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Cities Nationwide File Briefs Supporting Santa Monica's Homesharing Law
By Jorge Casuso
July 18, 2019 -- Cities across the country are supporting Santa Monica's efforts to defend its homesharing law as a California Appeals Court decides whether to reconsider a case filed by online platforms.
Last week, eleven cities and counties filed an amicus brief responding to a petition by Airbnb and HomeAway.com calling for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its March ruling upholding the City's law.
The cities -- including San Francisco, Seattle, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. -- were joined by the Public Rights Project, a nonpartisan nonprofit that supports local and state efforts to uphold their laws.
The brief cites the “proliferation of short-term rentals” in these cities that has reduced “the number of rental units otherwise available for permanent rental housing.”
It defends Santa Monica's effort to “strike an appropriate balance between encouraging the innovation of the short-term rental market and preserving and increasing access to affordable housing.”
The briefs were filed after the Appeals Court on March 13 affirmed Santa Monica's right to penalize online platforms for booking short-term rentals of properties not licensed under the city's law ("Appeals Court Affirms Santa Monica's Right to Regulate Online Homesharing Platforms," March 13, 2019).
Considered the strictest in the nation, the 2015 ordinance outlawed the rental of an entire unit for less than 30 days, made hosts legally accountable for nuisance violations and required them to list their units on a City registry and pay a hotel tax.
The plaintiffs argued that the law illegally required them to police their sites, but the judge found that, instead, it prevented unlawful business transactions on their websites and did not violate the plaintiffs' First Amendment Rights.
They asked the court to reconsider and on July 1, the City filed a response.
It said the court correctly ruled that the law is "an essential element of City efforts to preserve housing in the face of rising residential rents and unauthorized vacation rentals."
The Appeals Court ruling upheld a U.S. District Court ruling last summer dismissing the lawsuit filed by Airbnb and HomeAway.com.
Amicus briefs were also filed by associations representing the apartment and rental housing industries and UNITE HERE International Union, which represents hotel and retail workers.
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