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UncategorizedSupes side with Airbnb -- will this wind up...

Supes side with Airbnb — will this wind up on the ballot?

Mike Casey, head of the hotel workers's union, called the failure to demand back taxes from Airbnb "corporate welfare."
Mike Casey, head of the hotel workers’s union, called the failure to demand back taxes from Airbnb “corporate welfare.”

Tim Redmond

OCTOBER 8, 2014 – The Board of Supervisors adopted a slightly amended version of Sup. David Chiu’s Airbnb legislation yesterday, but the measure doesn’t include all of the proposals that a community coalition demanded, setting the potential scene for a ballot-initiative fight.

The board, by a consistent 6-5 majority, refused to:

— Require that Airbnb and other hosting platforms pay some $25 million in back taxes;

— Limit to 90 the number of days that housing units can be rented out as hotels;

— Limit short-term rentals in neighborhoods zoned for single-family detached homes;

— Or restrict short-term rentals in the city’s recently legalized in-law units, which were supposed to provide affordable housing, not tourist hotel rooms.

“It’s breath-taking that our city officials found it okay to pass a $28 million tax giveaway,” Mike Casey, the head of the hotel workers union, told me tonight. “It’s quite astounding that these folks blinked in the face of a $10 billion corporation.”

The supervisors did approve amendments to give nonprofit housing groups a very limited right to take private action against illegal tourist hotels – although those changes will have to be reconciled and go back to committee.

But overall, Airbnb got what it wanted – virtually unlimited conversion of San Francisco housing stock, in every single part of town, to tourist hotel use – potentially for 365 days a year.

The Chiu legislation requires that the operators of short-term rentals register with the city, and limits “non-hosted” rentals – that is, apartments or houses that are rented with the occupants gone – be limited to 90 days a year. Only housing units owned by permanent residents can be used for so-called homesharing.

But people who rent out a room in their homes while they are present can do that every day, with no limits – which critics say will eliminate the incentive for people to seek permanent tenants for those rooms.

And while the law says that renters who sublet rooms in say, a flat or apartment can’t charge more than what rent-control allows, “there’s no way to enforce that,” Ted Gullicksen, who runs the Tenants Union, told me.

“Do you think a tourist who is paying more than the legal rent is going to file a petition with the Rent Board?”

In fact, enforcement is a huge part of the problem with the new law. There’s no way to monitor who is home and who is out of town for the so-called “hosted rentals.”

The coalition opposed to the Chiu bill did get one of its key demands – sort of. Nonprofits that specialize in protecting affordable housing can go to court to enforce the law if the city doesn’t have the time or interest. That provision still needs to be heard again by the Planning Commission and go back to committee, but there’s little doubt that it will pass, since it has solid support.

Sup. Scott Wiener tried to derail the “private right of enforcement,” arguing that it would allow frivolous (and expensive) lawsuits. Sup. Jane Kim, who promoted the provision, said that “frivolous” suits aren’t really that much of a problem, and that the only ones who complain about them are “the Bush Administration, the Koch brothers, and the Heritage Foundation.”

But Kim freely admitted that her provision was “watered down.” If would give the right to sue (and potentially collect legal fees) only to a small number of nonprofit, most of them in the central city.

In the meantime, Calvin Welch, a longtime housing advocate, told me, “the supervisors have just allowed every one of the 370,000 housing units in San Francisco to be turned into a hotel, every day of the year.”

Yes, short-term rentals when the permanent occupant is out of town are limited to 90 days a year – but “there is no way to monitor where 600,000 San Franciscans sleep every night,” Welch said.

As Kim put it, “I struggled with this legislation. I’m concerned with the city’s ability to enforce it.”

Every member of the board agreed that “homesharing” – or short-term rentals – is here to stay, and isn’t necessarily a bad idea. But Supervisors Campos, John Avalos, and Eric Mar tried to impose more sweeping limits on how many units can be turned into tourist hotels. Sup. Norman Yee tried to restrict STRs in single-family neighborhoods, but lost his effort, too.

Sup. London Breed introduced (and won approval for) an amendment that would make it easier for nonprofits to sue if a building that was cleared by the Ellis Act was later rented out as Airbnb hotel rooms. And a Campos amendment that would bar any building with an Ellis Act eviction to be rented to tourist won 8-3 – but Chiu (along with Farrell and Teng) voted against it.

Mar suggested that in-law apartment legalized under the city’s recent amnesty shouldn’t be rented to tourists. His point: The in-law legislation (sponsored by Chiu) was designed to create more affordable housing in the city. If those apartments are instead rented to tourists, the whole point of legalizing them goes away.

“That law was not passed to create hotel rooms,” Mar said.

Avalos argued that even rentals where the host is home should be limited to 90- days – because “short-term rentals replace long-term tenants.”

There are, he said, “huge needs that need to be addressed for people who call San Francisco their home.”

But both the ban on in-laws and the 90-day limit were rejected by the same 6-5 vote, with Campos, Kim, Mar, Yee, and Avalos voting in favor, and Chiu, Wiener, Mark Farrell, Katy Tang, London Breed, and Malia Cohen siding with Airbnb.

One of the more contentious – and in the minds of critics, astonishing – votes was the rejection of the Campos amendment mandating that Airbnb pay its back taxes.

There’s no dispute from city officials that short-term rentals are subject to the city’s hotel tax. Since April 3, 2012, when the city tax collector ruled that Airbnb and its hosts were liable for paying the same taxes as other commercial hotels, nobody has serious contended that the corporations could continue to duck their tax bills.

But Airbnb has only in the past few weeks started collecting and paying that tax – which means, by the estimation of Campos, that about $25 million is back taxes is due.

“This is not a tiny company sleeping on air mattresses anymore,” he said. Airbnb is now a $10 billion corporation – “and it’s only fair that the company make good on its back taxes.”

In the past, when the city has legalized practices (like renting out parking spaces), back taxes were a clear requirement.

The Campos amendment would have stated that the law would only take effect after the tax collector certified that all back taxes by all platform operators had been paid.

Campos said that it would be unfair to small businesses, which have to pay all their taxes, to allow this giant company to avoid playing by the rules. “In San Francisco, it shouldn’t just be the little people who pay the taxes.”

Chiu and Wiener both argued that the city can collect back taxes anyway, and that the legislation had nothing to do with the issue. But the city hasn’t collected those back taxes – and while Airbnb might fight the question in court, if the price for legalizing its practice (and raising the company’s market value in advance of a likely IPO) is $25 million, there’s a good chance Airbnb would just pay up.

And yet, that went down by the same 6-5 vote.

Then the board voted 7-4 to approve the bill, with only Campos, Avalos, Mar, and Yee dissenting.

“It’s very disappointing,” Campos told me.

So what happens now? Well, there’s at least a chance that the ballot initiative that would shut down most of this short-term rental activity will move forward. “That is what I will recommend very strongly to our coalition,” Welch said.

In the meantime, Casey told me, the vote was a dramatic indication of the difference between the two candidates for state Assembly. “It draws a very clear line,” he said. “Which side are you on – funding schools and libraries or giving a $10 billion corporation a tax break?”

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
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  1. The technology platform isn’t central to the ethos of the sharing community that actually participates. Tech has made sharing easier but in the end it really is about my sharing my home or car with you in a trusting and informal arrangement.

  2. Four hours of dreary commentary isn’t democratic. But it was a stroke of genius moving the comment time to the end of the meeting.

  3. He’s not a Republican in any sense that I know. I assume that was just a tactical ploy to get the vote of the 10% of SF voters who are registered Republicans.

  4. Do you seriously believe that the only reason that housing costs are high in SF is because of landlords being greedy?

    Supply and demand have nothing to do with it?

  5. Sam has said he’s a landlord. Most of us aren’t. I’m not saying landlords are bad folks – I’ve known several very kind ones. But those who are out to gouge the public and care not a whit if the rest of us can afford to be here, that’s unacceptable and we will stand up here and say so.

  6. Lots of folks are SOS (sick of Sam.) Let’s start a campaign to ignore him. He is deliberately provocative and seems to thrive off poking his sharp stick everywhere to get a reaction. If we don’t engage, perhaps his comments will lower in frequency and heat.

    However, as I’ve said elsewhere, Sam’s POV and politics are part of the mix that is SF, echoed by other commentors. And his POV and politics are growing in strength with every action by the supes in support of the tech corps.

  7. Sam, your comment above is “civil?” No, it’s not. You poke your sharp stick everywhere, and when you get the reaction you were after, you call others to task for being uncivil. Yuck! I respect your POV, your politics deserve expression. But I’d never have a beer with you. On to substance…

    As a former Uber and Sidecar driver I know up close and personal that there’s no sharing involved. The TNCs douse the drivers with BS corporate cheer in a barrage of happy face emails, while starting price wars to drive down costs and churning or firing the drivers.

    AirBnB, Uber-Sidecar-Lyft, HomeJoy, TaskRabbit are the phony, corporatized “sharing economy.”

    There is absolutely nothing “shared” about tech corps backed by venture capital creating digital platforms that act as virtual markets to strip a 20% transaction fee for connecting a provider with a purchaser.

    A real sharing economy *could* be based on an open source digital platform owned collectively with low transaction costs.

    We need to create it.

  8. 1- things ain’t want they used to be (getting older)
    2- there is always oakland. Hip and happening, and not far away!

    Be happy

  9. Why did you say “affirmative action Harvard law graduates” to refer to Campos and Chiu if you were not drawing negative inferences about their pre-Harvard academic records based solely on their race?… Lying to back out of this just makes you a liar, Sam. A racist and a liar.

  10. I was comparing them with Kim, who is also non-white, so your point falls over.

    In fact, only one of the eleven Supervisors is not a minority, and so Farrell is the real minority.

  11. Personally, I would like to see a ballot initiative written that stops airbnb from being allowed to take over our city’s housing stock! I want SF to be what it’s always been – a place where people can come to live and enjoy it and not be pushed out by people with a lot of money. SF should be for people who live here, not for turning dwellings into high-priced tourist housing which robs us of our normal access to housing.

  12. There are several initiatives on the November ballot that attempt to give voters a chance to voice their opinions on displacement by overly aggressive developers and the transit authority. This election cycle will determine how we go forward. The system is broken and most of us agree that changes are needed. We even agree on the outcome we want. We disagree on method. The ballot initiatives, as this Airbnb legislation, may not be perfectly written. Few laws or initiatives are perfect, but, we can voice our opinions on the issues at hand by supporting the intent of the authors of the legislation. Once the intent is approved, the legislation can be amended.

  13. Me not likey. I came here in 1982, rent was $200 for room share, we could work and volunteer and have a relaxed enjoyable time here. Now prices are so high, people are having to work multiple jobs unless they have a high-paying job, people don’t have the time to volunteer, people are stressed, we have lost our relaxed quality of living and we are losing all the people who can’t afford to pay big bucks for housing. Even if you think that’s ok, I don’t. We need our blue collar workers, our middle class employees who now have to commute long hours into the city and back, we need our artists,etc. I am not in favor of turning this place into a playground for the rich only.

  14. “But it’s not a total victory for us home-sharers. The restrictions on numbers of days, the need to register, and the imposition of a local tax all cause hardship for the thousands of San Franciscans do this.”

    Please do describe the “hardship” for us in detail.

    I can only imagine writing checks to pay for the services you use must be a real pain in the bank account.

  15. Where there’s income it is always an IRS issue.

    There is already an app that promises to “share” the rewards of being a whistleblower on your neighbor who is engaged in the “sharing economy” – They “only” take 20% of the 30% reward. They harvest the public data of all sharing economy sites and estimate taxes.

    “The IRS Whistleblower Office pays money to people who blow the whistle on persons who fail to pay the tax that they owe. If the IRS uses information provided by the whistleblower, it can award the whistleblower up to 30 percent of the additional tax, penalty and other amounts it collects.”

    One step forward, two steps backwards.

  16. Perhaps a precedent where an intermediary(AirBnb, VRBO, Orbitz, Priceline, anyone) was ruled responsible to pay TOT taxes for transactions where their participation is about 7%.

    Anything out there?

  17. And what about everyone who wants to rent and live here? What about all the renters???? I hate this. I’m all for a big ballot initiative drive to stop airbnb from taking over our city.

  18. You are making assumptions about the academic records of Campos and Chiu solely on the basis of their race. That makes you a racist, Sam.

  19. Where is your evidence that Campos or Chiu needed affirmative action to get into Harvard or are you assuming that simply because they are non-white that they needed AA?

  20. There is nothing in this legislation that precludes altering the details in a few years, once we see the consequences. For example, it may become necessary to place a 90 day limit on all hosts, regardless of whether they are in residence or away during their guests’ stays. For now, Chiu and others claim they carved out the exception for residents who need to rent out their extra rooms within their homes and in-law units in order to make ends meet. I guess we could argue that if one cannot afford to rent or own in SF without resorting to becoming a near hotelier, then one should move to more affordable properties in other cities. But I think this current exception can be eliminated later with new legislation, if it proves deleterious. In any case, the status quo was unacceptable — lots of short term rentals and no restrictions, enforcement, or tax collection. Now we will have tax revenue and some money for enforcement of the tax levy and the 90 day limit. Let’s give it a chance and see what works.

  21. Please conform with Tim’s request for civility here and refrain from calling someone an “asshole” just because you do not agree with them and/or cannot refute them.

    I happen to agree with the BofS that hours of public comments prior to a vote is not in the public interest. Problem?

  22. I’d be fascinated to understand what you perceive as racist about a policy that actually helps minorities to get into top colleges.

    Please do explain.

  23. “it was a joy to see this meeting proceed to the real business without hours of tedious and repetitive public comments.” I’m terribly sorry if this sounds “uncivil,” but I am sick to death of this asshole’s constant (most likely) paid bullshit and his continuous
    overtaking of “comments” sections. Thank God the reporting on this site makes reading the comments sections mostly irrelevant. Not sure if that’s what the people running this site really want, though – maybe you should think about it, kids…

  24. Regardless of whether this ordinance is good for people renting out their places on Airbnb, Chiu can tell Airbnb he saved them $28M, and he’ll gladly take their campaign contributions as compensation. That’s the quid pro quo.

  25. I suspect the tax forgiveness was a quid pro quo for Airbnb agreeing to collect the taxes going forward.

    This bill is far from great for the home-sharing community and I am baffled why it is being presented in that way. As a home sharer myself, I preferred the existing situation to all this stuff about registering, paying taxes, counting days and so on.

    I haven’t decided yet whether I will register or stay in the shadows.

  26. David Chiu likely just saved Airbnb from having to pay $28M. Rest assured his campaign will be compensated handsomely.

  27. Yeah, it would be a sad day if the global epicenter of the sharing economy banned the sharing economy.

    Sounder minds prevailed. This city is really a beacon for the future, and the reign of the regressives is reaching an end.

  28. Hard to believe he stood as a GOP candidate in June, huh? Although even he stops short of ass-kissing Campos who appears unelectable to most folks.

    Kim supported the Twitter tax incentive and so the left cannot forgive here, even if she is way smarter than the affirmative action Harvard law graduates.

    The left really doesn’t have anyone to credibly challenge Lee in 2015, which is why Ammiano will again be begged to run, even though the last time he was written in ended badly for him.

    It would be dumb for the world capital of the sharing economy to reject the sharing economy and, thankfully, common sense prevailed.

  29. Yeah, this argues further to avoid the intermediaries, at least if they are within SF jurisdiction, and instead using foreign home-share websites who can give SF the finger.

    Why would SF pass laws that disadvantage businesses that choose to locate in Sf and hire SF residents?

  30. This isn’t an IRS issue. We have no reason to suppose that rents, which are always subject to federal and state income taxes, are not being paid.

    The issue is more the city, which is barred by law from collecting any kind of income tax, can do an end-run around that by claiming that an occasional home-sharing is identical to the Hilton downtown.

    That’s for a court to decide and the fact that a few city officials say it’s do don’t make it so.

    All that said, even if I accept for the sake of argument that back TOT taxes are due, there’s still a problem. Typically the guest pays it and the host collects it. That hasn’t been happening so for the city to retrospectively pick one of those agents, or their intermediary, and allege they owe all the taxes, seems far-fetched.

    Further, I’d assume that Aitbnbn demanded no back taxes be paid as a condition of collecting taxes going forward. Compromise is the art of politics. Time to move on.

  31. How much of that $28M tax break will eventually end up in Chiu’s campaign coffers? There are legitimate arguments on both sides of the Airbnb debate, but let’s not be naive and assume all parties are working in the interest of SF — that’s when David Chiu takes advantage of us.

  32. Suing AirBNB (and you would have to sue a consortium) would be a major expensive headache. The judge might not be sympathetic to the argument that the city needs to sue Airbnb because the tax collector neglected to do his job regarding its citizens for two years and this is the easier route out

    And they might not be able to collect TOT taxes on all cases. If I own a 2BR home I pay RE taxes to cover the city’s expenses for my family. If my kid graduates and moves to NY I don’t get my RE taxes lowered because he/she isn’t around. But if I rent out the now empty room I have to pay the city more money for the guest?

    What if I strike up an offline relationship with air AirBng guest and he/she sends a steady stream of office workers to stay in my extra space without even involving AirBnb. That tax money isn’t green to Campos because Ron Conway isn’t involved?

  33. “Approving [corporate] tax fraud,” agreed. The lack of a 90 day minimum meaning 2-3-4 bdrs gobbled up by petty fraudsters– agreed. I have anecdotal examples of just that.

    The lack of enforcement– AGREED! My public comment at a previous Land Use Committee hearing was for an annual, per bedroom $250 fee, up from the proposed $50 fee. Then Planning can enforce, given the political will.

    Jane Kim’s sop to Randy Shaw et al means enforcement by non-profits only where they have a power base; in the Tenderloin, Mission, maybe the Haight. But the non-profits are not likely to enforce by private-right-to-sue in the Avenues where they’re unknown and unwanted. Nor in the northern or southern expanses.

    Without enforcement, Chiu’s bill may prove a long range disaster for the larger community that is San Francisco, further hollowing out the city, further stratifying, enriching some, evicting many… and turning SF into a BnB tourist Disneyland.

    Will the Disney Corporation some day have to hire unemployed actors to play nudists, hippies, homeless, Latinos in SF for the tourists? When the real weirdos are evicted to… where…?!

  34. See my long comment below… but re Campos being “black and white,” I’d agree, however that doesn’t make him a “ridiculous idiot.” He’s from a long line of passionate moralists. Tremendous energy, visionary idealism and long range effectiveness goes with the territory. But so does failure in the moment and partial blindness.

    I ran against both Campos and Chiu as the Republican sacrificial lamb in the AD-17 race. I began with an attitude about both but ended with grudging respect for each as exemplars of the transactional political mechanic (Chiu) and the impassioned, moralist (Campos.)

  35. The reality is that Airbnb has the deep pockets and that if the tax man goes after them, he gets millions with one lawsuit whereas if the taxman goes after the individual BnBers he gets maybe hundreds for each lawsuit. So the progressives are right on this one as a practical matter.

  36. I sat through the entire BOS meeting armed with my “tedious” public comment. Sam-whoever-he-am wants my voice silenced but probably only on this issue that his side won. On the ones his side loses, he likely wants full throated public comment. Witness his nonstop blather on 48 Hills.

    This decision by the 11 dwarves may be a watershed for San Francisco. It is clearly a win for the self-interest at the expense of community. It’s a win for the ownership class—which includes the rent control master tenant class—against the property-less free spirits. It’s the plodding ants crushing the flighty grasshoppers. It’s those that gots winning against those that ain’ts.

    It’s the tech corps with their PR astroturf operators trouncing the bumbling, disorganized progressives. The astroturf at the hearing—by my observation about 95% white and upper middle class—seemed to be exclusively Airbnb property owners. One or two lone progressives (was that Fernando in the hat in the front row?) booed and clapped like hooligans, especially when Campos made his impassioned speech calling out the unfairness of Airbnb nonpayment of taxes.

    But the nice-whites with their identical, corporate-sponsored “HomeSharing” stickers over hearts throbbing in unison for Chiu outnumbered the progressives at least 10-1. They did the finger wiggle-waggle in silent, gleeful support, the wiggle oddly a relic of Occupy, corporations absorbing and repurposing the social inventions of the grassroots.

    The political madness that is San Francisco is fascinating. But there is tragedy beneath the surface, the age old calamity of the displacement of peoples. San Francisco is unique not because of its location, its climate, its architecture or even its history. It’s unique because it has long been the home of weirdos, social adventurers, radical artists and political pioneers. These are the people that lost big yesterday.

    Progressive politics in SF may be over—Airbnb may prove the bellwether. The forces of the Organized Money Power have triumphed both from within—in the decades of real estate appreciation that have enriched even progressives—and from without in the invasion of the techie corporatists. The biggest tragedy—IMHO—is that the socio-economic stratification Campos tries in vain to make a campaign issue has been approved by the supes and will roar forward, emptying out what’s left of the middle in SF and destroying social space for the true creatives.

    The progressives will hold turf for a while. Randy Shaw got part of what he wanted in Jane Kim’s Tenderloin, the private right to sue to preserve his bailiwick of SROs. So these particular progs will hold onto their colonized poor, to the addicts, the mentally ill, the parolees that are the base of their power in the TL. But the Tenderloin—I live in an SRO—is on the chopping block. Pieces of it are being cut off quietly by the Money Power.

    In the Mission the progressives will fight a rear guard action for a season. Local 2 lost big. Airbnb will put their unionized Latino ladies out of work. And of course, Campos is the biggest loser and thus the radical left Latino and gay activist sensibility he represents.

    If Campos cannot counter the Airbnb victory laps Chiu will take on his way to the assembly race, Chiu may win handily. The transactional political mechanic; the assembler of complex middle way legislation; the smooth legislative operator (Chiu) may crush the passionate “man-of-the-people”; immigrant-turned-Harvard-lawyer; Milk-Ammiano gay activist (Campos.)

    Campos’ problem—from my perspective—is the problem of the entrenched, reactionary progressive movement in SF. Its moral politics is narrowly focused and increasingly ineffective. I’m all for moral politics, but if the glasses through which you see the black hats and the white hats, the victims and oppressors are too narrow, you become absurd.

    And then the dwarves rise to the top, like Avalos, Mar and before them Mirkirimi, Daly and Dufty. And lone rangers like Campos—guys who are genuinely passionate—are left to flounder when they blast away invoking the Fair Share meme on Airbnb taxes, with a bit of hooligan clapping from Fernando and Calvin in the peanut gallery.

    Is there any hope for the future of progressive politics in SF? I’m putting my money on Jane Kim.

    As four of the eleven dwarves offered up transactional, supportive amendments yesterday (Breed, Weiner, Farrell, Cohen) to curry favor with boss man Chiu and as three of the eleven dwarves offered poison pill amendments (Mar, Avalos, Yee) that were going nowhere, only Jane Kim seemed to have independence. Her amendment was—admittedly—to carry water for Randy Shaw who has been pounding his private interest to sue in his blog. But Kim seemed the canny, autonomous insider.

    First, Kim effectively bitch-slapped Weiner on his preposterous litigator-at-the-dock BS re the “extremity” of her amendment. Weiner was left whimpering by Kim’s reference to hard data re frivolous lawsuits and the use of this meme by the Koch Bros. But she also admitted that she’d watered down her non-profit-right-to-sue amendment in consultation with the Mayor’s office.

    This raises the question: is Kim the more effective champion of the left-progressive moral vision than Campos? Jane Kim doesn’t wear her morality on her sleeve. She doesn’t give stump speeches to the other supes, antagonizing them. But she brings home the bacon to Randy, which Campos does not.

    San Francisco needs a revitalized progressive movement. After decades of pitched battles with the Money Power— a power which like Sauron never, ever sleeps—SF needs not just new faces. It desperately needs a larger, wider progressive left vision. Absent that—and absent a new libertarian or conservative vision from the other side of the moral debate that divides us all— Onward Dwarves!

  37. Sam, you are correct about the City’s tax collection rules and procedures, as well as their situational effectiveness. I wonder, however, how you would feel if AirBNB passed along most, if not all applicable taxes to the home sharing community. I admit I am still not clear who owes what and how much. It does seem in this case that tax payments are a shared reponsibilty (no pun intended, really). I don’t know if the IRS and the State Franchise Tax Board has the wherewithall to get involved, but this case must certainly have piqued their interest.

  38. Sad how government inverts the capitalist commandment of “buy low, sell high” when it comes to public resources in which case it is “buy high and sell low,” but only to the well connected. Most of us need not apply.

  39. “It’s breath-taking that our city officials found it okay to pass a $28 million tax giveaway,”

    No, it’s not “breath-taking” at all. It’s expected in the New Corporatized Lobotomized Techie San Francisco. Guess who paid who off.

  40. As an aside, it was a joy to see this meeting proceed to the real business without hours of tedious and repetitive public comments. It’s been a while since I watched a city hall meeting and it was always irksome having to wait for the endless procession of self-serving comments before getting to the meat. And the amusement of watching the eye-rolling of the Supervisors during comment time was never an adequate compensation.

    I guess the rules have changed to have the public comments at the end. Much better.

  41. What the tax director said:

    The local hosts and the web platform are equally responsible for the tax liability.

    What progressives hear:

    Airbnb is solely responsible for the tax liability

  42. The city can try and collect the back taxes under existing rules. They have collection procedures and methods to do that now. Making good law dependant on that adds no value. Wiener made that obvious point very eloquently.

    I suspect the real concern is that a court might not uphold the applicability of the tax if Airbnb contest it, and the city doesn’t want to lose a case on this especially against a deep-pocketed defendant.

    The argument that if I couldn’t do short-term room lets that I would then take in a permanent lodger is ridiculous. I don’t want a rent-controlled tenant in my spare bedroom and that will never happen.

    Seems to me that the usual ideologues voted against these common-sense proposals (Mar, Avalos, Campos and (a little surprisingly) Kim and Yee) while the pragmatists were far more willing to accept that the home-sharing community is a valid constituent.

    But it’s not a total victory for us home-sharers. The restrictions on numbers of days, the need to register, and the imposition of a local tax all cause hardship for the thousands of San Franciscans do this.

    So you are wrong to paint this as a total loss for those who always support more and more government control of everything. I still prefer the current system.

  43. Green lighting the change in the law for scofflaws avoiding paying the taxes is the equivalent of these 7 Supervisors approving fraud and theft from the public at large, IMHO.

    The lack of a 90 day maximum for hosted stays means our 2-, 3-, and 4+ bedroom apartments will be eaten up by entrepreneurs who will live in one bedroom and hotel the other bedrooms – no need for roommates, and fewer units available for permanent residents.

    The biggest farce is the enforcement. Look at 660 Third Street and the way Planning enforced their own zoning rules on that PDR building being clearly used for office for years.

    This is a bad day for the sue who are trying to keep San Francisco affordable and evictions mitigated because the potential income from multi-bedroom apartments just went up significantly.

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