Uber (and Airbnb) and the lawlessness of ‘sharing economy’ corporates

Nullification is a wilful flouting of regulation, based on some nebulous idea of a higher good only scofflaws can deliver. It can be an invitation to escalate a conflict, of course, as Arkansas governor Orville Faubus did in 1957 when he refused to desegregate public schools and president Eisenhower sent federal troops to enforce the law. But when companies such as Uber, Airbnb, and Google engage in a nullification effort, it’s a libertarian-inspired attempt to establish their services as popular well before regulators can get around to confronting them. Then, when officials push back, they can appeal to their consumer-following to push regulators to surrender. Read full article. 

WeHo Formalizes Its Ban on Short-Term Rentals

The Council’s decision last night comes after months of study of the impact of such rentals, offered by services such as Airbnb, on the local economy and quality of life. The existing zoning law bans rental of residential properties for 30 days or less. But a task force appointed by the Council in February 2014 recommended the zoning ordinance make clearer that the ban applies to property rented through so-called “shared economy” services such as AirbnbVRBO and Housetrip‎.

Most Council members expressed some support for short-term rentals of rooms within an apartment or home occupied by its renter or owner as a way to provide an affordable option for visitors who can’t afford the city’s hotels and as a source of revenue for city residents. But they also said that regulating such rentals would be difficult. ‘The problem in West Hollywood is the systems we have aren’t adequate to regulate the shared economy,’ said Councilmember John Duran. Read full article.

Airbnb makes a big play for business travelers

Airbnb wants you to know home sharing isn’t just for pleasure — it’s for business, too.

In an effort to attract more business travelers, the San Francisco-based startup revamped its Airbnb for Business platform on Monday to streamline the process of managing company travel. The new business travel program is a global expansion, allowing companies around the world to more easily manage itineraries and expense reports within Airbnb’s dashboard.”

As commercial Airbnb operations leech the authenticity from local communities, they then offer up those “authentic” communities to business travelers. Does this author’s article not see the irony here? Read full article. 

Rental sites like Airbnb aren’t as innocuous as they pretend

The pushback from Airbnb suggests that there’s more to the phenomenon than a few families making a few bucks. Airbnb describes the influx of casual lodgers into residential neighborhoods as though it’s an unalloyed blessing. In an appeal this spring directed at small-business owners in San Francisco, the firm bragged that ‘72% of Airbnb properties are outside of traditional hotel districts, in neighborhoods that haven’t benefited from tourism in the past.’That’s a boon to businesses in those outlying districts, the firm implied.

City officials and many of their constituents aren’t so sure. ‘We want short-term rentals to be part of San Francisco,’ says Dave Campos, a San Francisco County supervisor who proposed stricter regulations. ‘But there’s a commercial short-term rental industry that buys entire buildings and rents them all out. That’s changing the character of the neighborhood and taking housing stock away from people who need it. Read full article.

Southern California Tells Airbnb: You Can’t Stay Here

Criticism of Airbnb’s effects on the supply of affordable housing has been growing inLos AngelesNew York, and most recently San Francisco, where a report released earlier this month found that between 925 and 1,960 affordable housing units have remained vacant so that they can be rented out on Airbnb and other short-term rental sites like VRBO and HomeAway.

In the case of West Hollywood, the most recent municipality weighing an outright banon short-term rentals, the issue is not affordable housing, but concerns over noise, safety, and renters throwing parties, like the one that recently did major damage to a property in Calgary, Alberta. Read full article. 

Santa Monica Approves Tougher Restrictions For Short-Term Rentals

The Santa Monica City Council has taken a stand against short-term rentals like those listed on Airbnb after residents complained it was exacerbating the housing shortage.

The council approved an ordinance that bans full-time vacation rentals and blocks apartment buildings from being turned into de facto hotels. Read full article. 

CAO report: Short-term rentals are not violating rent stabilization

The report does say some short-term rentals may be in violation of city code:

‘As the City evaluates how best to balance the presence of so many STRs with the Zoning Code restrictions, it is possible that the Zoning Code may need to be amended to permit the use of STRs in certain residential zones under particular circumstances.’

But because of the proliferation of the house-sharing industry, the report says it would be difficult and ‘impractical simply to ban STRs from Los Angeles. Read full article. 

Mass rent-controlled evictions doubled in Los Angeles last year

According to Gross, affected areas “span from Venice, cut through Hollywood and Koreatown, and encompass parts of Silver Lake and Echo Park”; over in the Valley, there’s a “hotspot” in Sherman Oaks, Studio City, and Valley Village that seems to be affecting people who work in entertainment—notably members of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists—in numbers that Gross says he hasn’t seen before. Incidentally, those areas track closely with the neighborhoods that have the vast majority of short-term Airbnb units in Los Angeles; a recent study examined how the rash of vacation rental is affecting the regular rental market in those places. (Meanwhile, in neighboring Santa Monica, the number of Ellis Act evictionsnearly tripled between 2013 and 2014.) Read full article. 

Can Airbnb Survive in LA Without Big Professional Landlords?

Airbnb’s decision to cut some big LA landlords loose (10 of its top 13, according to theLAT) was made as the company works toward launching an IPO—as one researcher notes, ‘One of the things that IPO investors hate most is legal and regulatory risk.’ Meanwhile, one of the big landlords who was shut down says that ‘The [Airbnb] rep who called us mentioned the growth plans of Airbnb conflicts with us listing on their website.’ But can Airbnb grow without the hundreds of full units listed by professional landlords? They won’t really have to find out, apparently: there ‘is no sign of similar moves in other big Airbnb markets, such as San Francisco and New York.’ So who knows how long the ban will last in LA? Read full article. 

New soldiers in Airbnb battle: PR and Politics

The change that triggered this conflict came fast: Airbnb, the key player in the drama, has succeeded mightily in the mere seven years since it blossomed in Northern California’s fertile start-up soil. Its business model — make it easy for budget-minded travelers to connect with homeowners eager to bolster their recession-era bottom lines — led to global expansion.

Venture capitalists threw money its way, pushing its value toward $20 billion and inspiring a slew of imitators to jump into the water. As such websites have grown in popularity, some users have taken the “sharing” model to another level, operating entire homes and buildings much like hotels. Read full article.