While short-term house rentals are an old school form of vacationing in comfortable lodgings, Airbnb has become the new popular choice for many of Pasadena’s tourists and the least favorite among residents.
The online marketplace where people list and book private accommodations around the world has residentials listings in neighborhoods all over Pasadena and is causing growing concerns from residents that want to see the city create regulations that currently do not exist.
“A defining feature of Pasadena is the closeness to your neighbors so I can see how having random people renting rooms in houses would raise concern for lots of folks,” said Geoffrey Baum, President of West Pasadena Residents Association.
The service has become a fixture in the the city for accommodating thousands of visitors a month during various events and exhibitions that Pasadena frequently hosts. It has become a popular way for homeowners to monetize their extra space and often profit from in-demand lodging needs. Many residents are growing weary of the baggage that comes with the influx of temporary residents in family neighborhoods.
City officials are beginning to investigate to what extent and how they can regulate a service that does not currently have to abide by any existing ordinances or zoning laws the ways that hotels and similar businesses do.
There is currently no city ordinance that addresses the presence of unconventional services like Airbnb — and the problems that can arise.
“More and more people are using this type service and as a city we have to pay close attention to the potential impact in the neighborhoods. Constituents have asked for us to do that,” said District 5 Councilmember Victor Gordo.
This issue has caused quite a stir specifically in west Pasadena near the Rose Bowl, where Airbnb transactions have become a noticeable practice. For many residents, late night parties are a nuisance to say the least where parking, littered streets, and noise complaints are regular occurrences now days.
“It’s become a mess. All of these parties destroy the peacefulness of our single family community. It wasn’t like this before Airbnb,” said Nina Chomsky, President of the Linda Vista-Annandale Association.
Residents like Chomsky feel that an ordinance should be created to enforce Airbnb properties to operate and pay taxes as a small business.
The city of Santa Monica banned short term rentals in its city last year, in which legitimate rental properties are subject to longer stay requirements and now pay occupancy tax requirements just as hotels do.
Other cities such as San Francisco and Santa Barbara have passed legislation regulating short-term vacation rentals by allowing property owners to apply for permits that grant up 30 day limits for private rental terms, according to city websites. Chomsky is certain that implementing similar legislation in Pasadena will reduce neighborhood disturbances and regulate the lucrative revenue generator that property owners are taking advantage of.
“If you’re going to put in all of this effort to use Airbnb then it shouldn’t be a problem to commit to a legitimate business practice like Santa Monica has put in place,” said Chomsky.
Airbnb’s terms of agreement highlight that the company is not responsible for any unlawful actions that are conducted as a result of their service in particular cities. In addition, they urge property owners who are using the service to research and abide by city laws and zoning codes before listing their property.
The most challenging aspect for city officials is understanding how to navigate these gray areas of business in which precedence has not been established. The advent of the constantly evolving business landscapes through apps and services like Airbnb present an out of sight, out of mind model that isn’t always easy to enforce.
“Technology is continually interfering with government regulation in terms of how they operate. We need to catch up and we need to address the situation,” said David Reyes, City of Pasadena Interim Director of Planning and Community Development.
The idea of creating a specific ordinance to regulate these services is still in its infancy stage and it is unclear what the next steps will be once sufficient research and investigation has taken place.