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.