LA cracks down on illegal hostels in low-density neighborhoods 

Inexpensive lodging associated with backpackers in Europe are linked to crime in SoCal

LA Cracks Down on Illegal Hostels in Low-Density Areas
Councilwoman Heather Hutt with 2125 South West View Street (City of Los Angeles, Google Maps, Getty)

Illegal hostels are opening up in Los Angeles neighborhoods, where residents say passing-through tenants have brought crime, drug use, noise and unsafe streets.

The hostels, associated with backpackers and young travelers willing to sleep on dorm-style beds in Europe, have caused a city crackdown in such neighborhoods as Mid-City Heights, the Los Angeles Times reported.

In L.A., landlords of the illegal hostels can charge $25 a night. While illegal in low-density neighborhoods such as Mid-City Heights, they can operate with a permit in high-density neighborhoods such as Koreatown.

A recent Times search of an online booking site found seven L.A. hostels advertised in low-density residential areas where the city’s Planning Department says they’re not allowed.

An October motion from City Councilwoman Heather Hutt found at least 28 illegal hostels operating in Council District 10 — which includes Koreatown, parts of South L.A., Mid-City Heights and Mid-City at large.

Hutt’s motion said neighbors have complained crimes are “radiating from these properties,” including battery and drug use, with police getting “heightened” calls for service.

In December, the City Council approved the motion, while ordering multiple departments to draw up a plan to crack down on illegal hostels. It also set up an enforcement task force targeting Mid-City.

Devyn Bakewell, a spokeswoman for Hutt, said the task force’s work is ongoing and that the city attorney has issued “citations to certain addresses and has put several locations on notice about illegal land use.”

In Mid-City Heights, residents say officials should act faster as at least one hostel still appears open for business. They also complain about the behavior of residents in sober living homes, which also rent to short-term residents.

The uses Mid City-Heights residents cite as concerns exist in a type of housing that has grown increasingly common in some Los Angeles neighborhoods where single-family homes sit on lots the city has long zoned for a few more units, according to the Times.

Developers are knocking down small, old houses and building multi-story box-like buildings with as many as five bedrooms. At some developments, there are two new duplexes on a lot, while others have a new single-family home on one side and a duplex on the other.

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Since the new buildings went up, some in Mid-City Heights say they’ve noticed an increase in strangers, some of them aggressive, walking the streets. They also say they’ve found more syringes, condoms and other trash.

With more duplex developments underway, neighbors are worried. They maintain they would welcome them if people were looking for a permanent home. They want temporary stays to end.

“We are being oversaturated,” Roxana Brusso, who has owned a home in the neighborhood since 2008, told the Times. “The city is asking us to sacrifice our safety, quality of life and property values.

Last year, the Department of Building and Safety cited a newly built duplex for use as an unapproved hostel. The building appears to no longer be used as such, according to neighbors.

On the other side of the street, LA Modern Hostel received the same citation more than a year ago at 2125 South West View Street. Two Times reporters booked beds there in early May.

Built in 2021, the three-story box sits on a fifth-acre lot. In the back is a duplex, built the same year.

This year, police were called to the address to investigate reports of two disturbances, a theft, an instance of vandalism and a battery. In a three-day span last year, police responded to reports of an assault with a deadly weapon, a prowler, a burglary and a disturbance.

LAPD Officer Hector Marquez said issues — including loitering, theft allegations and disputes — have spilled into the neighborhood from the property and disrupted residents’ quality of life.

In several emails, a man identifying himself as the property’s owner thanked The Times for its reporting and said his “tenants” have agreed to close the “boarding house” before a June hearing date and convert it into family living.

— Dana Bartholomew

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