October 28, 2020 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Letter to the Editor: Evaluating the new Santa Monica Vacation Rental Law:

To the Editor,

Everyone in Santa Monica should be aware that there is an enormous amount of money coming in from the licensing and TOT bed tax, far more than money coming in from fines.  Substantial money that SMRR, as the leader of the pack in Santa Monica, should insist go towards affordable housing.

Also it should be noted that there are a small percentage of folks who were providing homes for travelers who were owners who had finally obtained an available apartment to try to make up for all the many lost years and funds of which rent control deprived them. There are people who have been living in rent controlled apartments for 40 years on the backs of long suffering small unit owners. Small unit owners would never be able to share them if they were vacant, as mandated by the Vacation rental licensing rules set up by the City Council. Finally we have a mayor who actually has a home that he bought and not a rent controlled apartment. That aside, as attrition does naturally account for some vacancies these are the units that owners should be allowed to do with what society around the world has embraced; responsibly offer them as a short term rental. Remember that folks who provide rent control apartments get no subsidies from anybody, no tax credits, no reduced water bills, nothing, and this forced partnership should have an upside for owners somewhere, especially for those who will never put those units on the open market again and who consider them extensions of their own homes. 

Senior citizens, sick folks, or Santa Monica residents transitioning from jobs who may have been renting their homes when they left town or staying with family members to try to make up finances during a very difficult economy; the worse since the Great Depression, have been kicked curbside. After all the phenomenon was born of a very difficult time when the idea of the shared economy is actually a "meaningful movement" that has to do with not being influenced by /beholden to large companies (think hotel lobbies) or failed ideologies (think rent control, SMRR), a movement that uses available, unused or underused resources. This City Council said yes if you share and stay in the home with a traveler and no if you need privacy, nixing half the concept but supported fully the idea that vacation rentals were taking away affordable housing thus putting squarely their difficult job on the backs of Santa Monica owner/hosts ; one of the few convenient scapegoats for affordable housing named by cities unwilling to take the brunt of the responsibility for the lack thereof.  

With Airbnb alone accounting for $890 million in Los Angeles just last year that went into our local economy and our residents pockets (97% of it) are our city councils aware of the boost to our economy because of the advancement of this technology into our lives? Tax us if you must but do something meaningful with the TOT taxes instead of creating more jobs for city staff.  

Arlene Rosenblatt, at 80 years old, who was renting out her modest home when she left town was not taking away affordable housing, ex-mayor McKeown. You have hit her economically below the belt. She is not alone and there are many cases, all a little bit different and many that had nothing to do with disturbing neighbors and affordable housing woes, as you vehemently suggest. We are not billionaires basking in illegally won profits.  I am speaking for the small unit or homeowner who is responsibly offering a much needed service to the visiting families of locals and those who cannot afford to stay in hotel rooms, who travel with kids, etc. And be sure, despite the painting of owners as evicting tenants to make STR’s, this is untrue, there is no such provision to allow such a thing.  There are ten or so reasons that a legal eviction can take place and this is not one of them.

One positive outcome of the vacation rental law in Santa Monica is how the complaints have fallen by the wayside for the most part.   Did perhaps the people mostly who were abusing vacation rentals, the party houses, the opportunists, leave town? For certain they set a new standard of what is acceptable.  And that of course is a good thing but an economic backlash in the community is inevitable and Santa Monica threw the baby out with the bathwater and people have been hurt and will continue to economically be hurt because of this law.  There will be an economic backlash when you discourage tourists who have overwhelmingly said they enjoy traveling and staying in folks’ homes over hotels but not with them as you have required. And I am pretty sure any small unit landlord who has an available apartment if possible will be loathe to turn it over to the city again for decades of abuse. Have you ever met the guy with the Ferrari who lives in a rent control unit, or the city officials who have lived in rent control units for decades while receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees or trust funds or the folks who’ve inherited their family’s property up in Oregon or Washington but don’t want to move?  Is that what rent control was created for?  

There is a way for Santa Monica to be more fair… And I am hoping that they take a look at these laws and allow responsible management to be the utmost priority, allow on-site management for those who own small units to also be able to partake in this shared economy concept of short term rentals, consider senior citizens being able to stay with their grandkids or friends and bringing in some extra money especially when they have had or continue to have the burden of housing Santa Monica’s rent controlled tenants.  Other than the abusers, let’s call them, of vacation rentals, it has been verified that most small mom-and-pop owner/hosts are over 50 and the majority of them are women.  Can you give something back please, Santa Monica, for the decades of past, present and future hardship and sacrifice?

Additionally, any homeowner or renter (with the permission of the landlord) in Santa Monica should be allowed to leave town for short periods of time and responsibly sublet their home as they see fit, after all they are adults.  Your paternity, Santa Monica, needs to chill. Get smart, wise and kind, it’s a better way to be.

Can you take off your blinders and see there is a bigger picture that will help affordable housing and help your devoted Santa Monica residents and partners in affordable housing ?  With these extra funds landscaping has been improved, buildings have been painted, the pipes have been replaced by the owners and now the city with its copious TOT taxes can actually use these funds for affordable housing.  Widen the scope of your successful program, Santa Monica, and show the country how to use these funds to make a better world for everybody on both sides of this argument.  And it might be a good time to reconsider all of your plans for the high-rise hotels coming to town.  Our city has suffered enough through construction zones with no end in sight far too long.  

Arguably, it is the city’s support of the malls, the chains, the big developers, etc. that has caused housing to skyrocket,  Interestingly, it’s their fault but they want to blame mom-and-pop owners for trying to make enough money to afford to stay here, to actually  survive and thrive.

Cara Brown.

in News
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