Los Angeles short-term rental registration rule beats lawsuit

The city of Los Angeles can continue to enforce a rule regulating the use of short-term rentals despite claims it violates the California Coastal Act, a state appeals court ruled Thursday.

Los Angeles implemented the rule in 2018 in response to an increase in short-term rental activity due to the proliferation of rental service companies like Airbnb inc. and Vrbo. The ordinance sets up an online registration system and prohibits “home sharing” without a valid registration number.

It was intended to balance the desire to allow residents to share accommodation, while prohibiting wholesale conversions of residential buildings into vacation rentals, which “significantly reduces the rental stock and contributes to rising rents and the decrease in affordable housing,” the city said.

In February 2020, a group called Coastal Act Protectors sought to block the city from enforcing the rule in the Venice area until it obtained a Coastal Development Permit, as required by Coastal Act.

The Coastal Act defines “development” as including, among other things, any change in the density or intensity of land use, and the new regulations on short-term rentals constitute development, the group said.

The California Court of Appeals, Second District, dismissed the lawsuit, finding that the group waited too long to file its lawsuit.

LA’s alleged failure to comply with coastal law arose when it passed the ordinance, Judge Brian S. Currey wrote for the court. But the group waited more than a year to file its lawsuit and was outside the 90-day statute of limitations. The committee ignored a trial court’s finding that the short-term rental rule did not affect population density and therefore did not require a permit.

Judges Thomas L. Willhite Jr. and Audrey B. Collins joined in the opinion.

Gaines & Stacey represents the Coastal Act Protectors.

The case is Coastal Protectors Act v. City of Los Angeles, Cal. CT. App., 2d Dist., No. B308306, 2/24/22.

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