The battle over home-sharing in Los Angeles is about to heat up again as an ordinance to regulate the industry goes before a Los Angeles City Council planning committee as early as this week.
Airbnb Inc., Homeaway.com Inc., and other home-sharing platforms, along with their hosts, are expected to battle hoteliers, apartment landlords, and neighborhood activists over how long rooms can be rented out, among other things.
The city has no limits on rental time, which home-sharing critics said has allowed many residences and multifamily buildings to be turned into de facto full-time hotels. The ordinance under consideration caps the number of days home-sharing hosts can rent out their rooms at 180 a year.
L.A. city planners had originally proposed a 90-day cap, but the Planning Commission doubled that last June after lobbying from Airbnb and its hosts. The panel recommendations also include a cap of 15 days for properties that the owner does not live in.
But hotel operators and neighborhood activists have strongly objected to the 180-day cap, saying it still turns many homes and multifamily buildings into de facto hotels.
“Short-term rentals … have now become a commercial enterprise going after the heart of the hotel business,” Bob Amano, president of the Los Angeles Hotel Association, said last year. “Renting out rooms for more than 90 days will allow owners to continue making this a profitable enterprise at the expense of legitimate hotels.”
Airbnb has said it doesn’t want to destroy local rental markets, agreeing to the 180-day cap because the company believes anything longer than that gives a financial incentive for landlords to take their units off the rental market and convert to short-term rentals.
State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones recommended in May that workers’ compensation insurers lower their premiums 16.5 percent to a rate of $2.02 per $100 of payroll for policies renewing after July 1.
The somewhat unusual recommendation for a midyear rate reduction came after new industry data showed continuing declines in workers’ comp claims costs for insurers four years after reforms took effect.
Under the state’s deregulated workers’ compensation system, the commissioner does not have the authority to order insurers to make rate cuts; he can only jawbone them. By his own admission, Jones has not been all that successful in previous attempts to get insurers to dramatically lower their rates to reflect the magnitude of the cost drop.
“There is no legal requirement that these insurers pass these cost savings on to employers, so workers’ compensation insurers continue to file pure premium rates that are higher than the pure premium rate warranted by their costs,” Jones said in a statement announcing his recommended cut.
The current rate of $2.42 per $100 payroll puts California among the top three states for workers’ compensation costs, according to the latest annual report of workers’ compensation insurance rates released in October by the Oregon Department of Insurance.
Refinery Safety Rules
In response to a series of explosions and other incidents at the state’s refineries, the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board in May adopted a regulation to tighten safety standards at refineries, including the six major operations in Los Angeles County.
The regulation aims to reduce safety hazards to minimize the chances for incidents similar to the fire at Chevron Corp.’s Richmond refinery in 2012 and the explosion in 2015 at a Torrance refinery now operated by PBF Energy.
“This is the most protective regulation in the nation for the safety and health of refinery workers and surrounding communities,” Christine Baker, director of the state Department of Industrial Relations, said in a statement. “This new regulation will ensure California’s oil refineries are operated with the highest levels of safety possible and with injury and illness prevention in mind.”
Among other things, the regulation requires refinery operators to keep written safety procedures, to more thoroughly take into account the chance for human error when developing safety protocols, and to rank the implementation of safety controls by overall effectiveness in reducing hazardous incidents.
But the oil industry maintains these regulations are too burdensome and not well thought out.
“This is another case of agencies writing new regulations because they think it’s a good idea and working out the details later, without regard to the impact on our business economy or workforce,” Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States Petroleum Association, said in a statement.
Staff reporter Howard Fine can be reached at email@example.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 227.
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