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Home Rented as Quasi Hostel Raises Concerns About Home-Sharing Law

Bob Kronovetrealty
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By Jorge Casuso

August 13, 2019 -- A house rented on Airbnb as a quasi youth hostel has caused an uproar in the upscale North of Montana neighborhood and raised questions about Santa Monica's strict home sharing ordinance.

Code enforcers and Fire Department officials are investigating whether the operator of the single-family house at 710 Adelaide Place violated any laws or codes by renting the property to multiple guests.

The listing on Airbnb -- which advertises a bunk bed for $49 per night -- noted that a "maximum of 36 people in total can stay at the same time combining all rooms” in the four-bedroom, three-bath house with a converted garage.

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City officials said the applicant for the home sharing license at that address listed 16 guests. Neighbors say there are at least that many checking in and out every day and more on weekends.

"It's outrageous that this can happen," said Kate Bransfield, a Realtor in the North of Montana area. "The neighbors can see the writing on the wall.

"This can happen to any of us," said Bransfield, who has met with concerned homeowners. "We can wake up with quasi hostels on either side of us."

While the City's 2015 Home-Sharing Ordinance requires the host to live on the premises and restricts stays to 30 days, it does not limit the number of guests, City officials said.

It also does not impose parking requirements.

"The ordinance does not have a maximum occupancy limit," said City spokesperson Constance Farrell, "but does require that the host comply with all applicable laws."

These include all health, safety, building and fire protection laws, she said.

Under the City's 2016 Fire and Building Codes, a single-family home operating as a home share can "trigger occupancy limits based on the number of occupants and/or the home’s square footage," Farrell said.

"Generally, the Fire Code limits occupancy to one person per approximately 200 square feet, but other more specific limitations may apply," she said.

The historic Spanish-style home at 710 Adelaide Place, which sold in March for nearly $2.9 million, is 2,786 square feet, according to real estate sites and City records.

Based on the Fire Code, that would allow as many as 14 paying guests to stay at the property.

Santa Monica's Home-Sharing Ordinance also places no restrictions by area, allowing home sharing in commercial as well as single-family residential zones.

The ordinance applies to "all residential units in all zones in the City, including single family houses, apartments and condominiums," Farrell said.

For more than two weeks, neighbors have vented their outrage on social media, on television and in the press.

Guests -- who neighbors say check out by 11 a.m. and check in after 3 p.m. -- have been found waiting outside their front doors mistakenly waiting to be let in.

They've strewn the block with e-scooters and e-bikes and littered the alley behind the home with garbage.

"It's worse than a hotel," said Paula Kayton, who lives three doors down from the property. "It's just an absolute mess."

Neighbors have also filed complaints with the City, leading to the first investigation launched by the Fire Department under the home sharing law, City officials said.

One frustrated neighbor accused the City of being too lax and dragging its feet.

"It appears that the promise of vigorous enforcement has not taken place," one neighbor, George Preonas, wrote in an email to City staff. "It also appears that your 'enforcement' policy is quite timid."

City Councilmember Ted Winterer informed the residents that the City Attorney's office has prosecuted three landlords who violated the home sharing law.

All three were charged with unlawfully removing units from the Santa Monica's rental housing market to rent them as home shares.

Neighbors have been told that the City Council is scheduled to discuss the issue at is September 10 meeting.

Farrell said that the City will "consider legislative responses to the general concerns raised, including amendments to the Home-Sharing Ordinance, as appropriate."

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