Hmm: LA Times now calls neighborhood council members 'officials'

Thumbnail image for city-hall-with-palms.jpgIt's not clear in Monday's LA Times story about the controversy over Airbnb rentals in Silver Lake that the editors realize that the neighborhood isn't a legal entity and doesn't have its own "officials," any more than the Laurel Canyon or Mount Washington have officials. In a confounding graf you might expect from an out-of-town publication, the story says: "Echoing concerns in other cities, officials in Silver Lake complain that Airbnb has taken over their community. The neighborhood council is contemplating a crackdown to reduce noise, traffic and parking problems." Hmm: a crackdown — by the officials of Silver Lake. There's no mention or even a hint that the reporter understands that under the Los Angeles form of government, a crackdown has to come from actual officials with legal authority, those employed by the city of Los Angeles or elected to the City Council downtown. In the meantime, renting space in your home via Airbnb appears to be legal across the city of Los Angeles — from Silver Lake to Lake View Terrace to Lake Balboa and Westlake.

The neighborhood council activists in Silver Lake may do great and selfless work, but the fact is that just about all such advisory councils in Los Angeles are widely ignored in their own communities. They may or may not be listened to by actual city officials, depending on the politics of the specific situation. (Some have more of a voice than others.) Neither of the LA City Council members who split responsibility for Silver Lake are mentioned in the story, so we don't find out if they are inclined to invoke a crackdown.

By the way, in the local blog item more than two weeks ago that almost certainly guided the Times to the story, The Eastsider LA does understand the limited role of neighborhood councils in Los Angeles. It discusses a motion under study by a committee of the Silver Lake group.

The motion, if adopted by the planning committee and full neighborhood council, would recommend that the Los Angeles City Council prohibit such short-term rentals in Silver Lake.

The Times story doesn't even suggest that City Hall is where this controversy will play out, if at all. Any move by the City Council to restrict short-term rentals would face potentially fascinating political and regulatory obstacles — especially if the move tries to limit the activity only in one little neighborhood like Silver Lake. None of that is raised. The reader who flagged the story for me emailed: "There are not many things that drive me nuttier than this...This is bush league nonsense - the city can choose to regulate Airbnb like any other city, but Silver Lake cannot. I will give props to the [neighborhood council] for pulling it off — getting an article written as if they write the laws of a city of almost 4 million while representing 50,000 is pretty impressive."

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