L.A. City Council approves law requiring Airbnb hosts to get police permits

LOS ANGELES, CA - December 13, 2022: City Council President Paul Krekorian presides at LA City Council meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022 in Los Angeles, CA. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
City Council President Paul Krekorian, shown in 2022, supports a new ordinance requiring police permits for operators of Airbnb units. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
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The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday approved a law that will require hosts of short-term rentals, including Airbnbs, and hotels to obtain a police permit.

City Council President Paul Krekorian and other backers of the proposal said the permit requirement will help the city crack down on party houses and properties that draw illicit behavior.

More broadly, it will create a new regulatory hurdle for short-term rental and hotel operators, allowing the City Council and neighborhoods to challenge the issuance of the permits.

The council voted 14 to 0 in favor of the law. Councilmember Kevin de León was absent.

Despite supporting the police permit requirement, some council members voiced concerns that it would increase the workload of the Los Angeles Police Department, which issues the permits.

Also, Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson on Tuesday asked the city to look at potential alternatives to the police permit for short-term rental hosts. Harris-Dawson's request gave hope to some in the short-term rental industry that the city will eventually drop the permit requirement.

Dozens of businesses, including car valet operators, antique stores and bowling alleys, already need a police permit to operate in Los Angeles. Many permits require criminal background checks and initial fees can be hundreds of dollars.

The police permit requirement was part of a package of regulations targeting new hotels that was announced earlier this month.

The regulations are a compromise between the city and the hotel workers union, which initially sought to force a ballot measure vote related to hotel rooms and the housing of homeless residents.

Under the ordinance passed by the council on Tuesday, new hotels will go through a more extensive approval process. Hotel developers also will be required to replace any housing that is demolished to make way for their projects, by building new residential units or buying and renovating existing ones.

Read more: L.A. Airbnb hosts are charging higher rates and raking in big payouts amid city crackdown

Minakshi Dahya, who said she runs several hotels, told the council at Tuesday's meeting that the police permit requirement had been “slipped in out of nowhere" into the hotel law.

“Where did this come from?" Dahya said. "Why is [the Police Department] involved when [the police do not have] enough time to help crimes or any other issues that are not being addressed?”

Councilmember John Lee, who represents Porter Ranch and other west San Fernando Valley neighborhoods, sought to separate the police permit issue from the rest of the hotel ordinance, but failed to get support from his colleagues at Tuesday's meeting.

“Stakeholders have not been aware of this proposed expansion of the police permitting process until a few weeks ago,” Lee said. “I want to make it clear that I share the concerns expressed by our minority small business owners."

Several Airbnb hosts expressed alarm about the proposal at a council committee hearing last week, calling the requirement of a police permit excessive and saying they don't want to be fingerprinted as part of a criminal background check. Others questioned the price of the permits.

"I just ask that you not buckle us in with doing extra hoops to jump through and extra police checks and extra fees,” Kevin Stevens, a homeowner in North Hollywood, told council members.

Peter Hillan, a spokesperson for the Hotel Assn. of Los Angeles, said Monday that he didn’t know how many of the association's 600 members already have police permits, but said the group is concerned about the requirement.

LAPD Lt. Scott Moffitt told the council at Tuesday's meeting that the requirement would triple the workload for the department.

“Key on that is that we would be draining from existing department resources,” Moffitt said.

A recent report by the LAPD suggested initial fees of $260 for short-term rental operators. Krekorian said the fees haven't been finalized and that he is hopeful that the background check can be done without fingerprinting.

“My goal is to make [obtaining a police permit] as easy and painless and nearly automatic as I can,” Krekorian said. “The idea will be that if someone applies for it, unless there's some complaint from someone, that it would be routinely granted.”

Airbnb declined to comment Tuesday. The draft law will return Friday to the council for another vote.

There are approximately 6,725 short-term rental units listed with the city, according to the city's Planning Department.

Under the proposal, the police permit would be issued to the operator of the short-term rental unit. A criminal history would disqualify a host from being able to receive the permit, Moffitt said.

Read more: Elizabeth Hirschhorn moves out of Brentwood Airbnb after 570 rent-free days. She said she had a right to stay

Kurt Petersen, co-president of Unite Here Local 11, which represents thousands of hotel workers, said the police permit requirement would help end "illegal short-term rentals," which he blamed for worsening the homelessness crisis.

Karo Torossian, Krekorian’s chief of staff, said the issue of the police permits emerged during talks with the hotel union and hotel industry.

“We discovered that there was this additional section that would help further protect communities and the traveling public,” Torossian said.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.