Los Angeles Moves to Regulate Short Term Vacation Rentals – Only Rentals of Primary Residences Would Be Allowed

by on May 4, 2018 · 12 comments

in Ocean Beach

In an historic and unanimous vote, the Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday, May 2, decided on a package of proposed rules to regulate short term vacation rentals.

The proposals would allow city residents to rent out their own homes on a night-to-night basis, but not allow the renting out a house or apartment for short stays if it is not their primary residence.

The new regulations must still be okayed by the Los Angeles Planning Commission before the Council can vote them into law, which could be within the next four months.

Los Angeles – like San Diego – has been struggling literally for years to come up some kind of regulations for the at times out of control vacation rental companies. And like San Diego, some neighborhood groups and the hotel industry have been pressuring the LA City Council to find a brake to the explosion of STVRs, pressing the case that commercial operators have taken over the share-home system and are abusing it in order to set up mini-hotels in residential neighborhoods, eating up needed housing stock in the middle of a housing crisis. (Unlike San Diego, housing activists in LA are involved in the battle.)

Like San Diego, Airbnb, other companies and their hosts argue they are pumping thousands of dollars in the LA city budget, and that the night-to-night rentals are allowing retirees and families cover their bills. But, research and disclosures have shown that the majority of homes rented on their sites are by commercial companies, not moms and pops.  LA officials estimate the city could receive more than $52 million from lodging taxes on Airbnb and VRBO rentals in the next budget year.

The LA Times quoted Cynthia Strathmann, executive director of the nonprofit Strategic Actions for a Just Economy, who stated:

 “our primary concern should be how do we keep housing on the market, and not turn it into a profit vehicle on the short-term rental market. If we’re in the middle of a housing crisis, we shouldn’t be turning housing into other things.”

According to the Times:

Under the draft rules, rental hosts would have to register with the city or face fines. Online platforms such as Airbnb could also be fined for advertising unregistered listings or for refusing to hand over their addresses.

Not all apartments would be eligible for such rentals. The L.A. rules would bar people from offering up an apartment for short stays if it is covered by rent stabilization rules or an affordable housing covenant. And the city would cap the number of nights annually that a host can rent out their homes for night-to-night stays, though with many exceptions. …

How often hosts can rent out their homes night to night has been in the center of the LA City Hall debate. The new rules supported by the Council caps primary-home short term rentals at 120 days a year. Owners, under these regs, could however get permission from the city to go over the cap under certain conditions (no multiple or outstanding citations from city departments, win at a public hearing to exceed cap). And adjacent property owners would be notified if someone wants to go over the cap.

Still, some are critical of having loose rules that allow hosts to exceed the cap. Critics fear that would make it too easy to rent out a home nonstop; as Councilman Bob Blumenfield said at a recent meeting, it would be “too much like having no cap at all.” Other critics want a lower cap so there is no monetary incentive to create mini-hotels.

Councilman Paul Koretz, an outspoken critic of short term rentals, said:

“…we need to get something in place to replace the mess that we have now.”

There may be more tweaks to the ordinance but no other changes were made by Wednesday’s vote.

And yes, there has been intense lobbying going on at the LA City Hall. LA Times reported:

In the last quarter of 2017 alone, Airbnb spent about $250,000 on efforts related to the city regulations, according to city disclosures. HomeAway and another rental firm, AJJK Inc., spent an additional $30,000 in that period.

Critics of such rentals, including the American Hotel and Lodging Assn., spent more than $83,000 on lobbying during those three months, city disclosures show. The local hotel workers union has packed recent hearings with supporters in red shirts, but it did not report any lobbying on the rules during that period.

Los Angeles Times

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Cheryl May 4, 2018 at 9:34 pm

Wow! This is a powerful proposal! Don’t know how it could be enforced… I am upset with the lack of housing in our city, and nothing seems affordable for entry level workers. They must live, multiple people to a residence, and hold down multiple jobs to afford to have a roof over their head. I know this personally, from people I know and from neighbors where I live. I am “lucky” to have bought in OB many years ago. I could not afford to buy here now. What will happen to our young people, never owning a home, living with multiple people and their families, leaving the state?


Chris May 6, 2018 at 5:37 pm

More likely than not, California’s population will eventually be in a decline if it isn’t already. Many people I know who are bound and determined to stay here have opted to simply not have families beyond a spouse. There is no light at the end of the tunnel.


Chris May 6, 2018 at 5:39 pm

AND they have resigned themselves to the idea that home ownership is not in the cards for them.


Peter from South O May 5, 2018 at 2:00 am

Santa Barbara took a different route and it seems to be working out:


If you follow the link at the end of the narrative there is a detailed two-page summary report of the enforcement actions and results.


John May 5, 2018 at 9:09 am

Historic? There are over 50 cities in California that prohibit short term rentals in California, including Santa Barbara, Carmel, Santa Monica, Manhattan Beach, Huntington Beach, Hermosa Beach, Coronado and a raft of others. All of these cities prohibit STR/STVR in residential zones because they recognize them for the commercial use they are – homes being used as hotels – depleting housing stock in cities – like San Diego – that lack sufficient housing for their residents.
Mayor Faulconer and the City Council should have followed the lead of cities like Santa Barbara and Coronado years ago and enforced San Diego’s existing Municipal Code.
Kevin Faulconer talk a lot about San Diego’s housing crisis and affordable housing – but then cowtow to Airbnb’s lobbyists.
I think San Diegans are waking up. Not only to the damage Airbnb and STVR/STR do to our communities and neighborhoods, but to the malfeasance and ineptitude of our elected officials, in particular Kevin Faulconer.
It’s time to enforce the Municipal Code. It’s time to enforce the law!


Chris May 6, 2018 at 5:44 pm

The key is STVRs, not AIRBNB in and of itself (like for home sharing purposes).


kh May 5, 2018 at 6:32 pm

What about hourly rentals? Will they still be allowed? I’m setting up a dozen brothels in OB next year. It’s not in the code so it must be allowed. I figure people have sex in homes, so it sounds like residential use.


ZZ May 7, 2018 at 11:36 am

I approve as long as your sex workers are unionized and receive full medical and retirement benefits. Please also keep your red lights LEDs and under 5 watts. Also, none on my block or within a block of OB Elem.


kh May 7, 2018 at 4:34 pm

typical NIMBY. no respect for property rights!


SaneVoice May 8, 2018 at 9:59 am

That cuts both ways. You don’t have respect for your neighbor’s property rights since you’d rather turn yours into a hotel.

Wanna get in the hotel business ? Go threw the proper process of buying land in an appropriately zoned area, go thru the permitting process, inspections, etc.


Peter from South O May 8, 2018 at 5:38 pm

Where are the “appropriately zoned areas” for brothels? Methinks the thread has become twisted ;-)


retired botanist May 9, 2018 at 7:36 am

yep, clearly the facetiousness of kh’s comment got lost…particularly in light of the previous comments regarding customer trade in residential zones ;-)


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