Santa Monica Lookout
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Santa Monica Officials Look to Crack Down on Illegal Short Term Rentals

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

April 24, 2015 -- With the number of illegal short-term vacation rentals in Santa Monica soaring, City officials are preparing to hire additional code enforcement officers to crack down on the problem.

The crackdown could target as many as 1,700 “home sharing” rental units, most of them advertised on such popular websites as Airbnb, that are currently operating illegally in residential areas, City officials said.

“The way it’s growing, and has been growing, we don’t have enough staff to enforce the law,” said Salvadore Valles, acting chief administrative officer for code enforcement.  “With the proliferation of Airbnb there have been more rentals and more complaints.”

Valles said he plans to ask the Santa Monica City Council for two more code enforcement officers and one more administrative staff person. He now has ten code enforcement officers, three managers and three administrative staff.

 In addition, Valles said he also will propose that the Council consider some “legally limited” forms of home sharing. He declined to give details of those options until he formally approaches the City Council with the idea in coming weeks.

By the end of the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, City officials expect to have received between 200 and 225 complaints, mostly from neighbors frustrated by the noise and traffic congestion generated by the rental units, City officials said.

Since the recent rise of home-sharing services such as Airbnb, code enforcement officials have been monitoring the growth of short-term vacation units that are illegal to rent in Santa Monica in residential neighborhoods.

The rentals also are having an impact on the City’s tourism dollars. Home-sharing services like Airbnb don’t pay the hotel tax levied on traditional hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts and other such businesses. The City collected $42 million in hotel taxes in 2013 alone.

City officials are also worried that the popularity of home-sharing businesses is putting the squeeze on housing in an increasingly expensive city. 

Of the total units involved, 225 are rented space that is only part of a unit, Valles said. The rest are for whole units or more than one unit. That, said Valles, is housing that “could be available to a future (longterm) renter.”

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