Santa Monica Evicts Airbnb: The War on Homesharing

The popular "homesharing" service made it affordable to book a beachfront property in Santa Monica. Then the city intervened.

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Airbnb host Scott Shatford was the perfect target for Santa Monica, California's newly formed Vacation Rental Enforcement Task Force: a slick, unapologetic entrepreneur exploiting a regulatory loophole to make a ton of money in a saturated housing market.

It didn't matter to city officials that Shatford was part of the dynamic, burgeoning "homesharing" economy that was bringing millions in tax revenue to Santa Monica. He was blatantly disregarding the city's unanimously passed ban on short-term vacation rentals, literally gloating that the regulation was "not that enforceable."

Santa Monica's beachfront views and iconic attractions draw more than 7 million tourists to the oceanside city annually, but a room with a view at the Loews goes for between $400-500 a night. While they might not get room service or robes, tourists proved eager to book spacious, well-kept homes on Airbnb that were generally cheaper than a hotel. Around 2008, thousands of condos, houses, and apartments began appearing in the 8.3-square mile beachside suburb.

At the same time, the most enterprising Airbnb hosts started raking in serious cash. Shatford claims he was earning more than $400,000 in revenue off seven properties at his peak.

Then in 2015, the city task force booked one of Shatford's newly-illegal rental properties for four nights at a cost of $1,200.

"I think that they wanted to make an example out of me because I was a bit more in the public eye," says Shatford. "I was vocal about how I thought the regulation was unjust, about how I thought there was possibly corruption on the city council."

So what was behind the city's crackdown? Officials with the city of Santa Monica declined to be interviewed for this story, but records show that several took large campaign contributions from the city's hotel lobby and the "renter's rights" interest group that believes Airbnb is responsible for driving up rents.

The city took Shatford to court and ended up reaching a $3,500 settlement. He's since left Santa Monica for the more Airbnb-friendly city of Denver, Colorado.

"What Scott is doing is creating wealth," says Christina Sandefur, a lawyer with the free-market oriented Goldwater Institute. "What the city of Santa Monica has done is destroyed wealth [by driving out]…people like [Shatford] who found a way to offer a service to people that they wouldn't have otherwise [had]."

Sandefur says what happened in Santa Monica is part of a nationwide trend: Airbnb and other homesharing sites are under siege in places like Chicago, Kauai, and New York, which just issued its first illegal rental fines yesterday.

For more, watch the full video above.

Produced by Zach Weissmueller. Graphics by Josh Swain. Music by Josh Woodward, Chris Zabriskie, and Jahzzar.

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  1. OH MY GOD REASON ENOUGH JUST STOP JUST STOP WITH YOUR TRUMP HATING LIBERTARIAN NONSENSE

    1. My last month paycheck was for 11000 dollars… All i did was simple online work from comfort at home for 3-4 hours/day that I got from this agency I discovered over the internet and they paid me for it 95 bucks every hour… This is what I do

      =========================== http://www.4dayjobs.com

  2. I got about halfway through the article before I realized it was “Scott Shatford” and not “Scott Shackford.”

    1. Totally different. Shatford is an associate editor at Raisin magazine

      1. What tipped me of when I stopped and said to myself “How the hell does Scott afford beachfront property writing for Reason?”

      2. I laughed way too hard at this. I probably didn’t need that second cup of coffee.

    2. It’s Scott without the goatee.

    3. Shackford sometimes becomes Shatford after especially long and grueling nights of being the catcher.

      1. Stay classy, Mikey.

    4. I wonder if his friends call him “Shat?” I know I would.

  3. “California’s newly formed Vacation Rental Enforcement Task Force

    That totally does not sound Orwellian at all and is definitely an essential task for government.

    1. I assume that the budget for said task force is also likely larger than the so-called lost tax revenues.

    2. Needs more Force.

    3. It’s not Orwell, it’s literally Hitler. The Nazi’s wanted to micromanage everyone’s life, right down to their vacations. They even created these huge resort hotels and lotteried off chances to win a getaway at their little fascist paradise. It’s a little explored bit of trivia that shows just how totalitarian the endgame was. I imagine the agency in charge of the resort would have had a similar name.

      1. -1 Wilhelm Gustloff

    4. What, you thought you owned your property and could invite whoever you wanted over? Think again, Anarchist!

      /sarc

  4. Shreek’s off his meds today.

  5. If Airbnb is responsible for driving up rates, shouldn’t the same be true of hotels? That’s potential housing real-estate; instead it’s used to cater to travelers. They could convert all those rooms into low-cost rentals for the poor.

  6. Scott Shatford

    You’ve gotta be shatting me

  7. On the bright side this could provide the premise for a reboot of Three’s Company. This time Mr. Roper is a member of the Vacation Rental Enforcement Task Force.

    1. Come and kick down my door.

      1. Nice.

    2. This time Jack is a gender fluid Muslim, and Crissy and Janet are lesbian otherkins who sometimes think they are otters.

    3. Sort of a Hogan’s Heroes for the 21st century.

  8. but a room with a view at the Loews goes for between $400-500 a night

    $500 a night?! And what, I gotta sleep on a pile of 2×4’s and get out before the morning rush at 8am?! No thank you.

    1. I was thinking on a sticky, popcorn-covered floor but yeah.

    2. Is that where the day-laborers in the parking lot sleep?

  9. I bet they are shocked that going full SJW isn’t going to hold off the lefty hordes that hate this type of economic freedom.

  10. A group of prominent Republicans and business leaders backing a tax on carbon dioxide were taking their case Wednesday to top White House aides, including chief economic adviser Gary Cohn.

    The group, including former Treasury Secretaries Hank Paulson and James Baker, is pressing President Donald Trump to tax carbon dioxide in exchange for abolishing a slew of environmental regulations. They unveiled their plan with a press conference in Washington and an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.

    “We know we have an uphill slog to get Republicans interested in this,” Baker said before heading to the White House. But “a conservative, free-market approach is a very Republican way of approaching the problem.”

    http://www.bloomberg.com/polit…..egulations

    Hopefully Trump will politely tell these people to go fuck themselves. Assuming he does, thank God he took over the GOP and got rid of these assholes.

    1. Any attempt at that will not get past the House.

      1. How out of touch with reality can these assholes be?

        1. Rent seeker are gonna rent seek.

          1. And I love the way they approach the solution to this bullshit raising energy rates. They’ll just create subsidies and hand those out. IOW, let’s shuffle this money around and skim some off the top. It actually sounds very close to money laundering.

            1. Yes, they love to create systems they can then tweak and game to reward supporters and punish enemies.

            2. The entire point of a carbon tax is to make energy artificially expensive. That way we use less of it and thus produce less carbon. More expensive energy is totally the way you obtain economic prosperity.

              1. I remember back when I was a little kid. The adults were always making jokes about how one day someone will charge for water. Imagine if I could have come back from the future and told them ‘Not only that, but they’re going to tax the air’.

                1. My WAC veteran mother remembers Uncle Sam paying an “air tax” on her behalf to France when she was stationed in Orleans in the early 1960’s.

    2. Abolish the income tax and then let’s talk.

      1. Actually, I take that back. A carbon tax would be the most regressive tax ever proposed.

      2. In return for rolling back a few environmental regulations, we can now have effectively a VAT tax in addition to the income tax. Yeah, that is a great idea.

        1. Because carbon is the worst polluting thing ever. Worse than mercury and lead even.

          1. That is right. And I should know because I FUCKING LOVE SCIENCE!!

          2. Oh shit, i just added some carbon to the atmosphere! Oh shit, i just did it again!

          3. Plants really hate that one simple trick.

    3. Of course a government driven and enforced tax, whose proceeds I’m assuming aren’t actually going to mitigate any problems caused by the CO2, is a free market solution, just like not allowing companies to innovate with new products and contracts (net neutrality) is promoting competition and having the government pay for everything and assign people jobs, which allows them to make all necessary decision, is promoting freedom, etc. The socialist redefinition scheme is alive and well in all parties, it seems.

    4. “We know we have an uphill slog to get Republicans interested in this,” Baker said before heading to the White House. But “a conservative, free-market approach is a very Republican way of approaching the problem.”

      Like Obamacare.

    5. Replacing regulations with a carbon tax my actually not be such a bad thing if you want to make sure that carbon will stay around forever as a fuel (and revenue) source. Also see cigarette taxes.

    6. But “a conservative, free-market approach is a very Republican way of approaching the problem.”

      DC, Miami, LA, and San Francisco are flooded? Where is the problem?

  11. I’m still for opening the borders and welcoming in the entire 3rd world. On condition that they be able to build makeshift dwelling all over Beverly Hills and other exclusive areas in Cali. After all, the people living in those places are super compassionate, unlike mean ol libertarians. And don’t worry if the makeshift dwelling are unable to meet safety standards, the current residents will give their own money to bring them up to code.

    1. Wait, you mean the people living in gate communities object to a wall being built…

    2. Please add Park Slope (Brooklyn), Capitol Hill and Georgetown (DC), and Cambridge, MA to that list too.

      1. Oh yeah, can’t leave them out of the fun. Instead of a Tesla parked in your driveway, a makeshift dwelling in your back yard housing 50 refugees will be the new social signaling that’s all the rage.

    1. Is that for real? Please tell me, that’s a parody?

      1. I know you’re excited about the forthcoming headlines “Bill Nye DESTROYS climate skeptics in 60 seconds!”

        1. Wait, he’s moved past wanting them locked up to actual violence now?

        2. “Bill Nye DESTROYS climate skeptics in 60 seconds!”

          …with special guest climate expert, Leonardo DiCaprio!

        3. Yeah, he’s convinced me.

  12. Dems: We learned it from watching YOU!

    To be sure, Franken, 65, may not be the Demo?crats’ strongest can?did?ate in the gen?er?al elec?tion. His deeply lib?er?al polit?ics and long-stand?ing dis?missive?ness of Re?pub?lic?ans turn off many voters in the middle. But with Demo?crats look?ing for strident op?pos?i?tion to Trump in the early days of his pres?id?ency, they’re prob?ably not go?ing to be in a prag?mat?ic mood in the primar?ies. So far, much of the lib?er?al ex?cite?ment has centered around Sens. Eliza?beth War?ren and Bernie Sanders, but they will be 71 and 79, re?spect?ively, dur?ing the gen?er?al elec?tion. Neither has shown any abil?ity to win sup?port out?side the most pro?gress?ive pre?cincts. Franken, at least, can point to a re?cord of elect?ab?il?ity with groups that Demo?crats will need to win over.

    1. A Franken ad?viser told Na?tion?al Journ?al he’s likely to find “some com?mon ground” with Trump on trade is?sues. He’s akin to Sen. Sher?rod Brown of Ohio, with more star power to ex?cite the mil?len?ni?als and non?whites who make up so much of the Demo?crat?ic Party’s base.

      Nothing is going to excite the yutes and the minorities like a 70 year old has been white guy comedy actor. What, is Chevy Chase not available?

    2. So.. he’s good enough, he’s smart enough, and doggone it, people like him?

    3. Yeah, the country really needs Stuart Smalley. Yikes! They should run a Warren/Ellison ticket and their campaign theme should be all about how those deplorables are racists, sexists, and Islmaphobes. It’s a winner. I’ll volunteer to be their campaign manager. “Listen up, white people, don’t vote for us, we don’t need your privileged votes!”.

    4. So 71 year old Fauxcahontas is too old, but 69 year old Franken is in his prime?

      1. It’s that well-known prejudice against older women, is what.

        1. Patriarchy!

    5. Franken, at least, can point to a re?cord of elect?ab?il?ity with groups that Demo?crats will need to win over.

      The people who stuff the ballot boxes?

  13. No wonder AirBNB had to SJW it up so much during the Super Bowl…it’s basically corporate self-defense from their own base.

  14. literally gloating that the regulation was “not that enforceable.”

    Yes it is, Shatford.

    Then in 2015, the city task force booked one of Shatford’s newly-illegal rental properties for four nights at a cost of $1,200.

    “I think that they wanted to make an example out of me because I was a bit more in the public eye,” says Shatford. “I was vocal about how I thought the regulation was unjust, about how I thought there was possibly corruption on the city council.”

    Yes, they did, Shatford.

    The city took Shatford to court and ended up reaching a $3,500 settlement. He’s since left Santa Monica for the more Airbnb-friendly city of Denver, Colorado

    And no one on the city council weeps, Shatford. Because that’s how power works.

    1. Would you say he got the shat end of the stick?

  15. Raging stupid in action: Pollution-fighting Vertical Forest buildings coming to China:
    Matched 30 and 60 story building, festooned with trees, that generate oxygen. Good deal, right? Millions of dollars spent on this greenery, the catchment and irrigation system, that will produce enough oxygen for only 75 people, BEFORE you count any energy use to get the water up to plants 300′ up from ground level. And that’s using THEIR figures!

    But I guess you need SOMEWHERE to drive on your solar roads.

  16. Santa Monica Evicts Airbnb: The War on Homesharing = Prog Moment!!!

  17. Santa Monica is probably one of the most overrated places on the face of the earth. The pier was used in some movies and that’s one of its main attractions for outsiders. If you want to see majestic parts of CA you probably have to go north.

    I feel for the Airbnb hosts who have lost their income stream in that city, but I’m not gonna shed any tears for the company, which is a obviously a leftist coven trying to make cash by skirting regulations that their party so fabulously crams down our throats.

    Their Super Bowl ad says they “accept” everyone. So if I was Airbnb host, I have to accept anyone into my OWN home? Get out of here. I’m not going to let a bunch of women’s marchers into my home on principle. Of course they don’t have to sign me up as a host.

    Any day now the progs who run these businesses will grasp the danger of dem controlled cities that can wipe out entire businesses on nothing more than angry people marching on streets. ANY day now.

  18. “Shatford claims he was earning more than $400,000 in revenue off seven properties at his peak.”

    Off topic to the main point of the post, but is that annual revenue? Because that return on capital doesn’t seem very good if it is. Zillow says the median home value is Santa Monica is $1.4 million. So even if these are lower-end properties valued at roughly half that, it would be a $400k return on $5 million of investment. That’s only an 8% return before expenses (property taxes, repairs and maintenance, cleaning, listing fees, etc.)

  19. My last month paycheck was for 11000 dollars… All i did was simple online work from comfort at home for 3-4 hours/day that I got from this agency I discovered over the internet and they paid me for it 95 bucks every hour… This is what I do

    =========================== http://www.4dayjobs.com

  20. “You don’t own that”

  21. Santa Monica should use eminent domain to seize these properties and convert them to mass housing for refugees and illegal immigrants. This would be moral and kind, greatly please some of Hollywood’s rich, rich, rich, rich elites and weaken arguments that they didn’t pay their fair share of taxes.

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