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Despite Airbnb opposition, Santa Monica poised to pass tough short-term rental law

Santa Monica ordinance would ban most short-term rentals in the beach city.

Santa Monica officials tonight are poised to enact some of the region's toughest rules yet on the booming short-term rental industry, despite a pair of planned protests hoping to change their mind.

The City Council is set for a second and final vote on regulations that would outlaw most short-term rentals in the beach city, while allowing, and taxing, the more traditional "home-sharing" popularized by Airbnb. Two weeks ago, members voted unanimously to give initial approval to the plan.

But public opinion is by no means unanimous.

Dozens of residents commented at a hearing on the bill earlier this month, split about 50-50 between supporters and opponents.

Affordable housing advocates, some neighborhood groups, and a union representing hotel workers are pushing for the tough new regulations.

A number of vacation-rental owners, Airbnb hosts and companies that have sprung up to serve the fast-growing industry spoke up against the bill. And a top executive at vacation rental site Homeaway recently called the measure "really bad public policy."

Now two groups -- one organized by Airbnb and the other an independent association of short-term rental hosts -- are planning protests before tonight's meeting, asking the Council to consider changes.

The second of those groups, the Los Angeles Short-Term Rental Alliance, said Monday that the banning of a long-established practice in Santa Monica could trigger lawsuits.

"We believe this legislation is flawed, constitutionally questionable and likely to lead to litigation,” said Robert St. Genis, LASTRA's director of operations.

Those protests will be held outside Santa Monica City Hall before the meeting. No public comment is scheduled on the matter at the meeting itself, and city staffers say changes to legislation at this stage in the process are unlikely.

Keep an eye on housing and real estate in Southern California. Follow me on Twitter at @bytimlogan

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