Business & Economy

South Bay beach cities staring down short-term rentals

Hermosa Beach is among the waterfront communities in the South Bay restricting short-term rentals.
Hermosa Beach is among the waterfront communities in the South Bay restricting short-term rentals.
Oliver Tardy via Flickr

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Redondo Beach and Hermosa Beach are the latest waterfront communities to crack down on short-term rentals popularized by sites such as Airbnb.

But it'll be hard to enforce any new laws, if the recent experiences of other cities are an indicator.

In the last year, Santa Monica and Manhattan Beach both passed broad-reaching laws restricting short-term rentals but face challenges getting landlords and online platforms to abide by the rules.

But in Redondo Beach, Mayor Steve Aspel said the city has to do something. The council voted unanimously on Tuesday to start enforcing its ban on short-term rentals that last less than 30 days.

Aspel said the city gets weekly complaints from neighbors about short-term rental guests creating too much noise, and throwing parties.

"We're not trying to be the Grinch here and cut down on people's fun, but we want to give neighbors the ability to sleep at night," Aspel said.

Aspel said the city will start out by sending out letters to short-term rental hosts telling them to abide by local laws. At a later date, officials will decide what kind of fines to impose on violators.

"The first time, maybe a couple hundred bucks, for the second time move it to $500, then $1,000," Aspel suggested. "You have to make it very painful for people."

Lauren Amarante, a short-term rental host and member of the Los Angeles Short Term Rental Alliance, said she hopes the city will include her industry in talk of regulations.

Too much is at stake, she said, for the guests who prefer short-term rentals over hotel stays, and for the cottage industry that depends on their business.

"This creates a living wage for me and the several cleaners and landscaper that I employ," said Amarante, who manages short-term rentals in both Redondo Beach and Hermosa Beach.

Hermosa Beach officials are also looking at tighter regulations on short-term rentals, said Ken Robertson, the city's director of community development. Options that will be discussed at a March 15 meeting range from an outright ban to restricting them to certain parts of the city.

Robertson said it's a challenging issue because he can see the neighbors' concerns about short-term rental guests being too disruptive, parking in front of their yards and leaving out the trash.

But he said short-term rentals "are serving a need, as well as helping (hosts) afford to continue to live in the community."

The city of Manhattan Beach went through a similar debate last summer before it decided to ban short-term rentals under 30 days long. The law took effect in January, said Kendra Davis, a fellow in the city manager’s office.

"It’s one of those things that's difficult unless you can catch someone in the act," Davis said. "We don’t know personally each owner of each property or who’s living there, so it’s difficult in enforcing that."

In Santa Monica, the city has spent close to $200,000 on enforcing a law that only allows  short-term rentals when the owner is on the premises. The city said it has made 650 citations, directing all but about 100 of them to Airbnb and another leading short-term rental platform, VRBO.

Industry leader Airbnb said that it's following the different regulations before California cities. "We are continuing to highlight the importance of fair rules with leaders throughout Southern California," said spokeswoman Alison Schumer.

This story has been updated.