LA leaders move to regulate short-term rentals

Supporters of Airbnb and home-sharing applaud after hearing testimony from a colleague
Supporters of Airbnb and home-sharing applaud after hearing testimony from a colleague
Josie Huang/KPCC

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Los Angeles officials will hold citywide meetings on short-term rentals in the coming weeks as they move toward regulating the rapidly-growing industry. 

The City Council's planning panel decided to take more public input, after hearing nearly two hours of testimony in standing room-only council chambers Tuesday. The vast majority of the 70-plus people who testified were in favor of cracking down on professional short-term rental operators rather than individuals who rent out a room or a guest house.

Anne Bagasao asked city officials to consider the well-being of Angelenos like her mother. The 90-year-old woman lives in Angelino Heights next to a professionally-managed property advertised on sites such as Airbnb and HomeAway. Loud visitors keep her up.

"Save our neighborhoods from becoming party villages for out-of-towners with the lion share of profits benefiting real estate investors and online business owners," Bagasao said.

Sebastien De Kleer  was among the handful of professional short-term rental operators who spoke. De Kleer noted his 80 LA properties have generated more than half a million dollars in lodging taxes in the city in recent years. 

That's "money that I love to spend, money the city and residents desperately need," DeKleer said.

Both individual 'hosts' and larger property management firms advertise on sites such as Airbnb. But Airbnb has stressed that its focus is on home-sharing and has dropped some LA firms such as De Kleer's company, Globe Homes and Condos.

Dozens of Airbnb hosts showed up to defend the site and their right to home-share. Many said that income generated from renting out a room has allowed them to do things such as pay the mortgage and send their children to college.

Councilmember Mike Bonin, who authored a motion for regulations with Council President Herb Wesson, said he didn't have a problem with home-sharing. His motion aims to allow people to rent out part of their primary residence. But he said the "bad" kind of short-term rental is proliferating throughout his district, which includes tourist magnet Venice.

"Real estate speculators are coming in and buying up entire apartment buildings and using them as rogue defacto hotels in our neighborhoods," Bonin said.

Neighborhood groups also made the distinction between home-sharing and professional property management. They say too many landlords and investors are taking valuable housing stock off the long-term rental market so they can make more money with short-term leases.

"It's not a question about one group of poor people against another group of poor people," said Mark Lippman of People Organized for Westside Renewal, or POWER. "It's always been big money and big profits against all of us."

Those against short-term rentals cited a new report by the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, which analyzed Airbnb and other sites to determine that short-term rental operators were taking 11 housing units off the long-term rental market every day. Airbnb questioned how researchers arrived at their results.