A Safer Stay with Airbnb, A Downtown Divided on ArtWalk

One of the most popular ways visitors stay Downtown is through Airbnb, the list-your-own-lodging home-sharing site. As Airbnb users ourselves, we've thoroughly enjoyed the luxury of playing like locals, having an apartment to temporarily call our own while traveling. When out of town guests come visit us, but want more space than our own homes can provide, we generally put them up in Airbnbs as a more affordable, more Downtown authentic option than most hotels. But Airbnb is coming under increased controversy. Most of the backlash is around gentrification issues. In cities all over, people are snatching up rentals just to use them as an Airbnb listing, artificially driving up the rental market, turning homes into hotels. But this week, our eyes were opened to an entirely new pitfall - its liability. LA writer Zak Stone released a powerful article on Airbnb and the sharing economy at large in the wake of his father's death, which occurred during his family's Airbnb stay. It was truly a freak accident; very very few people have ever died at one of the site's rentals. But the incident and Zak's investigation that followed reveal how little Airbnb does to stop negligence and ensure the listings are safe places to stay. Their M.O. is to get as many listings as possible - quantity over quality - under the guise of good hospitality. Yes, that's where Airbnb's ratings system comes in, but it's easy for a made bed and a kitchen and a home to seem great, until it's not at all.  Anything can of course happen anywhere. But if Airbnb claims, "hospitality is both who we are and what we do," it needs to take better steps to ensure that listed homes are safe places to prevent tragedies like Zak's father's.     •

Downtown ArtWalk is this Thursday night. Prior to the last event, we shared some of the local community's sentiments about the monthly gathering. The response was impressive - frankly, it was the first time since starting this email correspondence that many people spoke to us about one thing we'd written. Interestingly, the comments were on all sides. Several spoke in strong support of ArtWalk, and they have good reason to. With a shrinking gallery scene in the Historic Core, ArtWalk is a crucial reminder of the galleries and artists's spaces that are still here, several of which only open their doors to the public on the second Thursday of the month event. Beyond the night of, ArtWalk also supports artists and educates visitors through organized mural tours and gallery crawls, and has been an instrumental tool for local artists to sell their works.  But others shared a different outlook. They questioned why it has become such an uncontrolled free-for-all for sidewalk vending and panhandling. One person said they felt that ArtWalk hasn't made good on their promise to move the event more towards daytime hours, in hopes of alleviating some of the night time nuisances that it causes. But the most popular complaints were all related to the past - past leadership issues, past community relations woes, and one past tragedy. There are some understandable inconveniences about ArtWalk, but the past is in the past. It's important that we as a community look at Downtown ArtWalk with a fresh pair of eyes and see it for the progress it's making today. Very few events Downtown have lasted for over a decade, particularly a monthly occurrence, but ArtWalk has triumphantly remained. We encourage locals to come to ArtWalk this Thursday, primarily along Spring and Main Streets in the Historic Core, and share your own thoughts and feelings.     •

Artists of all kinds gather for Downtown ArtWalk the second Thursday of every month
(image via Historic Core)