Culver City Edition

Coalition asks L.A. not to collect Airbnb taxes

LOS ANGELES — A wide-ranging coalition representing hotels, labor, affordable housing activists and others urged city leaders Aug. 15 to back of from an agreement in which Airbnb has agreed to pay hotel taxes on behalf of its short-term rental hosts.

The groups say collecting taxes from an industry not regulated by the city sends a mixed message, and urged Mayor Eric Garcetti in a letter to delay the tax collection agreement, which was reached in July and officially began Aug. 1, until after an ordinance has been adopted.

“The agreement with Airbnb gives legitimacy to an illegal industry that the City Council determined cannot continue to go unregulated,” the groups said. “This type of arrangement also makes enforcement of the proposed ordinance more difficult.”

The groups said the regulation proposed in April by the Planning Department “achieves the right balance” and “entering into a deal with Airbnb before the ordinance has been passed by the City Council is both disingenuous to all the stakeholders involved in the process and counterproductive to the efforts of the department.”

They also said they are troubled “that the agreement does not require Airbnb to disclose pertinent information that is necessary to audit taxes remitted to the city.”

“We question why the city would enter into such an agreement without also outlining a methodology for audit and review,” the letter said.

The letter was signed by representatives from Keep Neighborhoods First, Unite HERE Local 11, the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), the California Hotel & Lodging Association, the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the Coalition for Economic Survival, the Hotel Association of Los Angeles, Venice Community Housing and SAJE (Strategic Action for a Just Economy).

Connie Llanos, Garcetti’s press secretary, told City News Service “this agreement simply allows Los Angeles to collect the business taxes its owed from this industry. We will continue working towards a permanent ordinance that will regulate the short-term rental industry to best meet the needs of our communities.”

Councilman Mike Bonin, who made the original motion proposing regulation of companies like Airbnb, said he stands behind the tax collection agreement because the money is needed to pay for programs to that “address the crisis of homelessness in our neighborhoods.”

City officials are depending on tax revenue from Airbnb bookings in the upcoming year to pay for “rapid re-housing” vouchers that assist homeless people with their housing costs.

“I do not want to delay for a second collecting funds that can get people off the streets and into homes — therefore I will remain especially vigilant in insisting that the our short-term rental regulations dictate how much revenue we get, and prevent potential revenue from dictating how sound and strong our regulations are,” Bonin said.