Could Venice be excluded from LA’s new rules on Airbnb-style rentals?
In the ongoing battle over Airbnb and similar rentals in Los Angeles, perhaps no territory has been more fiercely contested than Venice.
Tenant activists complain that apartment buildings here have turned into beachside hotels for a revolving door of tourists, who flock to this bohemian stretch of the California coast and its eclectic boardwalk.
The losers, they say, are long-term renters forced out of their homes to make way for travelers paying higher rates.
Now a new law is supposed to put an end to what Councilman Mike Bonin has dubbed “rogue hotels”.
But critics argue it cannot be applied to Venice and other coastal parts from Los Angeles. And they plan to go to court to arrest him.
LA rules, which take effect in July, allow Angelenos to rent only their own primary residence for short stays, preventing them from offering a second home or investment property to travelers.
The rules aim to prevent apartment buildings from being bought and run as hotels, thus worsening the housing crisis.
Critics have argued that the new rules will eliminate accommodation options for families and other vacationers who don’t want to stay in hotels, dealing an economic blow to neighborhoods.
As July approaches, some accuse the city of not properly reviewing its plans with the California Coastal Commission, which regulates the state’s coastal areas.
Two and a half years ago, the chairman of the committee warned cities that while he favors “reasonable and balanced regulations” on short-term rentals, banning such rentals entirely in coastal areas could violate the Coastline Act. The concern was that an outright ban could put beach vacations out of financial reach for many Californians.
The Coast Commission has urged cities to ensure that these regulations are either integrated into an overall plan called a local coastal program – which LA is still working on — or authorized by a coastal development permit.
Attorney Thomas Nitti, who represents building owners, said LA doesn’t appear to have done so.
“It seemed like no one in the city felt they had to work with the Coastline Commission,” said Nitti, who said he was preparing a lawsuit for several renters.
“It’s a very serious problem,” he said. “The city puts a barrier in the way of low- and middle-income people who want to stay in the coastal area.”
In response to questions on the issue, Coast Commission spokesperson Noaki Schwartz said commission staff members did not believe LA rules were legally enforceable in the coastal zone without some sort of authorization under coastal law, that the city has not yet obtained.
However, commission executive director Jack Ainsworth added that “our intention is not to punish our local government partners as they grapple with the difficult issues and competing interests” surrounding these regulations.
Ainsworth said commission staff members worked with LA to incorporate its rental rules into a local Venice coastal program being developed.
Los Angeles officials, in turn, said the city was on track to begin implementing the ordinance citywide in July.
“We are working closely with Coast Commission staff to commemorate our home sharing regulations through the [Local Coastal Program] process,” planning department spokeswoman Agnes Sibal-von Debschitz said in a statement. “In the meantime, we believe we will be able to implement the order as planned.”
LA officials pointed to a legal battle over Hermosa Beach, which banned short-stay home rentals in residential areas.
Rental operators went to court to block the rules, arguing they were preempted by Coastal Law, but an appeals court concluded last year that the Hermosa Beach Law “was not under the auspices of the Coastal Commission”.
But in Santa Barbara, similar rental restrictions have been discontinued. along the coast after Theo Kracke, whose company manages vacation rental properties, challenged them in court.
In his ruling, a Superior Court judge found that unless Santa Barbara obtained a coastal development permit or a certified amendment to its coastal plan to authorize the restrictions, the city was not operating in accordance with coastal law. when it took steps to “virtually eliminate” these rentals from the coastal zone.
Atty of the city of Santa Barbara. Ariel Calonne said the city strongly disagrees with the decision, arguing that the city has simply stepped up enforcement of a longstanding rule but has not yet decided to appeal. It plans to update its Local Coastal Program regulate such rentals in coastal areas.
Robin Rudisill, a Venice resident who unsuccessfully ran against Bonin for city council, said she raised the issue with Coastal Commission staffers, asking them to speak to city officials about Los Angeles and ensuring the new rules could come into effect along the coast.
The issue worries Keep Neighborhoods First co-founder Judith Goldman, whose group has advocated for tougher regulations on short-term rentals.
“Let’s hope the city has a plan and it’s not an 11th-hour oversight,” Goldman said.
The legal dilemma could have big implications for renters and rental operators in Venice, one of the hottest spots for short-term rentals in Los Angeles
At the Ellison, a brick building a short walk from the beach, Brian Averill and other tenants accused their landlord of trying to pressure them with a steady stream of travelers renting rooms for a few nights, neglected repairs and loud performances in the courtyard.
Bonin denounced the Ellison as the “poster child” for the problem the city is trying to solve.
The company that owns the Ellison, Lance Jay Robbins Paloma Partnership, has denied such claims and argues that the building in Venice was wrongly classified decades ago by the city as an apartment building.
The company argued that the building had a vested right, based on its historic use, to be rented out for short stays.
At a hearing last month, the West Los Angeles Area Planning Commission rejected those arguments.
But the building’s owner, represented by Nitti, has since sued the city over the move — the latest in a long battle over the Ellison. There are less than ten tenants left in the Rent-stabilized building, which is advertised online as “Ellison Suites”.
If LA can’t enforce the new rules in Venice, “it would be heartbreaking,” Averill said. “It’s like having the rug ripped out from under us.”
LA rules that will soon go into effect place several restrictions on home rentals for short stays. In addition to limiting hosts to renting their own primary residence, the regulations prohibit such night-to-night rentals in apartments covered by the Rent Stabilization Order.
They also cap the number of nights homes can be rented to travelers each year, though Angelenos can exceed that cap if they meet specific requirements.
“We crafted these regulations to allow people to rent an extra bedroom to make ends meet, while putting in place smart, enforceable rules that protect neighborhoods and prevent affordable housing from becoming exclusive short-term rentals,” Bonin said in a statement. , adding that he understands the planning department is “working to ensure” the new rules come into effect citywide in July as planned.
Philip Minardi, director of policy communications at vacation rental company HomeAway, argued that while the Los Angeles ordinance is not an outright ban, prohibiting people from renting a second home or investment property for short stays would nevertheless raise a “red flag” for the Coastal Commission.
“The reality is that you’re banning a lot of this industry, especially in these coastal areas,” Minardi said.
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