Santa Monica Lookout
|Santa Monica City Council Bans Short-Term Rentals Despite Protests|
By Niki Cervantes
May 14, 2015 -- The Santa Monica City Council Tuesday gave a quick, final approval to a ban on renting out space to visitors for short stays, despite 11th-hour protests from residents who said renting out their units helps them pay the bills in the expensive seaside city.
Voting unanimously and without comment, the council approved the second reading of the legislation, making the ban final.
The new law – which takes effect in 30 days -- prohibits the rental of an entire unit for less than 30 days. It also requires that hosts be on site during the rental period, that they obtain a business license and that they pay the City’s 14 percent hotel tax.
The vote came shortly after Airbnb -- a popular site that allows users to post rooms and other spaces for rent short term -- made its case Tuesday in a protest in front of City Hall that drew an estimated 200, many of them residents who rent out space to help pay their bills.
The legislation “would make it nearly impossible for people in Santa Monica to turn what is typically one of their greatest expenses into a resource,” said Alison Schumer, public affairs manager at Airbnb.
“Most Airbnb hosts in Santa Monica share only the home in which they live and use that money to make ends meet,” Schumer said.
An estimated 1,700 sites are being offered in Santa Monica alone, a number that critics worry is worsening an already stressed housing market that has become one of the most expensive in Southern California.
Opponents of Airbnb and other similar sites say landlords have been turning so many units into short-term rentals that their buildings are becoming de facto hotels. City officials have received some 200 complaints from neighbors concerned about the noise and congestion caused by the stream of visitors.
Opponents of short-term rentals staged their own rally in front of City Hall last month to urge the City to take action. That crowd included upset neighbors, housing advocates and members of the union representing hotel workers.
The booming popularity of sites like Airbnb has caused other municipalities to take action. Malibu recently voted to require that Airbnb starting collecting the city’s 12 percent hotel tax, while Los Angeles is trying to decide how to handle the issue.
Short-term rentals are, in fact, already illegal in Santa Monica. They operate without business licenses, and – until the new legislation goes into effect – would have been denied licenses in Santa Monica because they were operating in residential neighborhoods.
But with only a handful of code enforcement officers, the City hasn’t been able to keep up with the growing number of short-term rentals, officials said.
With the new legislation in place, code enforcement officials are expected to crack down on violators, as well as impose fines on them if necessary.
The new law also is expected to boost City revenues, since those who rents the units legally must pay the City’s hotel tax, which generated $42 million in 2013.
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