There Goes the Neighborhood

Posted March 2, 2016 by The Argonaut in Columns

Los Angeles needs comprehensive regulations to curb short-term rental abuses

By Judith Goldman

Venice resident Judith Goldman is a co-founder of Keep Neighborhoods First, a community group that opposes widespread commercialization of short-term rentals.

Perhaps no other area of Los Angeles is feeling the intense negative impacts of the short-term rental industry more than Westside communities.

Many of us have experienced partying vacationers disrupting our streets and impeding safety. It’s no understatement to say they are everywhere. Loud visitors who have no regard for the sanctity of our homes and communities have replaced formerly stable streets filled with neighbors we could trust and rely on.

Perhaps even more alarming is that money-hungry landlords are victimizing our longtime neighbors.  Young tenants are being intimidated. Senior citizens are being harassed until they agree to relocate. Tenants who have lived in their homes for decades are being forced to wait weeks for repairs. Why? Because landlords can make thousands of dollars more per month by offering an apartment as a short-term rental, and many are doing whatever they can to vacate residents.

Los Angeles is losing many homes once protected under the city’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance. In Venice in particular, it seems like virtually every apartment complex is involved with short-term rentals in some capacity. Many RSO building have been completely cleared out of long-term tenants and are essentially operating as de-facto hotels.

Some landlords are allowing units to sit vacant in order to convert each empty unit into a short-term rental. Remaining tenants face a loss of community, security and, in some cases, available parking. They sit and watch as empty units are upgraded to attract tourists, while their own units sit in disrepair — leading them to eventually give in and move out. Landlords are evading the city’s rent-control regulations to unfairly cash in on higher nightly rates.

Just recently, local media reported a story of two Hollywood residents that had been wrongfully evicted, only to have their units later listed on Airbnb for use as short-term rentals. While these tenants are suing the landlord, we at Keep Neighborhoods First know of many other landlords who are doing the same thing and facing zero repercussions.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles region is grappling with a severe housing shortage. It is heartbreaking to see affordable housing units taken off the market and converted to short-term rentals by greedy landlords.

We love having visitors in our beach communities. Tourism is one of our biggest economic stimulators, and the increase in illegal de-facto hotels — some of them being purchased by overseas owners —shows that tourism is booming on the Westside.

Do we need additional hotel rooms to accommodate visitors? Perhaps. But let’s study that and create a legal process for moving forward. We must find a balance between tourists’ access to beach communities and the loss of long-term rental housing that threatens community character and cohesion.

Keep Neighborhoods First was formed to protect our neighbors and neighborhoods from abuses. We are working to influence the regulations currently being proposed in Los Angeles. Specifically, we hope city leaders will enact short-term rental regulations that are comprehensive and enforceable.

To get the job done, local government must work with hosts and rental platforms. We are calling for an online registration system that would allow hosts to provide information needed for enforcement, but the city will also need the rental platforms to require that all their hosts register with the city.

Finally, we believe that only a home’s primary residents should be allowed to offer short-term rentals, with a firm prohibition against landlords converting rent-controlled units into short-term rentals.

As similar discussions take place all over the world, Keep Neighborhoods First will continue the fight until the city of Los Angeles adopts regulations that shelter renters from abuses and protect the integrity of our communities. We are counting on our leaders to do this right.


    Matthew Barnes

    OMG! Rent control didn’t Save The World.

    What a surprise.


    Right On!
    But people are so afraid of their landlords they won’t make a peep. There are some protections already in place that people don’t utilize, like calling the city to inspect things that the landlord won’t fix. The city can order them to do so. No, it won’t get you the granite counters or gleaming hardwood floors, but it will get your heat back on (something I personally went through).
    Hold their grimy money-grubbing feet to the fire! And report those illegal rentals! Maybe, just maybe, the city will begin to uphold the laws that prohibit these, it would be nice if they stopped them, AND confronted them with fines and back taxes, etc., etc.


      Here is the landlord perspective.

      I hope you can be as open minded as I am.

      Rent control has never been a good solution. I can tell you that it creates an adverse relationship with the resident we serve. We do our best to follow the laws and meet our resident’s needs. We regularly improve our building, and twice a year we inspect each unit for deferred maintenance when we do our smoke detector inspections. Any items that are damaged or worn are repaired or replaced.

      Lately we have seen residents try to sell their rights as tenets to others by bringing in a roommate and not telling us. Then the resident leaves and we have a new person in the apartment that says we cannot raise the rent.

      The rents have not kept up with the increasing costs our income has gone down. We are considering selling because we can’t continue to keep the building in its current great condition.

      What are we to do? How do we make this a fair system for all?

      This explains why others are going out of the long term rental business. It is a hard life always being available for our residents. My wife and I can never share a car with others if we go out; I must be available if I am needs to run to the building.

      We work 24-7 and our income keeps dropping. I guess I shouldn’t complain it’s hard for everyone. I know.

      What I would love to see is rent control replaced by a requirement for owners to provide a percentage for low income housing. Then when the resident is requilfed by the City on a yearly basis we would all know that the resident who needs the discount would get it, and people would stop cheating. Landlords would have no reason to push someone out just to raise rents, because they couldn’t raise the rents. The new tenant would pay the same as the old one and the unit could only be tented for low income housing!

      Let’s make incentives for everyone to work together instead of fighting against each other!

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