City Council PLUM Committee Moves Short-Term Rentals Ordinance Forward

On Tuesday, December 4, the Los Angeles City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee voted to approve a new set of rules for legalizing AirBnB-style short-term rentals in the City of Los Angeles.  The proposed regulations have been under discussion by various city governance groups for nearly three years, but Tuesday’s vote will likely move the rules toward a final vote by the full City Council early next week.

During the Tuesday’s discussions and vote, the PLUM committee members reaffirmed several key provisions of the new ordinance, including:

  • Short-term rentals will be allowed only in properties that are the host’s primary residence (conversion of whole housing units to full-time short-term rental use will not be allowed)
  • No units may be advertised for short-term rental use, on platforms such as AirBnB, unless they carry a valid city registration number (which owners will be able to obtain through a new online registration system)
  • No short-term rental activity will be allowed in rent-stabilized (RSO) properties
  • There will be a cap of 120 rental days per year, per property
  • Owners can apply to exceed the rental cap, and rent up to 365 days per year, if they have no violations or citations for their rental activity.
  • The new rules cover primary residences only, and do not cover second or vacation homes, which will be regulated by a second ordinance now being discussed by PLUM, the Department of City Planning and other city bodies.

Each of the provisions above is aimed at protecting valuable housing stock that could potentially be used for long-term residents, while still allowing individual residents to earn some much-needed additional income from their extra space.  The overall ordinance also strives to create an effective registration and tracking system, as well as an effective enforcement scheme that will allow responsible owners to continue their rental activity, while penalizing and/or suspending those who do not follow the rules.

Committee discussion of the proposal at Tuesday’s meeting centered mostly on how many and what kinds of violations would result in suspension of rental permits, and for how long.  Committee members, especially Mitchell Englander and Gil Cedillo, said they want to make sure that if an owner’s rental activity is suspended, that it be for misbehavior directly related to the rental activity…and not something more tangential such as other kinds of DBS or HPOZ citations.  (In other words, they said, they want to make sure that if someone paints their house the wrong color in an HPOZ, or is cited for an easily fixed electrical problem, it wouldn’t result in a long-term loss of their short-term-rental income.)

In the end, the committee changed or added a few provisions relating specifically to violations and suspensions.  They included:

  • Owners renting in the 120-day per year category would be suspended for one year (from the latest violation) after three violations/citations…while owners renting in the 365-day per year category would be suspended for one year after two violations/citations.  The 365-day renters would also have their rental cap moved back to 120 days per year.
  • Suspended owners could apply for an administrative review, and possible reinstatement in less than a year, with the payment of a fee…or they could wait out the one-year suspension period and then re-apply for a new permit.
  • The new law will take effect on July 1, 2019, or after the related vacation rental ordinance is passed, whichever is later.

Finally, there were also some questions raised, especially by some of the approximately 35 stakeholders who spoke during the public comment section of the meeting, about whether short term rentals should be allowed in accessory dwelling units, or units in duplexes or fourplexes, if the property owner lives on site but not in that specific unit.  While this has been an going debate in the larger short-term rental discussions, however, the questions were not discussed extensively by the committee on Tuesday. (Currently, the proposed rules would not allow short-term rentals in ADUs, duplex or fourplex units, unless the owner actually lives in the ADU or the specific duplex/fourplex unit.)

In general, though, despite some differences of opinion on specific provisions, almost all of the stakeholders present, whether they were property owners, representatives of tenants’ rights groups, or representatives of hotel worker unions, urged swift passage and enactment of the new rules.

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About Elizabeth Fuller

Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - first in the Sycamore Square neighborhood, and since 2012 in West Adams Heights/Sugar Hill. She was long-time board member of the Sycamore Square Neighborhood Association, currently serves on the board of the West Adams Heights/Sugar Hill Neighborhood Association, spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and is the co-owner/publisher of the Buzz.

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