Opinion: Let’s Find a Way to Embrace the ‘Sharing Economy’

Dear West Hollywood City Council members:

Thank you for having the foresight and courage to revisit the City of West Hollywood’s short-term rental and home sharing policy. Your decision to reevaluate how or if the city should moderate its current ban on all forms of the practice has thrust the issue, which is plaguing communities everywhere and has no obvious fix in sight, into the public consciousness where it belongs — with urgency, too!

My journey here began just over two years ago when I hosted my first guest through the Airbnb app. If I had any inkling at the time I was doing something wrong, I didn’t indulge it.

My first time out of the gate was like kismet. Imani Coppola, the singer-songwriter of the ‘97 Indy hit “Legend of a Cowgirl,” was planning an extended visit to Los Angeles to reboot her singing career and was in the market for an affordable abode with some character to call home. I was dealing with my own creative funk editing a documentary and had to get out of town. Documentary filmmakers aren’t typically known for having large discretionary incomes, though, so I was out of luck…

…until Imani and my paths crossed, courtesy of Airbnb.

It was a sign from above. She booked my place for two weeks, directed some much-needed flow my way, and it was time to go! Have PayPal, will travel.

I spent the next month consuming Portland on a creative high – living proof of the wonders of technology! What really got me was the effortlessness of the whole transaction. It was the first positive sign that our economy might actually be working for me. A feeling of liberty I hadn’t realized I was missing was restored.

Whatever resistance I had had to this new way of doing things – the Gig or Sharing Economy, as it’s called – was history. I turned my attention to other apps that might also add value to my life.

Over the next 18 months my life would be transformed. Substantive and meaningful film projects about poverty in Uganda, the narco culture of Sinaloa, Mexico, and the science behind “Hidden Figures” materialized like magic on Thumbtack.com. Unconditional love flooded me off of Rover. Even the unthinkable happened. I ditched my car – for good! I couldn’t have done it without Uber, Lyft and our ever-expanding and upgraded Metro system of buses and trains. Tap, Tap!

Even better, I got connection. I was no longer in the city, I was of it.

Three years ago, when this very same Council last took up this issue it prudently and presciently established the West Hollywood Shared Economy Task Force to assist in the review and recommendation process. Three years ago is a loooong time when paradigms are shifting; three years ago, Rover was a game I had played in kindergarten, thumbtacks reminded me of art class, and buses were to be avoided at all costs as I sped around town in my Grand Cherokee Special Edition.

Right now, somewhere out there, the U.S.S. Discovery is defying the universal laws of physics, traversing the universe with an organic propulsion system tapped into the microscopic web that spans the entire cosmos, an intergalactic ecosystem with an infinite number of roads leading everywhere.

What if we go where no woman or man has gone before? What if we tabled staff’s current draconian and punitive proposal that seeks to make me a criminal while ushering in a new era of Prohibition in West Hollywood, and reboot that task force of ours? If we can ban fur and outlaw pet plastic surgery, we can certainly find a way to embrace the “sharing economy” in a way that works for all of us – a template for the cities of the world.

The Age of Aquarius is upon us!

The West Hollywood City Council will consider  tonight allowing apartment and home owners and tenants with permission of the property owners to rent rooms or space for brief stays so long as the tenants or owners occupy the property. The Council will meet at 6:30 pm. at the City Council Chambers, 625 N. San Vicente Blvd., south of Santa Monica.

  1. There is nothing, NOTHING, NO-THING worth “embracing” in the gig-economy. It’s just a way for some people to rip off everyone else and gain at other people’s expense.

  2. Go ahead, dude. Perpetuate the myth that a job without security, a pension, and regulations to protect the worker are a good thing. Good luck with that. Down with the damned “sharing economy.”

  3. Though their are clear exceptions, the vast majority of regulations have been passed after overcoming an extraordinary burden of proof that the public interest is clearly being significantly harmed in their absence. The opposition to many public interest regulations originates from those in a position of power who seek to gain at the expense of many less powerful people. Also it should be noted that many people who clearly are NOT in any position of any significant influence have been sold on a “zero sum fallacy” right-wing marketing campaign that any gain to a suspect class or marginalized group other than themselves _(usually white males)_, will automatically result in a loss to them. Years of results from the Labor Movement and, even Economics show this not to be the case!

  4. RMD, you have no idea how wrong you are. I’m a regular guy who THINKS, and I like pointing out that there are an awful lot of regulations that are simply void of logic.
    It’s what I do!

  5. Embrace the “gig or sharing economy?” NO, more like do your best to resist this SCAM! This new hyped business model is largely based on evading regulations and breaking laws that protect consumers and workers. These gig or sharing economy “firms are simply a capitalist SCAM to sell you on what they imposed on the third-world, 10 cent/hour style wages, with many of these “firms” additionally trying to create an indentured servant circumstance for those suckered into it (e.g. Uber and “leasing” the cars to be driven at usurious interest rates and inflated financed prices) with full intentional circumvention of laws that were put in place to protect American workers from this very thing. Specifically with wage and hour law being violated, with the “firms” involved being nearly the sole economic beneficiary of the actions performed! Currently Prosecutors in Los Angeles and San Francisco have already gone after Uber on these and consumer-protection grounds. A much better idea would be to Find a Way to Embrace REGULATIONS that hold businesses responsible for wage theft and PASS a $15 an hour minimum wage!

  6. Well said, John, but I want to add one more thought. Why should a tenant host have to get permission from his landlord to have guests in his home? Should my neighbors who are on Grindr, or the bar hoppers who bring home new friends they just met get permission from the landlord to do so? Or is it OK as long as they don’t do it more than 90 or even 180 nights a year?

  7. Another one of Airbnb Corporately initiated heartfelt testimonials, all using the same verbiage (most likely all written by the same Airbnb marketing person!) to criticize our current guidelines, manipulate public opinion, insulting our City Council as not being for their constituents.

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