A City Council committee approved a draft ordinance Tuesday regulating Airbnb and other home-sharing platforms in Los Angeles, moving the issue close to the finish line after three years of debate.
Allowing some low-income residents who live in rent-stabilized units to be home-sharing hosts has been one of the final outstanding issues, but it was not discussed in detail during Tuesday’s meeting of the Planning and Land Use Management Committee, since a separate committee raised the issue.
The committee’s approval of a full ordinance indicates that the City Council could vote on it soon and be content to work out the smaller details in the future, since the ordinance would not take effect until July 1 of next year or until a separate ordinance regulating non-primary residences is passed.
The city does not have an ordinance regulating Airbnb, which connects travelers with hosts looking to rent out their home or a bedroom, but struck a deal with the company in 2016 for it to pay hotel taxes on behalf of its hosts under a three-year agreement.
The draft ordinance that went before the Planning and Land Use Management Committee would allow qualified hosts to rent year-round, something industry advocates have been pleading for. Hosts could petition for more than 120 days by meeting certain criteria, including owning property that has not been the subject of too many nuisance violations. Units that fall under the Rent Stabilization Ordinance would not be allowed to be rented under the proposed ordinance.
City leaders are attempting to craft a policy that pleases both short-term rental hosts who say their livelihood depends on the practice and critics who say it is contributing to the city’s housing shortage and affecting quality–of-life issues in some neighborhoods by allowing for rental “party houses” to overtake otherwise quiet neighborhoods.
A Department of City Planning report says there were about 456,000 nights booked on Airbnb alone in 2016, and an estimated 550,000 nights booked by all home-sharing companies in 2017.
The committee also directed the Planning Department to draft recommendations on short-term rentals for non-primary residences, as the approved ordinance only allows them in primary residences, and to develop regulations for owner-occupied residences smaller than four units subject to the RSO.
The committee was also told by city staff that if it were to make specific allowances for rent-stabilized units, it could impact the California Environmental Quality Act findings on the regulations and require a new CEQA analysis.
Councilman Gil Cedillo, who chairs the Housing Committee, said recently he had specific kinds of renters in rent-stabilized units he was concerned about and wanted city staff to explore creating exemptions for them, but no official report has been drafted yet.
“I’m looking for a space that allows for us to exercise discretion and judgment in those circumstances,” Cedillo said. “I don’t want to make a policy around an anecdote. On the other hand, we should not be draconian in the design of the policy, to the extent that we cannot hear from this person who’s got a fixed income, he’s a Baby Boomer, he’s disabled, he’s a veteran, and he has the unfortunate circumstance of being in duplex or a fourplex or a triplex.”
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