Another sharing economy service is facing scrutiny from city of L.A. officials. This one involves the ability of car owners participating in peer-to-peer rental service Turo to park their vehicles on city streets in between rentals.

The trouble began in the fall when Westchester residents and business owners noticed an unusual number of cars parked for a day or two at a time along Manchester Boulevard near Los Angeles International Airport. The vehicles were obeying the posted time limits or, where no limits are posted, the citywide maximum of parking three days in the same spot. Nonetheless, the vehicles were taking those spaces away from local residents and businesses.

After some sleuthing by residents and help from the office of City Councilman Mike Bonin, who represents the area, the licenses of more than a dozen of those parked vehicles were traced to car owner members of Turo, a San Francisco car rental sharing service that entered the L.A. market five years ago.

City officials then invoked an often-overlooked part of the parking code: It is illegal to park vehicles on public rights-of-way as a means to make money.

David Graham-Caso, Bonin’s spokesman, said the vehicle owners have been benefitting from the free parking on city streets in between rental periods instead of paying to have their vehicles stored with private parking operators. Those operators charge at least $15 a day.

“Those spaces are meant for residents and their guests and business customers, not as part of a money-making operation involving vehicles,” Graham-Caso said.

While many Turo participants might not realize it’s illegal for them to store their vehicles on city streets, he said it is Turo’s responsibility to inform its members of this.

In the fall, both Los Angeles World Airports and the Bureau of Street Services sent what were essentially “cease-and-desist” letters to Turo. After several months without a satisfactory response, last week Bonin went further: He introduced a motion asking for authority for the street bureau to enforce all laws related to the public right-of-way.

A Turo executive said last week that the company previously did not know of the parking situation.

“While Turo was unaware of this issue until … Bonin filed his motion, we are very clear with our community members that they are obligated to obey all local parking regulations,” Turo general counsel Michelle Fang said in an emailed statement. “We welcome any information the city or LAWA can provide to help us identify and reach out to any of our customers who may be unwittingly violating these ordinances, so we may urge them to swiftly find alternative storage for their vehicles.”

Smoked Out

Tougher prohibitions against outdoor smoking go into effect this week in Beverly Hills, though the restrictions would have been even tougher if it were not for protest from businesses.

Starting on Friday, smoking will be prohibited within 20 feet of open-air dining areas except while actively passing by, instead of the current 5-foot limit.

The new restrictions also ban smoking on sidewalks and in alleyways, except for people actively walking through.

While the difference between 5 feet and 20 feet might seem trivial, it is enough to put to an end the practice of smokers just ducking a few feet from their outdoor dining tables to take a puff.

“Now everyone can enjoy Beverly Hills’ beautiful outdoor spaces without breathing second-hand smoke,” Mayor Lili Bosse said in a statement.

The restrictions were actually a compromise developed after an extensive protest from several members of the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce. The city has been looking at more draconian options, including a complete citywide smoking ban in spaces of public gathering and a complete ban on smoking in hotels.

According to a letter that Todd Johnson, chief executive of the chamber, sent out last month to the organization’s members, dozens of Beverly Hills companies joined in the protest campaign, including top hotels and restaurants.

“This impressive coalition persuaded the City Council to adopt a compromise that we believe will adequately protect the interests of our business community,” Johnson said.

The city is still considering whether to prohibit smoking in apartment buildings and condos.

Staff reporter Howard Fine can be reached at hfine@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 227.

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