Will Venice Become a City of Strangers?

By Bruce Meade
Looked for a place to live in Venice lately? Then you know rents are astronomical for even the smallest spaces. Big demand, small supply.
A supply that is dwindling even further as landlords convert long-term rental units to short-term (under 30 days), which happens to be illegal in a residential zone. But since when does the law matter when Big Money is involved?
Advocates of affordable housing decry the loss of units, which squeezes the rental market even tighter.
Advocates of the “sharing economy” decry the loss of a chance to make a buck, or save a buck, as the case may be.
Here are some of the players in the short-term rental game:
Online Brokers such as AirBnB, etc.: they take their percentage from each side of the transaction and look the other way when things go south. Just another multi-million dollar industry. Tenants, be aware: if you sub-rent your place online your landlord can evict you. Most lease agreements have provisions against sub-renting, sub-leasing and against having guests over for more than a week or two. If you are a landlord, be even more aware: it is a zoning code violation to run a hotel in a residential area. Building and Safety is currently zoning in on these code violations with fines.
The Los Angeles Short Term Rental Alliance (LA-STRA) is a recently formed group of landlords alarmed by the fact that some cities, like New York and New Orleans, have already banned short-term rentals. They want to make sure Venice remains a gravy bowl of profit. They want less stringent rules and oversight on short-term rentals. If they have their way, affordable housing in Venice will be harder to find than a pay phone.
Keep Neighborhoods First is a grass-roots Venice organization set up to educate and inform the public about the onslaught of short-term rentals in Venice. Go to their website, keepneighborhoodsfirst.com, to learn more about getting involved in this looming economic issue. The Venice Neighborhood Council is currently thinking about addressing the issue: get involved by attending meetings and taking a stand.
And a final thought: just because something is profitable does not make it right. Without affordable housing, Venice can say good-bye to whatever diversity is left here. Short-term rentals, left unchecked, may turn Venice into a city of strangers.