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Welcome to Hell

I begrudgingly became an armchair expert on vacation rentals when six years ago I found myself living three feet away from the Disneyland Hotel. No, not the real one, but a revolving door of yahoos and yo-yos in la-la-land none-the-less, including weeklong multi-level marketing seminars and ancestory.com-like family reunions, epic bachelor and legendary grad parties, weekend crack houses and afternoon porn shoots, all-night penny arcades with high volt video games and decibel numbing bombs coming from 3D surround-sound big screen TVs. Tormented by Saturday Night Fever-like discos, DJ and strobe light equipped, with everybody doin’ the groove at the international meeting place for Alcoholics non Anonymous, I’ve earned my stripes.

 

So as cities ponder whether to ban or regulate vacation rentals which have metastasized throughout our communities, they should realize that their operators are committing, among other crimes, bank fraud, insurance fraud and tax fraud; let me explain…

 

The underground mom and pop vacation rental has morphed into a lucrative black market run by realtors in cahoots with savvy conmen masquerading as residents who obtain mortgages and home insurance policies fraudulently under the guise that they’re buying their dream homes. And one would be naïve not to assume that they’re also committing State and Federal tax evasion on the big bucks raked in under the table. Cities would be ill-advised to enter into such unholy alliances and find themselves in a position complicit with these shenanigans.

 

And what of the realtors who are managing these properties and acting as front-men for the black marketeers? These special pleaders lauding the accolades of vacation rentals at city councils when it’s really about them lining their own pockets. I don’t want to be a stickler here, but doesn’t the Business and Professions Code of the California Department of Real Estate have something to say about the legal operation of property management companies?

 

But I’ll leave it to the FBI to tell cities about the reports filed by duped vacationers responding to unscrupulous craigslist ads who arrive at the door of their “Pacific Paradise Vacation Rental” only to be met by bewildered homeowners perplexedly scratching their heads. Offshore swindlers simply grab photos of someone’s beach pad off the internet then post them for rent in the advertiser.

 

Or what about the legitimate landlord who finds the apartment he just rented listed in Airbnb after it’s been transmogrified into a vacation rental by his new tenant and that a week’s stay is triple the monthly rent? Let me tell you from personal experience that it’s a real shocker to see the water bill which when calculated amounts to the toilet being flushed more times in one month than a whole year!

 

And what of health and safety regulations? Transient rentals like motels must conform to zoning laws and have overhead sprinkler systems, emergency fire exists, occupancy and parking limits and handicapped accommodations. What’s the city’s exposure in the event of an accident which seems inevitable in a houseful of revelers that are drinking, smoking and doing drugs?

 

Cities don’t need to requisition any lengthy studies; let me save them some time and money and proffer this free advice: Just spend a miserable, sleepless night next door to a vacation rental where there’s a frat party with flip-flop challenged hodads doin’ the hokey pokey as they bark or barf over the balcony into your hydrangea after playing the Power Hour drinking game, and you’ll know all that you need to know.   

 

It’s with good reason communities like Santa Monica, Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach and Rolling Hills Estates have banned them.


Concerned about the neighborhood

I have been a Venice resident for 39 years. 

It has come to my attention that the house next door to me (a large, 4 or 5 bedroom), which has been a rental for the last few years, is being converted to an Airbnb. The owner, who lives in Northern CA, is keeping one room and a bathroom for his own use when he comes to LA. Is this arrangement legal?

While researching this situation, I was told that there are already 4 Airbnbs operating on my street, and that the owners all live elsewhere. This is definitely illegal, as I understand it.

If you can comment on the legality of these situations, I would be grateful. Also, what steps should my neighbors and I take, should we decide to work to maintain the character of our neighborhood?

 

This story was submitted to us via email to protect identity. We have removed identifying information about location. You are welcome to post stories on our blog with your information or email us to keep yourself anonymous. 


Open letter from Venice Resident: Save Venice Beach

Dear Members of the Venice Land Use & Planning Committee and the Venice Neighborhood Council,

A friend has told me that you are considering an application for a “change of use” for the apartment building at 417 Ocean Front Walk. 32 more rent stabilized apartments off the market permanently, and 32 more “hotel rooms.” Why would LUPC and the VNC “approve” someone for doing something that was illegal? That would really be too sad.

I have lived in my apartment on Navy St since February 1990. I saw neighbors pack their belongings into their cars in the parking lot of another Venice Boardwalk building years ago. They didn’t look happy, they looked panicked. It was a Saturday night, and I was walking on the boardwalk with a friend. Then someone bought his building at 5 Rose, and he was pressured to take an apartment on the side of the building and give up his ocean view. He was elderly and disabled, and he just didn’t have the fight in him. Then 15 Rose.

Oh, and of course, the Admiral building at 29 Navy St., which had long term tenants when I first moved onto the street, but then turned into an illegal- hotel. The noise, the illegal parking—someone always parks in front of the fire hydrant across the street, and it always turns out to be a short-term tenant. That building is empty again, but oh boy, lots of sprucing up going on—is this one going to be retro-approved as well?

Now it’s happening in my own building. After the owner purchased the building he bullied a young tenant out; he caught her renting her place out on Airbnb while she went on a week of vacation, then paid her a measly $5000. to leave. I wish she’d told me exactly what was happening. She only told me that he made her cry. Pretty ironic that he is now renting her place out on Airbnb himself; https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/7387510?s=22 Of course! He’s making more than twice what she was paying in rent.

Another tenant was also renting on Airbnb, and he had eviction papers taped to his door. But he held out for either a court date, or a better offer. His place is being prepped for short term renters; the huge TV mounted on the wall, extra beds with bedding moved in, etc., etc.
All the while I am being subtly, and not so subtly harassed, by shoddy repairs, or waiting, waiting, waiting for ANY repair. 

When my heat went out in December (it was quite cold if you recall—in the 40s at night), I had to have a city inspector come out to even get the landlord to fix the heat, even with a 2 day urgent repair order, it was out for 13 days.

When workers finally showed up, guess what they felt they had to fix first? The Airbnb apartment in the back—what a shocker . . . . Then it was my electricity, oh, and the 7 months that it took him to fix my kitchen sink. Well, I don’t know what I expected from someone who shook my hand the first time I met him and said, smiling; “What would it take for you to leave?” He is also paying a neighbor of mine to let people in, the feeling I have of being betrayed by this woman is difficult, to say the least. We are no longer friends. Thanks for tearing my neighborhood apart, buddy.

I know that this is also happening on Ozone, walking down Navy Court one day I saw old furniture, and, more tellingly, 4 boxes of large screen TVs put out with the trash.

I don’t know why Los Angeles is dragging its feet on this issue; Santa Monica has said “NO!” Barcelona, Paris, and West Hollywood have said “NO!”

I have nothing against tourists, there have always been tourists in Venice. But we need to decide what we want in our neighborhood. Do we want neighbors? Or do we want 10 city blocks in every direction of 3 night renters. How invested are they in the neighborhood? In the community? I was putting out the trash last night, well, someone has to do it, and it isn’t like my landlord or his short-term renters are going to, and I found cigarette butts all over the ground by the door of the Airbnb apartment. Sigh, yeah, those are my newest neighbors.

Short term rentals are like a tsunami engulfing my neighborhood. Please help us here in Venice, we’re drowning!

I urge you to deny the Change of Use application for 417 Ocean Front Walk. This building should be returned to it’s rightful use as a rent-stabilized apartment building for long-term tenants.

Sincerely,
Name withheld
p.s. the “character” that Venice is so famous for is not embodied in the visitors, it’s coming from US, the residents!


Venice, a Neighborhood of Strangers

Imagine buying a home on one of Venice’s streets only to find out that you really have no true neighbors — that your neighborhood is not a real neighborhood. What you thought were properties housing your new neighbors are actually buildings occupied by transient renters. Imagine in the mornings seeing maids with carts moving up and down the street… just like you see in the hallways of any legitimate hotel. Will it be safe to let your kids play outside with nothing but strangers surrounding your home and roaming your streets 24/7?


About 2000 units of Venice’s housing stock have been captured as short-term rentals by Airbnb, VBRO, Flipkey, Globe and others, for inclusion in their available rooms to rent-by-the-day operations. These units are no longer available for rent unless you want to rent a room by the day. On the short two blocks of Dudley, there are already 12 entire buildings which have been taken over as short-term rentals. This is not a situation where a homeowner is renting out their home while they go on vacation — it is a mass takeover of our rental unit stock with transient one night renters and as weekend party houses for reunion meetings and the like. The public relations for the syndicators is that this is the new “sharing economy,” but none can tell you just what is being shared. The best we can figure is that all the sharing is between the investors and the operators of Airbnb and the rest of them.

This is a stealth takeover of our housing stock by investors and owners eager to participate in this new gold rush. Short-term rental operators and syndicators will do more to destroy our community than any bad development ever could.

Los Angeles has an ordinance on the books which prohibits any rental of less than 30 days. It is not being enforced. The city is choosing not to enforce it because of the lobbying influence by Peers.org. The lobbyists for Airbnb, and others, are working city-by-city to get these short-term rental restrictions removed. The reason cities have short term rental restrictions is to maintain its housing stock and keep neighborhoods stable and safe.

The lack of enforcement of the short-term rental law will de-stabilize our neighborhoods and destroy our community’s cohesiveness forever. This is a big deal. We should all be worried.


Venice is home.

I am one of the few people in this world for whom Venice is not a travel destination. I grew up here, surrounded by all of the madness and all of the beauty.

My dad, my sister and I joined the Venice community in 1996. Even back then, our barely affordable apartment stood in the shadow of beach-side luxury mansions. However, unlike similar homes in opulent areas of LA, these monoliths of gentrification represented merely the upper echelons of an economically diverse community. Accomplished psychologists lived right next door to impoverished, eccentric painters. Hippies and radicals of all stripes shared the block with well-to-do families. My dad, a humble sound engineer and song writer, lived a few houses away from Wesley Snipes.

Despite their differences, these people shared one thing in common: like my dad, they dared more than just a visit to what was, at that time, a less-than-safe bohemian community. They made themselves a permanent part of it.

Over the last eighteen years, I’ve watched them struggle to preserve the Venice they came for. As our beachy bohemia attracted more tourists every summer, Venice locals fought bitterly to stem the tide of new hotels and amenities that accommodated vacationers at the expense of community members. Like countless other local families, we benefited from their efforts without even realizing it. Had they failed and a hotel showed up right next door, we may have quickly become activists ourselves.

Now many us find that, without any warning, a hotel has indeed showed up right next door. Sites like Airbnb, Homeaway, and VRBO make it absurdly easy to turn any neighborhood space into a tourism commodity. Though these businesses make profit their top priority, the idea behind them is not inherently evil. Some who use these services are merely continuing a long tradition of the couch surfing culture. They invite travelers into their homes for a more human and integrated experience. They take responsibility for their guests, and teach them to be a temporary part of the Venice community. I have never charged a guest for this privilege, but I don’t blame those who do so.

Then there are the others. These others use the internet to turn local homes into year-round hotels. They rent or buy property not so that they can become part of our community, but so that they can exploit it. They reap the rewards of a local culture that they help to disintegrate. My culture. Our culture. Every new home that they convert into a hotel is one less artist, one less actor, one less kind hearted lawyer, one less bohemian banker. One less family. One less kid like me. One less guy like my dad.

Thanks to eighteen years of friendship and participation in this community, I live in one of the few rent-controlled apartment buildings still available to long-term tenants. I frequently overhear my new neighbor, Josh, bragging about the Venice apartment he is “Airbnb-ing” full time. I see him, this-flesh-and blood representative of the so called “sharing economy,” and I know that a time will soon come when I, too, will be fighting off eviction attempts. I know that my wife and I will lose our home.

Unless…unless we can change that story. Unless we can come together and teach the Joshes of the world the consequences of their actions. Unless we can show City Hall the truth behind Airbnb’s billion-dollar PR scheme. Unless we can show them the alienation and suffering that have become our reality. Unless every internet platform that throws its hands in the air and says “I’m just the middle man” takes responsibility for what it enables.

On the day that everyone who calls Los Angeles home wakes up, sees what their city is becoming, and shouts “not here!” Only on that day, will we win back our neighborhoods.

Venice is my home. It is a home worth fighting for. They will not take it from me.


No Peace in Silverlake

I have had a “fight” here on my street for a year now with a similar rental house. But lucky for me, there has only been one loud fraternity party so far. The City makes it clear that these short term rentals are illegal, yet they don’t do anything about it. I think that the City officials are lying to us. I think the mayor is telling them not to prosecute and not authorizing the prosecution or fining or forcing these people to comply with the law. Why? Because maybe Garcetti thinks that they can make millions in Transient Occupancy Tax.

I have been through a lot. I naively thought that once I reported the problem, that it would be taken care of. I was wrong and the fight continues. The owners of the house did vengeance and intimidation against me and other neighbors here. I cannot believe the lies the couple has told in order to intimidate us to keep quiet about their illegal rental. They are rich, age about 40ish, they own 3 houses worth several million.

I thought that my home would be a great place to be for the rest of my life. My hubby and I have lived here in our Silver Lake home for over 18 years. But our peace has been interrupted in a huge way. I am so upset about it. I feel like my life has been turned upside down. I recently turned 60 yrs.



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