Don’t let L.A. City Hall sell out rent-stabilized apartments for vacation rental profits

By Judith Goldman

Unite Local 11 organized a March 8 picket outside The Ellison Suites to complain that tourists are replacing tenants
Photos by Maria Martin

The author is a Venice resident and co-founder of Keep Neighborhoods First, a local advocacy group opposed to commercialization of short-term vacation rentals.

Thousands of tenants across Los Angeles are living in fear of losing their homes, and ultimately the stability of safe and affordable housing. Keep Neighborhoods First is part of an unprecedented coalition comprised of neighbors, tenants, affordable housing advocates, working men and women, and business and hotel owners who are actively working for a solution to the short-term rental crisis Angelenos are forced to face daily.

The Los Angeles City Council is currently in the process of reviewing the proposed Home Sharing Ordinance that would provide sorely needed regulation of short-term rentals and a safeguard for our city’s residents and affordable housing.

The major terms of the proposed ordinance were agreed upon by the full city council and Keep Neighborhoods First, and other members of our coalition saw this as a fair and reasonable compromise and a big step toward answering our city’s short-term rental issue. Unfortunately, at the city Planning Commissions’ September hearing, the commission recommended the removal of the Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO) prohibition and protections from the ordinance language — a major step backward for affordable housing tenants.

RSO units play a crucial role in our city. They protect many of our city’s tenants from the threat of unpredictable rent increases. Without the protection that the prohibition provides for RSO units, tenants across Los Angeles would be left vulnerable to harassment and pressure to vacate their homes so that landlords can operate these units as more lucrative short-term rentals. Countless tenants have already felt this pressure, and many have succumbed to it, losing their homes and often their ability to remain a resident of Los Angeles.

Advocates for the removal of RSO protections framed it as an equity issue and a way to allow all Angelenos to participate in the sharing economy. However, removing the prohibition on RSO units will not result in equity. Many Angelenos who rely on rent-stabilized housing simply do not have the space to accommodate a short-term rental.

In reality, the removal of RSO unit protections will only allow for unscrupulous landlords to abuse future short-term rental regulations. Landlords can work around any regulations instituted, signing friends or family members to a “dummy” lease agreement, allowing them to take their rent-controlled unit off the market and make it available for rent on short-term rental sites like Airbnb. The city’s attempt to weave RSO units into the short-term rental rules could result in diverging policies, which would result in prioritizing income to landlords over preserving housing.

Our coalition is united by the urgent need to solve the problems caused by the proliferation of commercial short-term rentals in our neighborhoods, and with our community’s best interests in mind.

We ask that the L.A. City Council and its committees not turn a blind eye to the thousands of people that are on the brink of homelessness from the rapid loss of affordable housing, as well as those who are faced with increased rents and pressure to move out of their homes: the same people who rely on rent-stabilized housing, and who would be on the chopping block if this ordinance passed in its current form.