Could Venice be excluded from LA’s new rules on Airbnb-type rentals?

In the ongoing battle over Airbnb and similar locations in Los Angeles, perhaps no territory has been more contested than Venice.

Tenant activists complain that apartment buildings here have turned into beachfront hotels for a revolving door of tourists, who flock to this bohemian part of the California coast and its eclectic promenade.

The losers, they say, are long-time 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 City Councilor Mike Bonin has dubbed “rogue hotels”.

But critics argue that it cannot be applied in Venice and others coastal parts from Los Angeles. And they plan to go to court to arrest him.

LA rules, which come into effect in July, allow Angelenos to rent only their own primary residence for short stays, prohibiting them from offering a second home or investment property to travelers.

The rules aim to prevent apartment buildings from being bought and managed like hotels, thus exacerbating the housing crisis.

Critics have argued that the new rules would eliminate accommodation options for families and other vacationers who do not want to stay in hotels, dealing an economic blow to neighborhoods.

As July approaches, some accuse the city of failing to properly verify its plans with the California Coastal Commission, which regulates the state’s coastal areas.

Two and a half years ago, the chairman of the commission cities warned that even if it supported “reasonable and balanced regulations” on short-term rentals, a total ban on such rentals in coastal areas could violate the law on the coast. The concern was that an outright ban could put beach vacations out of financial reach for many Californians.

The Coastal Commission urged cities to ensure these regulations are incorporated into a comprehensive plan called a local coastal program – which LA is still working on – or authorized with a coastal development permit.

Lawyer Thomas Nitti, who represents the building owners, said LA did not appear to have done this.

“It seemed that no one in town considered that they had to collaborate with the Coastal Commission,” said Nitti, who said he was preparing a lawsuit for several rental operators.

“It is a very serious problem,” he said. “The city is putting a brake on people with low and modest incomes who would like to stay in the coastal zone. “

Dozens of Venice residents, lawyers and affordable housing advocates gather on the Venice Beach Boardwalk to call on Los Angeles City Council to regulate short-term rentals in August 2015.

(Christina House / For the weather)

People walk or cycle along the Venice Beach boardwalk, also known as the Ocean Front Walk, in June 2018.

People walk or cycle along the Venice Beach boardwalk, also known as the Ocean Front Walk, in June 2018.

(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Responding to questions about the issue, Coastal Commission spokesperson Noaki Schwartz said commission staff did not believe LA rules were legally enforceable in the coastal area without some sort of authorization under the law on the coast, that the city has not yet obtained.

However, the commission’s executive director, Jack Ainsworth, added that “our intention is not to punish our local government partners as they grapple with difficult issues and competing interests” surrounding these regulations.

Ainsworth said commission staff have worked with LA to incorporate its rental rules into a local Venice coastal program that is 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 house-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 ordinance as planned.”

LA officials have cited a court battle over Hermosa Beach, which banned rentals of homes for short stays in residential areas.

Rental operators have gone to court to block the rules, arguing they were preempted by the coastline law, but an appeals court concluded last year that the Hermosa Beach law “did not fall under the auspices of the Coastal Commission “.

But in Santa Barbara, similar rental restrictions have been suspended along the coast after Theo Kracke, whose company manages vacation rental properties, challenged them in court.

In his decision, a Superior Court judge found that unless Santa Barbara obtained a coastal planning permit or a certified amendment to its coastal plan to allow the restrictions, the city was not operating under the law. on the coast when it took steps to “almost eliminate” such rentals from the coastal area.

Atty of the city of Santa Barbara. Ariel Calonne said the city strongly disagreed with the decision, arguing the city had simply stepped up enforcement of a long-standing rule, but had yet to decide to appeal. He plans to update his local coastal program regulate these rentals in coastal areas.

Robin Rudisill, a resident of Venice who unsuccessfully ran against Bonin in city council, said she raised the issue with Coast Commission staff, asking them to speak to officials in the city of Los Angeles and make sure the new rules could come into effect along the coast.

The issue worries Judith Goldman, co-founder of Keep Neighborhoods First, whose group has advocated for stricter regulations on short-term rentals.

“Hopefully the city has a plan and it’s not an 11-hour oversight,” Goldman said.

A resident of Ellison, a Venetian apartment building rented for short stays, lets a window speak.

A resident of Ellison, a Venetian apartment building rented for short stays, lets a window speak.

(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Renters Bruce Kijewski and Kelly Day discuss their apartments in the Ellison in Venice in September 2018.

Renters Bruce Kijewski and Kelly Day discuss their apartments in the Ellison in Venice in September 2018.

(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The legal dilemma could have big implications for tenants and rental operators in Venice, one of the hottest places for short-term rentals in Los Angeles.

At the Ellison, a brick apartment building steps 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 “child witness” to the problem the city is trying to solve.

The Ellison’s owning company, Lance Jay Robbins Paloma Partnership, has denied such claims and argues that the Venice apartment building was wrongly classified by the city decades ago as an apartment building.

The company argued that the building had an acquired right, based on its historical use, to be rented out for short stays.

In a hearing last month, the West Los Angeles Area Planning Commission rejected these arguments.

But the owner of the building, who is represented by Nitti, has since sued the city over the move – the latest step in a long battle over the Ellison. There are less than ten tenants left in the rent stabilized building, which is advertised online as “Suites Ellison”.

If LA can’t apply the new rules to Venice, “that would be heartbreaking,” Averill said. “It is as if the carpet is torn from under our feet.”

The soon-to-be-enacted LA rules place several restrictions on renting homes for short stays. In addition to restricting guests to renting their own primary residence, regulations prohibit such overnight rentals in apartments covered by the Rent Stabilization Ordinance.

They also cap the number of nights that homes can be rented to travelers each year, although Angelenos can exceed that cap if they meet specific requirements.

“We crafted these regulations to allow people to rent an extra room to make ends meet, while also putting in place smart and 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” that the new rules go into effect citywide in July as scheduled.

Philip Minardi, director of political communications for vacation rental company HomeAway, argued that while the LA ordinance was not an outright ban, prohibiting people from renting a second home or building from investment for short stays would nevertheless raise a “red flag” for the coastline. Commission.

“The reality is that you are banning a lot of this industry, especially in these coastal areas,” Minardi said.

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Twitter: @AlpertReyes

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