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.