Venice landlord says city is using the coronavirus pandemic to settle a score

Councilmember Mike Bonin says the Ellison’s short-term tenants pose a health risk to its long-term, stabilized tenants

TRD LOS ANGELES /
Apr.April 08, 2020 01:00 PM
Councilmember Mike Bonin and the Ellison (Credit: Google Maps)
Councilmember Mike Bonin and the Ellison (Credit: Google Maps)

The Los Angeles City Council is trying to immediately shut down what it considers to be an illegal hotel in Venice, citing safety concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic. But the owner says it’s little more than a convenient opportunity to exact revenge upon him.

The Council on Tuesday unanimously passed Councilmember Mike Bonin’s motion asking the city attorney’s office to stop the owners of the 58-unit Ellison building from renting out short-term rooms, according to the L.A. Times.

The city sued the Ellison’s owners – Lance Jay Robbins and two other companies – late last month for running a de facto hotel in violation of the city’s short-term rental ordinance that came into effect last fall.

The Ellison is legally classified as an apartment building and has several long-term residents, but its owners rent some units for shorter stays, claiming the building should be classified as a hotel.
Those residents reportedly complained to the city that the short-term renters posed a health risk.

Bonin’s motion claimed that the Ellison’s owners are cutting rates to attract short-term renters, many whom “continue to socialize day and night, disregarding social distancing requirements, and causing elderly and sick longtime residents to fear for their health.”

Thomas Nitti, an attorney representing the Ellison owners, said that his clients were unfairly being singled out and called Bonin’s motion a public relations stunt. Nitti and Robbins say the Ellison was historically rented for short stays and should not have been classified by the city as an apartment house.

Nitti told the LA Times that Bonin has been trying to shut down the property for several years and accused him of using the pandemic as his “newest excuse” to shut down the building.
Last summer, Bonin called the Ellison the “poster child” for the illegal short-term rental issue in the city.

In the fourth quarter, L.A. County had the most short-term rentals and the highest proportion of rentals to hotel rooms of any county in the country. The number has plummeted since the ordinance took effect, however. [LAT]Dennis Lynch


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