Venice has become the epicenter of Los Angeles’ struggle for short-term rentals. Call it the Airbnb problem

Every summer weekend, Venice Beach is the quintessential urban beach carnival: exhilarating, loud, funky and diverse. No wonder the Ocean Front Walk is one of the state’s top attractions – it’s amazing entertainment, and it’s 100% free.

But unlike other tourist spots – say Disneyland or Universal CityWalk – Venice is still primarily a residential area. Because of this, Venice has become the epicenter of Los Angeles’ struggle for short-term rentals, what you might call the Airbnb problem.

To get a feel for it, I took what some local housing activists dubbed a “Lot Housing” tour of Venice on Saturday afternoon. In four hours, I visited half a dozen buildings on or very near the boardwalk that have been converted, unlicensed, from long-term rental apartments to short-term rentals, or – yes – let’s call it them like they really do. are: hotels.

If you’re wondering why the rental housing market in a place like Venice Beach is so tight, look no further than your nearest laptop. Turn it on and find dozens of websites advertising hotels and homes “steps from the sand”.

These places, moreover, are not guest rooms, guest rooms or additional lodgings offered by owners who wish to cover part of their summer trip to France. These are apartment buildings and entire houses that have been converted to short-term rentals by relocating long-term tenants.

Inside Airbnb is a website that tracks Airbnb’s impact on the city’s rental stock. He estimates that at least 76% of Airbnb rentals in Venice (or 1,582 out of 2,085 listings) are entire houses or apartments, which essentially means these units were taken off the rental market at a time when the shortage of city ​​housing is Topic A on the lips of all politicians.

(The number of units converted is almost certainly higher because not all “hotels” converted from an apartment building use the Airbnb platform.)

I hate to tell fans of Harry Perry, Venice Beach’s turbaned roller-skate bard, but the sound of rolling suitcases threatens to supplant his screaming guitar as the Ocean Front Walk soundtrack.


Venice Suites on Ocean Front Walk was once a rent stabilized apartment building with 32 units that are now rented out as hotel rooms. Its owner has been informed by the city that the hotel is not legal.

(Robin Abcarian / Los Angeles Times)

My tour started at the Ellison, 15 Paloma Ave. It’s early 20th century brick building, with two buildings side by side, exterior corridors and spectacular water views.

Tenants occupied all of Ellison’s 57 rent stabilized units. Today, a dozen of them remained stranded in a building cited by the city of Los Angeles for an illegal hotel operation. (Building owner Lance Robbins vigorously disputes the complaint.)

A few blocks south, on Ocean Front Walk, we entered Venice Beach Suites, a building of 30 rent-stabilized apartments whose rooms are now occupied by tourists and travelers. “Are there any apartments available here?” Someone asked the receptionist. “No,” he replied. ” It’s a hotel. No stay longer than 21 days.

On Rose Avenue, near the southern border of Santa Monica, I entered two places. Air Venice had 59 rental stabilized apartments. It is now a hotel. The other, the Rose Hotel, was also an apartment building, with 25 rent-stabilized apartments.

One of my guides, Bruce Kijewski, 68, has lived in Ellison for 40 years. He pays $ 1,640 per month for his 450 square foot apartment, a corner unit on the fifth floor with spectacular ocean and mountain views.

In recent years, Kijewski said, the landlord has rid the place of tenants – either through attrition or eviction – to create “The Ellison Suites,” a tourist hotel.

Housekeepers with cleaning carts roam the hallways; people with suitcases come and go in a constant stream. The noise of renovations is constant, and the owner regularly hosts amplified concerts in the interior courtyard, which Kijewski says acts both as a draw for tourists and a means of torturing recalcitrant tenants like him.

“It’s deliberate and militarized chaos,” Kijewski said. “They are using noise as a weapon to try to get us out. “

Apparently tourists don’t like it very much either. Ellison’s Yelp reviews are atrocious.


Lawyer Amanda Seward and Bruce Kijewski in front of The Ellison. Seward works with Keep Neighborhoods First and has represented tenants at The Ellison in eviction lawsuits.

(Robin Abcarian / Los Angeles Times)

It took groups like Keep quarters first years at Start the fire under city officials. “I have always been involved in human rights issues,” said group co-founder Judy Goldman. “Housing is such a fundamental human right.

Two years after starting to look for ways to control short-term rentals, the Los Angeles City Council has always no ordinance to regulate them. A draft ordinance has been drawn up, but it is not known when the city council will vote, nor how these rentals will be limited.

Last year, City Attorney Mike Feuer filed civil affairs against two Venice owners, among other things, alleging that they illegally operate hotels that should be rental accommodation.

“In a city with a severe shortage of affordable housing, the illegal conversion of rental housing to hotels must stop,” Feuer said at the time. “My office will continue to intervene to keep rent-stabilized housing in the market and hold landlords accountable for not complying with the law.”

The cases have not been resolved.

One of the defendants, Andy Layman, 69, owns the Venice Beach Suites on Ocean Front Walk, near the famous Venice Skate Park. He operated it as a hotel for years, claiming it was his original use when it was built in 1912. In 1986, he purchased the building out of foreclosure, estimating that with 40 feet of Boardwalk frontage, it would be worth something one day. Even then, it had been an apartment building for decades.

All of his tenants eventually left voluntarily, he said, and he started investing money to create what his website describes as “a boutique hotel with 24 fully furnished rooms.” queen bed studios with mini-kitchens and private bathrooms and exposed red brick walls and hardwood floors in the heart of Venice Beach. ”

Unlike some of the other landlords the city is looking for, said Layman, “I’m a small, independent property run by moms and dads. It is the only property I have.

Maybe, but he turned his apartment building into a hotel and only asked for permission after the city sued him.


I called Roy Samaan, a research and policy analyst for the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, a progressive organization that lobbied for a minimum wage increase in the city in 2015. That year. also, Samaan wrote a in-depth research report on the detrimental effects that short-term rentals had on Los Angeles neighborhoods.

I asked him the obvious odious question: Venice is expensive now. Why can’t landlords get rid of rent-stabilized tenants in order to maximize their profits?

There are two answers, he said. The first is practical, the second existential.

First, the city has developed processes – neighborhood councils, hearings, permits, etc. – which aim to govern the use of land. You can’t just take a rent-stabilized building off the market because you want to create a hotel.

As for the second problem: “It’s about why people want to go to Venice in the first place,” Samaan said. “There are a lot of coastlines but Venice is a hot spot, it’s unique, and you have to ask yourself why. If we keep losing affordable housing and moving people, you change what makes Venice Venice. “

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