It’s a hot Saturday afternoon in Inglewood, and Holly Tempo is preparing to host guests from Norway. In a small cottage in the backyard of her cerulean Craftsman, she waves incense, sandalwood-scented smoke trailing behind her. A guide Tempo made to direct guests to local businesses rests on a table.
Tempo relies on her Airbnb business to help make her mortgage payments. The 54-year-old artist pulls in about $2,700 on a good month—more than double what she estimates she’d earn renting the cottage to a long-term tenant, and she is booked nearly every day through November.
Airbnb has also given her the opportunity to show tourists what Inglewood has to offer.
“Inglewood is like living in a small town in a big city,” she says while walking in her garden, bringing a handful of sage to her nose. “I know the mail delivery woman, I know my neighbors. We’re lucky like that.”
Still, Tempo says, she fears that as Airbnb gains popularity in Inglewood, the platform will be abused by hosts who buy residential properties with the sole purpose of listing them on the site.
“It would make the interaction impersonal, and take away from the character of the community,” says Tempo.
The Inglewood City Council is considering a proposal to regulate short-term rentals, making it much harder, if not impossible, for hosts who don’t live in their homes.
In the next 60 days, the council is scheduled to vote on rules that would limit hosts to renting one-room in an owner-occupied home or apartment, a rule that Inglewood Mayor James Butts says is aimed at keeping units on the long-term rental market—for residents, not tourists.
But will it be too late?
Compared to longtime tourist hotspots like Venice Beach, about 10 miles west, Inglewood was slow to gain traction on Airbnb.
But in the last five years, Airbnb representatives say, the number of listings has ballooned. There are now 190 active hosts in Inglewood, which has a population of 110,598. Last year, more than 19,000 guests visited the city.
The reason for growing demand for Airbnb in Inglewood? A development boom, says Connie Llanos, Airbnb policy manager for Southern California.
“The tourism is going to happen, and there’s no way around it,” says Llanos. “With [all the development], there is no way we’re going to see all that created and not see an increase in visitors.”
Tourists are now coming to Inglewood from near and far. Tempo has hosted guests from Las Vegas and Moscow.
The excitement around a new NFL stadium, a revamped Forum, and, possibly, a Clippers arena, has made Inglewood, once known for its high crime rates, a viable option for out-of-towners who might never have considered stepping foot there.
Inglewood is home to Randy’s donuts, the ’Shaw and its Sunday afternoon lowrider cruises, the Lakers’ three-peat glory, and some of LA’s best soul food.
Neighbors know each other by name, generations of families share the same homes, and at any given time of day, silky R&B or the oompa-oompa sound of banda thump out of open windows as children play on tree-lined streets and elderly residents sit on porches to share the news of the day.
To many longtime residents, Airbnb is another driving force of change in the city that is predominately black and Latino. They fear the changes will render their neighborhoods unrecognizable—and unaffordable.
It’s still cheaper to rent in Inglewood, where the median price of a one-bedroom is $2,150, according to Zillow, than many other parts of the Los Angeles area.
Prices, however, are catching up.
Zillow data shows that since January 2016, when the NFL agreed to let the Rams and Chargers relocate to Inglewood, the cost of renting in Inglewood has jumped 20 percent. By comparison, prices across the metro area ticked up 11.7 percent.
If city officials don’t intervene to ensure the housing stock is available for residents, Airbnb and similar organizations will proliferate, take up more space, and push out longtime residents, says Derek Steele, an organizer with Uplift Inglewood.
“We want to see our community thrive,” he says. “But we want to make sure this vision for the new Inglewood includes the current Inglewood residents.”
Steele says the vision for a new Inglewood needs to include long-time residents of color.
That’s why Airbnb announced last year that it’s partnering with the NAACP to boost the number of travelers visiting communities of color, including South Los Angeles. Their goal is to “spread the economic benefits of tourism.”
“For too long, black people and other communities of color have faced barriers to access new technology and innovations,” said Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP, in announcing the initiative.
In Los Angeles, recruitment efforts kicked off in June at the Museum of African American Art at Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza with an information session attended by more than 200 residents.
It’s probably too soon to judge the program’s success; Airbnb reps said they don’t have figures on the number of minority hosts who have since signed up for the program in Los Angeles.
But Tempo, whose friends and neighbors have peppered her with questions about how Airbnb works, was inspired by the session.
She’s decided to launch a consulting business to help Inglewood residents of color use the platform. Her plan is to recruit residents who will live in their homes while renting out rooms, to keep building community.
“Airbnb needs more people of color hosting,” Tempo says. “That’s the demographic I want to help.”