Hollywood area asked to weigh in on short-term rentals

LA is considering regulations on Airbnb and other short-term rental sites.
LA is considering regulations on Airbnb and other short-term rental sites.
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Updated Friday 9:44 a.m.: Airbnb supporters in Los Angeles turned out in full force at a city-sponsored meeting Thursday night to discuss planned regulations of the short-term rental industry.

Wearing stickers that read “Protect Home-sharing,” Airbnb hosts made up the majority of the 90 people who testified over two hours in North Hollywood.

Host after host spoke of the vital income that the home-sharing platform brought them, helping them pay their mortgages and, for some, staving off foreclosure.

Marsha Goldfinger, a retired secretary from North Hollywood, said she rents out two of the three bedrooms in her house.

“This is my main source of income,” Goldfinger said. “The income from shared housing has allowed me to stay in my home, be independent, make repairs on my old home.”

Others said Airbnb not only improved their financial grounding, but enhanced their social lives.

Sharon Sim, a public relations consultant from North Hollywood, said meeting other guests and other Airbnb hosts helped her through a fresh divorce.

“Airbnb has helped me create a brand-new community,” Sim said.

Airbnb critics, who said they felt outnumbered by supporters, urged the city to consider the stress short-term rentals placed on neighborhoods. Matthew Post of Benedict Canyon is upset with the professional short-term operators who rent out whole houses in his neighborhood, which he said is especially vulnerable to brushfires.

“Last week, a short-term rental threw a 500-people-plus party,” Post said. “People were not only smoking in the hillside but illegally parked, choking the streets.”

Thursday: The Los Angeles City Council is asking Hollywood area residents for input as it shapes new regulations on short-term rentals.

The 'listening session' will be held at the North Hollywood Recreation Center from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., the second of three meetings on short-term rentals being held this week.

Tourist-friendly Hollywood is one of the most sought-after locations in L.A. on short-term rental sites such as Airbnb and HomeAway, as well as Venice.

The popularity of these home-sharing platforms has led to a rise in short-term rentals in L.A, and in complaints from locals.

Neighborhood groups say that a proliferation of short-term rentals is changing the nature of where they live, by bringing in a revolving door of visitors, sometimes destructive and inconsiderate.

Tenant advocates charge that sites such as Airbnb are worsening the city's severe housing shortage, by allowing 'hosts' to list multiple short-term rentals — properties that could otherwise be offered on the long-term rental market.

Hosts argue that they rent their property for short stays, and only occasionally, and that the income helps them makes ends meet in costly Southern California  

The listening sessions will help inform councilmembers as they decide how much to crack down on short-term rentals. Other Southern California communities are providing a roadmap of which way L.A. could go. Santa Monica, for example, has banned short-term rentals when the owner is not on the premises. Manhattan Beach barred hosts from renting out homes for less than 30 days. Malibu has few restrictions, but now collects a lodging tax on all Airbnb rentals, after inking a deal with the site that requires Airbnb to charge customers an additional city tax at checkout.

Councilmember Mike Bonin, who co-sponsored the proposal, differentiates between different kinds of short-term rentals. He says an example of a 'good' rental is when an Airbnb host rents out a room in his or her house to make needed extra income. 'Bad' rentals happen when a short-term rental operator goes into a building, and converts large swaths of apartment units into short-term rental units, effectively creating 'de facto hotels,' according to Bonin.