uses Airbnb to house people who come to Los Angeles to work with his small film production company. “It would completely bankrupt my company if I had to put people up in a hotel for three weeks at a time,” he said.

Most Council members expressed some support for short-term rentals of rooms within an apartment or home occupied by its renter or owner as a way to provide an affordable option for visitors who can’t afford the city’s hotels and as a source of revenue for city residents. But they also said that regulating such rentals would be difficult. “The problem in West Hollywood is the systems we have aren’t adequate to regulate the shared economy,” said Councilmember John Duran. Duran noted that the city now enforces the ban on short-term rentals only when it receives an actual complaint about one and doesn’t have the resources to research what local housing units are being offered for rent online. Councilmember Lauren Meister said that while the short-term rental concept makes sense for home owners, “in practice rooms are being rented out with no owner on site.”

Councilmember John D’Amico, however, opposed a blanket policy of making short-term rentals illegal, arguing that the practice is a part of new wave of on-demand services such as taxi rides by Uber and is inevitable. “We can stand on the shore and yell at the waves as much as we want, and they are still going to crash over us,” he said. D’Amico said it was clear from the number of local residents who showed up to oppose the ban that “we can regulate the hell out of it and you’re still going to do it.” D’Amico said statistics he has seen indicate that only one quarter of one percent of the city’s housing units are offered as short-term rentals. “This is actually not affecting our affordable housing…. In fact I would actually argue that the people who are renting out their units have said that this makes their housing affordable.”

In its vote, the Council accepted a proposal by Councilmember John Heilman that city staffers come back in six months with data about complaints of illegal short-term rentals and recommendations for ways to enforce the ordinance. Heilman also asked the staff to determine what sort of revenue would be generated by an occupancy tax on short-term rentals if the Council were to approve them. The Council also asked city staffers to consider a recommendation by Mayor Lindsey Horvath that short-term rentals be allowed for Halloween and Gay Pride, two major events that attracts thousands of visitors to West Hollywood.

Several speakers at last night’s meeting said they believe that apartments in the Dylan and Huxley buildings, new apartment projects on La Brea Avenue on the city’s Eastside, are being exclusively rented out to visitors. However Maribel Louie, the city’s Arts and Economic Development manager, said those units are being rented as corporate housing with stays of more than 30 days, which complies with city law.


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James marthaler (@afterthesnow)
Guest

tons of crime in this hell hole construction site riddled with drugged out drag queens turning tricks as the one percenters playground is wiped like a giant dirty ass.

BlueEyedBoy
Guest
BlueEyedBoy

Couldn’t agree more, Duff Bennett. People who can’t afford WeHo hotels also won’t be spending any money at other WeHo businesses. Why is that so hard to understand? It’s ABUNDANTLY CLEAR to me. Win/Win!

Duff Bennnett
Guest
Duff Bennnett

HMMMM, The Castro Regime of Cuba has the foresight and wisdom to allow AirBnB to operate in their Communist Country but West Hollywood elected officials are not able to see the overwhelming benefit of this 21st Century technology. The amount of added revenue to our local business owner is much needed and visitors spend DOLLARS.

BlueEyedBoy
Guest
BlueEyedBoy

Well, Disco Dan, just because you think you’ve made it “abundantly clear”, doesn’t mean I’ve bought it! (Could you be any more condescending?) So you assume you should be the final word, and write your own definitions? I’m NOT missing the point! It seems to me you’re missing mine. As long as the tenant the apartment is assigned to is occupying the unit and paying the rent, and neighbors are not being disturbed, what difference does it make who pays him to sleep on his sofa or use a spare bedroom overnight, or for a few days? I haven’t checked… Read more »

Disco Dan
Guest
Disco Dan

BEB – I don’t know why you continue to defend Airbnb either ESPECIALLY since I’ve made it abundantly clear of the difference as it pertains to “visitors.” You seem to keep missing the point. And this will be my last post in response to any of yours because, well, it would be pointless.

BlueEyedBoy
Guest
BlueEyedBoy

I don’t know why I am defending this issue because it has nothing to do with me, but I do get prickly when my freedom is threatened by someone just because they CAN. People get their shorts in a wad when something new comes along that they can’t participate in, so they want to make sure no one else can either. If opportunities in this business is denied, it seems that other home-based businesses might need to be restricted as well. Where is the line going to be drawn? I used to live across the hall from a massage therapist… Read more »

Disco Dan
Guest
Disco Dan

BEB – Yes, management may do screening of prospective tenants by meeting them, obtaining their FICO score/s, etc. But, again, this is not the same as knowing a relative or friend for years. As regards friends coming over or home based business, well, these people, as you said, “come and go,” as opposed to staying there for 30 days or less.

BlueEyedBoy
Guest
BlueEyedBoy

Yeah, Disco Dan, I know that, but I’ve lived in buildings in which there are tenants who were presumably screened by the management before they were accepted to move in who regularly create a lot of unpleasantness for the other tenants. And tenants who are quiet and responsible on their own, often have friends who they bring into the building who are not. There really are some things that can’t be fully controlled, and I think this may be one of them. Tenants operate businesses out of their home all the time, and often those businesses require that a few… Read more »

Disco Dan
Guest
Disco Dan

BEB – Friends, “significant other” or even relatives are all people you know and possibly known for quite some time and vouch for their character. With patrons of Airbnb you are essentially dealing with total strangers and their behavior could be debatable. A very different scenario !

BlueEyedBoy
Guest
BlueEyedBoy

I’ve had friends from three other states come stay at my apartment for several days to two weeks, and I have given them keys so they could come and go as they needed to. They paid me for any expenses I incurred for their stay. How would friends of a tenant be distinguished from an airbnb guest? Why is a tenant’s “significant other”, who spends much of their overnight time in a building in which they are not officially a renter, be all that different than an airbnb guest? In my building the “significant other” of one tenant uses guest… Read more »

Larry Block
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Larry Block

@woody and constance.. read my post again.. it is up to YOUR lease and YOUR hoa to regulate YOUR building.. as some hoa’s may choose to allow.. some landlords may choose to allow. It is not up to local government to start policing peoples bedrooms and visitors. The next thing you know every tourist to west hollywood will have to pay a cover charge.

Randy
Guest
Randy

Woody, I think we agree on everything except condominiums. Those have owners as well, and the HOA is there to protect owners interests. Once again, if the HOA votes to allow short term (or long term) rentals, I think that should be OK, and the city shouldn’t interfere in any way.