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UncategorizedWelcome to the strange world of Airbnb logic

Welcome to the strange world of Airbnb logic

Nothing makes sense — except the billions that company is reaping by avoiding local regulations

In Airbnb World, logic makes no sense
In Airbnb World, logic makes no sense

By Tim Redmond

MAY 18, 2015 – The City Planning Department essentially admitted today that there’s no good way to enforce the laws against short-term rentals without forcing Airbnb to give the city data on how many nights the units it brokers are used for tourist housing.

But John Rahaim, the planning director, still said he opposes legislation that would make that data available to his agency.

It was a remarkable moment in a remarkable hearing at the Land Use and Transportation Committee, marked by bizarre twisted logic as politicians sought to find ways to justify the continued abuse of the city’s laws by a company that has the strong support of the Mayor’s Office.

It was a continuation of what happened at the City Planning Commission, where the staff, and one of the commissioners, turned 180 degrees on a key issue after getting a text from the Mayor’s Office.

The situation is relatively simple: Airbnb – which is by far the dominant player in the short-term rental market, although not the only one – keeps track of its customers. The company knows how many apartments or houses each customer offers on the site. It knows how often those places are rented, for what periods of time. And it already shares that information with the government, specifically the Internal Revenue Service, which needs to track the rental income of each host.

The city already limits the number of nights that a unit can legally be rented and bars people from renting out anything except their primary place of residence.

But there’s no way for the planning staff to know how many nights a place is on the market without the data that Airbnb has – and so far, refuses to turn over to the city.

The Planning Department staffers are well aware of that flaw in the law. Ann Marie Rogers, a senior staffer, has testified that the department simply couldn’t enforce the rules without the booking data.

But Airbnb and its allies are resisting, saying that there are privacy issues here. Sup. Mark Farrell said a requirement that Airbnb report on its hosts would be the same as asking Google to use its GPS software “to tell us anytime someone goes one mile an hour over the speed limit.”

(Actually, no: Airbnb and short-term rentals are business operations, and the city constantly requires data from businesses, including confidential financial data that’s used to collect taxes.)

Today, Rahaim testified that there’s no need to force Airbnb to give the city anything. “There are other ways to get that data,” he said.

Wait:  It’s a privacy problem if the city gets data on how often rooms are rented out – but the city is going to “find other ways” to get the same data? But don’t worry; that’s just the beginning of the twisted reality of Airbnb World.

Rahaim talked about using web scrapes, but the reality, as Scott Sanchez, the zoning administrator, noted, it’s all going to be about complaints.

That means the law would only be enforced if a neighbor complained – and had some sort of information to show that a unit was rented more than the allowable number of nights.

Farrell has complained that laws expanding the rights of individuals to file lawsuits over Airbnb violations would “pit neighbors against neighbors.” But the Planning Department’s strategy is to turn neighbors into spies.

Oh, and by the way: As housing activist Calvin Welch testified at the hearing, there are now some 10,000 complaints about short-term rentals, and the city can’t possibly find the staff time to investigate even a small fraction of those.

Santa Monica, which is about one-eight the size of San Francisco, is allocating more than $400,000 to aggressive enforcement — not “complaint driven.”

When Sup. David Campos asked Rogers to come up and explain why she had said in the past that the city needed booking data but now says it isn’t necessary, she said she had never meant to imply that the data was critical. “I said it would be helpful to have that data,” she noted.

She was unable to explain how else the city would be able to figure out how many nights a unit was posted for rent.

Campos asked Rahaim: If you are not going to require booking data and you’re not going to impose fines on the companies that list unregistered rentals, how are you going to enforce the law?

Rahaim: “We have been enforcing the law for years.”

Campos was fairly calm; I was stunned. There has been zero enforcement of the short-term rental market since Airbnb arrived on the scene. Zero. That’s why the supervisors passed a law last year. There’s been virtually zero enforcement since it went into effect.

There’s no secret what’s going on here: The Mayor’s Office has sent the word down to Rahaim and his staff not to mess with Airbnb. “Part of the challenge here is that staff have presented information, and now the planning director is changing that information,” Campos said. “I think it’s sad.”

The Committee spent a lot of time arguing about numbers. The Budget and Legislative Analyst reported that a significant percentage of the city’s rental housing stock has been converted to hotel rooms. The city economist, Ted Egan, said that taking those housing units off the market hurts the economy, because higher rents take money out of consumers’ pockets. (That, by the way, is an excellent argument for strict rent control.)

Then Farrell and Sup. Scott Wiener tried to challenge the Budget Analyst, saying that the report was flawed in its data collection. And Egan said he didn’t like the way the Budget Analyst had collected data. And everyone fought for a while.

But they were fighting over the exact problem that we started with: We don’t know exactly how many units are taken off the market for how long and by whom – because Airbnb won’t turn over that information.


As I expected, the testimony from supporters of Airbnb laid out exactly how the company will fight a fall ballot campaign, if there is one. There will be fliers featuring people who couldn’t possibly stay in San Francisco without using home sharing.

(The Campos legislation wouldn’t stop them from renting out rooms in their homes. They would have to register, as they do now. They would be limited to 60 days a year, which isn’t unreasonable. If someone wants to rent out rooms for more than that, he or she just needs to get a permit for a traditional bed and breakfast inn. At any rate, the retired people, the woman who went through a divorce and wants to save her house … they are not the problem. The landlords who take units off the rental market because they can make more money off Airbnb are the ones Campos is trying to control. If you need data on that, just read the comments on 48hills from all the property owners who say they only rent on Airbnb because they don’t want to be under rent control. That’s the problem.

(And, of course, people who are looking for extra income could rent out their extra room to a housemate. But as one person testifying said: “What I am hearing is that these people have a space to rent, but they don’t want to deal with long-term renters because tenants in San Francisco are pesky, they come with rent control and protections against eviction.”)

Then we will hear about the horrors of having the government collect private data on how often a room is rented out. I completely fail to understand this: I’m not for having Facebook report on its users favorite links to the NSA (although the NSA already tracks that kind of info.) I’m not for Google turning over my search requests to the FBI (although Google already shares that info with advertisers so they can better sell me products).

But when you rent out a room or an apartment on Airbnb, you are running a business. And when you run a business, you get regulated by the city. And when you get regulated by the city, the city collects data on your business.

I have never heard of the city tax collector inadvertently releasing proprietary business data used to collect taxes.

More: Quintin Mecke, a local activist, pointed out that Airbnb’s own terms of service say that company “may access, preserve, and disclose any of your information if required by law.” He added: “The idea that there is any privacy involved …. Just read your own terms of service.”

(Mecke got a laugh out of the crowd when he said: “I am impressed that any of you could keep a straight face when the Planning Department said the best enforcement it could do was to talk to neighbors.”)

And we will hear that Airbnb doesn’t actually drive up housing costs. That’s an interesting argument; it appeared today on Beyond Chron:

Few of the units taken off the rental market by short-term rentals meet the standard definition of “affordable housing.” Yet I don’t hear anyone claiming that we shouldn’t care about their loss because they cost more than working people can afford.

The idea is that every vacant apartment is already too expensive for any working-class person, so it makes no difference if it’s rented to a rich tech worker or to a tourist.

But that ignores the unfortunate reality that landlords are evicting tenants who were paying well below market rate to turn apartments into hotel rooms. Welch made it clear earlier in the day: In a housing crisis, the most valuable (and cheapest) affordable housing is existing rent-controlled stock.

The bottom line here – and bottom line is the right term – is that Airbnb’s entire business model has been based on people violating the law. Short-term rentals are illegal in most American cities. Tighter regulations would impact the market share of this company, which at some point is going to go public and make its founders and investors a huge amount of money.

One of those investors, who will stand to profit handsomely, is Ron Conway.

That’s why there’s so much pressure on the supervisors. There are billions of dollars at stake.

Both the Campos measure and the competing Farrell measure were sent to the full Board without recommendation.



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. A quick note here: technically, Airbnb hosts are contract employees of Airbnb as they receive a 1099 form with their earnings at the end of each year. Just like other contract workers and freelancers.

  2. I’ll try one more time. There is the inconvenient phrase that you need to ignore:

    “If Airbnb undertakes or is involved in any merger, acquisition, reorganization, sale of assets or bankruptcy or insolvency event, then we may sell, transfer or share some or all of our assets”

    They are talking about if the company gets sold and the new owners do things differently (this text is in EVERY privacy policy). Now, @huckabubble:disqus , has any such transaction occurred?

    The part about “Airbnb’s customers accept the terms that allow the company to turn data over to governments” exists only in your head; it doesn’t jive with reality. I’m sorry.

    Look, I can’t help you any more my advice is that you find someone who can help you differentiate between reality and what you see in your head.

  3. Doesn’t change the premise: Airbnb’s customers accept the terms that allow the company to turn data over to governments and sell it to others. So what are they whining about?

  4. For anyone who lists their Airbnb ‘Home Location’ as Denver (or New York, or Mexico City, etc) it is reasonable to assume that this is their ‘residence’. The SF STR ordinance requires the applicant for STR permit to be a permanent (275 nights per year minimum) resident of San Francisco.

  5. @Gyss Dolan – I looked at your blog. What those people are doing is most likely perfectly legal.

    There is nothing in the law that says that someone with a residence outside of San Francisco can not Airbnb their property in San Francisco for up to 90 days a year. They are called “non hosted rentals”.

    If you could prove that these people are hosting over 90 days a year you would have a valid complaint but as it stands now you just wasted a lot of time because you didn’t understand the law.

    Read about the 90 day rule here:



  6. Good editing. Lets see what they really said:

    “If Airbnb undertakes or is involved in any merger, acquisition, reorganization, sale of assets or bankruptcy or insolvency event, then we may sell, transfer or share some or all of our assets, including your Personal Information. In this event, we will notify you before your Personal Information is transferred and becomes subject to a different privacy policy.”

    Every company has to say that in case they get sold and the new company has a different policy, in which case the user gets notified beforehand and given the option to leave before the transfer.

    Perhaps you have a friend or relative who understands how business works and they can explain this to you. Show them the part about “any merger, acquisition, reorganization, sale of assets or bankruptcy or insolvency event” and ask them to use small words.

    It is deceptive (and sophmoric) to just pull out the few words like you did but I’m going to give you the benefit doubt and assume that you are just stupid.

    But hang in there!

  7. Here are 338 complaints…
    “Dear San Francisco Planning Department,
    From Saturday through Monday (April 25-27 2015) I sent 338 emails, addressed to Airbnb (trust@airbnb.com; support@airbnb.com) and San Francisco Planning Department (shorttermrentals@sfgov.org).
    Most of these I also CC’d to Mayor Ed Lee (mayoredwinlee@sfgov.org) and my Supervisor London Breed (Breedstaff@sfgov.org).”


  8. So offensive! Why do we give any regard, yield anything at all, give any respect to a company that acts in such contempt of our laws and regulations? I hope it all ends badly for this company, and I think it will.

  9. You didn’t bother reading that document before you cited it, did you?

    “…we may sell, transfer or share some or all of our assets, including your Personal Information.”

    And as for the reporting requirements for controlled substances: https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL34635.pdf

    Thanks for playing, bub.

  10. Wow, wealth gave you ability to know who I know, who I talk to, and what would have happened if politicians did something differently 30 years ago. I never knew being a rich land lord gave magical powers!

  11. I don’t even think his real name is Marcos. That is made up to make him feel like part of the chican neighborhood.

  12. Uh, yes you are. And I don’t believe you care a whit about them, just getting cheap labor. Bet you don’t even pay minimum wage.

  13. So you, who talk to almost no landlords, claim you know better what landlords think than a landlord who talks to hundreds of other landlords?

    Er, OK.

  14. By that argument Bayview would be as clean and crime-free as Presidio Heights. And WEst Oakland would be as pleasant as Mill Valley.

    Why aren’t they?

  15. The crap you are tossing around is certainly blight on this board. So I do not think wealth stops that, nor law breaking.

  16. “But there’s no way for the planning staff to know how many nights a place is on the market without the data that Airbnb has.”

    That’s actually not true. If AirBNB is providing that data to the IRS, the IRS could share that data with the City. The City would need to have an MOU with the IRS to obtain the data, and it would be up to the IRS to share it, but it’s not like this hasn’t happened before. The IRS shares data with other agencies in San Francisco, specifically the Human Services Agency.

  17. Hey rich land lord, you hang out with SFAA members, which only has a couple thousand members, many who are property managers or businesses that supply to owners. This is from their site, not my assumption by the way. I would venture to guess that many who pay the dues at that org. do think alike, but they represent only a fraction of land lords in SF. You are the one who asserted most think like you, I never said most think any particular way.

  18. Hmm, let’s see, low crime, great schools, clean streets, no blight . .

    Why would anyone want that?

  19. I never asked you if you think all landlords are identical. I asked how on what rational basis you can claim to understand how most think.

    And why you think you know better how landlords think than a landlord who talks to a lot of other landlords.

  20. By the way, you did not answer my question. Do you really think it is best to have a city where everyone is wealthy or close to it? Do you want to live in a place where no minimum wage workers can live?

  21. Let’s see how long they will work for $12 per hour when it costs them hundreds to get to work each month. Employers are already having a hard time filling low wage jobs in SF due to so many moving away, where there are plenty of low wage jobs as well.

  22. My service workers live in Oakland, which has much cheaper housing and where Airbnb isnt regulated

  23. OK, so you now admit that you do not know how landlords think. Excellent, that is a start.

    Outnumbered? Oh is that like you are the cowboys and we are the Indians? Oh, what fun.

    Then again, those who voted for Lee out-numbered those who didn’t.

  24. Oh Rich, I do not share your arrogance nor do I share your proclivity to assume I know what all property owners think. I do know that most who live in this city rent, and we have you outnumbered.

  25. I would be very happy to hear your explanation of how you profoundly understand how property owners thinks.

    Go ahead.

  26. Ha ha, your arrogance strikes again. Do you think you know everyone I know? And you can also go back and time and KNOW what would have happened if something they did 30+ years ago was done in a different way. Must be amazing to have such knowledge no one else does. Do you do Vegas too? LOL

  27. I talk to many many other LL’s, at SFAA meetings and elsewhere. I know how they think far better than you, whose sole contact with a LL is handing over rent every month

    I wish a majority did not rent. If the city politicians had passed laws encouraging home ownership back in 1979 rather than laws which reward people for hoarding a rental for life, you would be in a much better place now than you clearly are.

    Airbnb is not the reason you have no control over your destiny.

  28. Really, it must take some kind of arrogance to assume all LL think like you do. And you know, if they did, we would not be in a city where the majority rents vs owns.

  29. Fine @KOinSF:disqus . Why don’t you go back to finding Airbnb listings that you think are illegal because days are grayed out on the calendar. We could use the comic relief.

  30. As I already said, there are already protections for tenants who are evicted for OMI, Ellis or condo and then the unit is re-rented. That abuse is covered a tenant can sue for wrongful eviction.

    My point is once a LL has a vacancy and can legally re-rent, he will likely not choose a long-term rental because of rent control. Airbnb is one of his alternate options but only one of the. Take that away and there are many other options. I am living proof of that.

    I will not re-rent long-term until and unless rent control goes away. so it is rent control, and not Airbnb, that is removing rentals form the market

  31. Oh, do you feel all manly and strong now that you told me I cannot stop you? Good luck finding people who earn low salaries being able to come and clean your rentals, none of them can afford to live here. And at the rate things are going, they will not be able to afford commuting here to do low paying jobs. Do you really want a city that only has high income residents? And guess what, I am not stuck, my life is in SF and has been for more than 25 years. But I am sure you would grin if I were to be evicted and my unit rented out like you do. I do not expect your type to care about tossing people out of their homes and communities. After all, empathy is for suckers huh?

  32. No, he is merely pointing out the hypocrisy of leftists who HATE spying by the NSA but LOVE spying by the city

  33. Wow, that is your answer to my request to learn the facts and get more data? Accusing me of being a terrorist? Jon, go home, you lost.

  34. So you say all these units were always vacant, never had renters in them? Really? I understand once someone on rent control moves the unit will never be rented at same rate. And I never said AirBnB is preventing tenants from finding affordable homes, as if that is the only reason. I do think it is reasonable as part of a city’s plan for housing to assure long term renters are not evicted to make room for a hotel room. But unless we get data, how will we ever know how much this and other similar services are having detrimental effects on rental rates and available units?

  35. Your real problem is that the vast majority of people who want to live in Sf cannot afford to. And that is a problem that can never be fixed.

    Rent control helps a few lucky incumbents who decide they will never move. But beyond that your battle is already lost because it cannot be won

    You can rant, rave and rail about marginal influencers like airbnb, but ultimately that isn’t your problem. Airbnb goes away and you are still stuck.

    I own 10 rent-controlled units in SF and only one has a long-term tenant in them. I do not use Airbnb. And nothing you say or do will convince me to rent them out long-term again, let alone affordable.

    There is nothing you can do about that

  36. If you want more units for rent then the simplest approach to that is to relax zoning to allow more to be built.

    If a vacant unit is not used for Airbnb then it will be either be put to some other use that wont help tenants OR it will be on the market for a rent that only 2% of tenants can afford.

    How does that help the average low-income resident looking for housing either way?

  37. yeah right, they use it to house homeless the rest of the year, uh huh. How do you know they do not rent it out for 5 months or 6 months or 9 months out of the year? This is why we need data.

  38. I am not suggesting AirBnB be banned, you are. I am not suggesting if it were there would magically be more cheap rentals, you are. So tell me.

  39. You claim that the entire rationale, that does make it true. The thing is, removing rentals to use at hotels harms the chances for ALL to find a place to live. So many insist we need more and more units to keep some affordable for some. Yet people who say this, like Sup. Wiener, also fight stopping the loss of rentals to hotel rooms. Seems to me they are just doing what their funders want, not what they think will help assure more homes for all.

  40. I am merely asking you why and how you think Airbnb is preventing tenants from finding affordable homes?

    These are vacant units and so they will never, ever be cheap again. And in fact they will probably never be rented out long-term again.

    Why instead don’t you examine the real problem – that rent control deters owners from offering homes for rent?

  41. You seem obsessed with enforcement without understanding why.

    Again, explain to us how, if Airbnb were banned tomorrow, the city would suddenly be flooded with cheap rentals?

  42. Ah ha, I stand corrected on KNOWING how many days unit was rented. I did not know that. But, if this is the case, there is even more of a reason to have a rule that enables enforcement. And if you think the guy who made a hotel on purpose is not renting it out more than 60 days a year, well I have a bridge in the desert for ya. Seriously though, why are so many upset that the city wants to know how many days are rented and how many were evicted to make units into hotel rooms? Do you think it is because they know they can break the law without any fear of being caught as long as no one can know?

  43. But the entire rationale for this “war on Airbnb” is that they are taking away affordable homes. Yet you now admit these units will never be cheap. So the allegation against Airbnb seems unfounded.

    A vacant 1-BR on my block recently rented for 5K a month. How would it have harmed any low-income people if instead it had been let on Airbnb?

  44. Sheesh @KOinSF:disqus . I don’t want to spoil your fun but you have no way of knowing if a unit is booked or not.

    You just know that it is not available on Airbnb. They could be using the space to house abandoned orphans for all you know.

  45. I never said it would be a cheap rental. So try again, red herrings are lame. But the more units used for hotel rooms, the less supply at any level of rent is available.

  46. There are already existing laws against renting out apartments as hotels for more than couple of months per year if you do not live in said unit. But I just posted several examples of people openly breaking that law. So yes, we do need more to stop it.

    What I am asking for is actual statistics not some libertarian’s assumptions.

    I have no doubt you would do whatever you could to make as much money as possible, including breaking the law. Not something I would brag about, but I am an empathic

  47. Where is your evidence that this owner would have provided affordable housing for a family if only Airbnb did not exist?

  48. @KOinSF:disqus – How do you know that the unit is fully booked until October?

    When dates are grayed out on the Airbnb calendar it means that the unit is not available, it doesn’t mean that it is booked. In fact, looking at the first unit you cite every date is grayed out until Oct 16 and it is extremely unlikely that they booked every single night on a STR. And then the unit suddenly becomes available every night after Oct 16.

    This took me all of 29 seconds to find.

  49. There are already existing laws against evicting a tenant for OMI, Ellis or condo conversion and then re-renting, so Airbnb isn’t an issue there and no new laws are required.

    What I am asking for is evidence that owners have chosen to not re-rent long-term SOLELY because of the existence of Airbnb and nobody has managed to demonstrate that beyond reasonable doubt, despite Tim claiming it is common.

    If Airbnb were banned I would simply rent in another way that skirts rent control, such as renting to corporations or colleges. Or renting for foreign visitors via foreign hosting platforms

  50. So are you saying that Tim claimed that all these units on AirBnB and the like were all affordable apartments before they were turned into hotel rooms? He did not say that. Though I am sure many units WERE taken out of the rental pool just to use them as hotels, as I showed above in one example. Not all evicted tenants to do so of course. But we should know how many were evicted for this reason. And what do you say about the examples I shared? Why shouldn’t they face penalties for breaking the law?

  51. We all look forward to the day when you actually post something material about a topic than throw vacuous insults out at anyone with whom you disagree.

  52. I used to dislike the endless whining bullshit by the #paidwinfgnuttrolls.Now, I think they’re (unintentional?) comedy should be seen as a “feature” – Tim should highlight a couple of the most hilariously stupid “comments” every day, in a big box at the top of the page. Of course, he’d probably have to hire someone just to dig through all their bullshit. Hey, thanks, trolls – another job opening for the “libtards”!

  53. Wrong, Tim said this:

    “The landlords who take units off the rental market because they can make more money off Airbnb are the ones Campos is trying to control.”

    He is mistaken.

    There are no BMR rentals if a unit is vacant. If you are asking me whether building more homes exerts downward pressure on rents and home values then I would agree, although other factors may swamp that effect. If you are asking me whether the fees from new market-rate homes help create BMR homes, then absolutely yes

  54. No, no, I meant that a landlord only has to provide aggregate disclosures of rents. So the idea that FTB have detailed information of long term versus short term, and what dates I rented for, is wide of the mark.

    I am not a CPA and dont do tax returns.

  55. @huckabubble:disqus – If you want to be taken seriously you should provide links and quotes to things like that.

    Yes, Airbnb has boilerplate saying that they will turn over your data if legally required to do so. They don’t say anything about volunteering your information. No judge has said that they must turn over information to San Francisco.

    And you completely made up the part about them selling user information to third parties. Sorry.


  56. Um Rich, I have the ability to read, and no where does Tim say what you are claiming. So if you want to argue, you might try using the facts not made up stuff to argue with. And are you saying that more market rate housing does not help keep BMR units available? I thought you and others here insisted we need more market rate to keep others affordable. Make up your mind.

  57. You said you you have been doing tax returns for nearly 20 years, not for clients?

    Is this Sam again? Man you have a lot of aliases….

  58. What do you mean by my “clients”? I am a landlord so the only clients I have are my tenants. I am fairly damn sure that no tenant has ever issued any kind of 1099 for rent in this town

  59. The bigger question we are all debating here is whether such rules make any sense. Reasonable people can disagree about that, but Tim’s claim that each unit so used is removing an affordable home is way off the mark. A vacant unit will never again be cheap.

  60. Well Rich, I am a former City Treasurer (not SF) and the FTB routinely shares information from tax returns vis-a-vis business information among other things all the time. It has nothing to do with privacy. If your “clients” have not provided you with a Form 1099-K this year perhaps you need to begin asking them. This information is there and available, the City can have it and apparently all that is missing is it’s will to ask for it.

  61. It took me all of 30 seconds or so to find entire apartment near me in the Mission that is breaking the law. They are fully booked till October, way over the limit. The owner evidently lives in another unit in this building, as there were a few comments about his kids making noise in the am. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/3482655?s=z6tS I found another immediately, who is quite open that they are breaking the law: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/762300?s=wYc8

    The Space
    In late 2012 we completely renovated this unit to offer a
    private hotel experience in the heart of the most dynamic neighborhood
    in the San Francisco. Instead of sharing someone else’s personal space our studio is purpose-built as a hotel room.

    Yet if I as a tenant were to rent my spare room, I would get evicted quicker than I could sneeze. I am not saying I should be able to do this, I signed the lease and understood no subletting of any kind was allowed and no more than 2 people can live here at the same time. But for owners, it seems they can break the rules without even pretending!

  62. Capital gains, yes. But that is only when you sell a property

    Rents? No. I provide an aggregate figure by property. And, as I said, there is no way to tell from that disclosure whether the rent is for a short-term or long-term let

  63. Interminably sad that one individual really has nothing better to do with their lives than try and cause trouble for others. Obviously an ideological zealot with some tech skills. Erin?

  64. Who is “they”? I’ve been doing tax returns for nearly 20 years now, and have never been asked for anything other than annual gross amounts of rents along with deductible costs. I cannot speak to what airbnb have to report, if anything, but any owner who is doing his own taxes doesn’t report at that level of detail.

    There is also a privacy issue around what the IRS and FTB can tell cities. I am not sure about that.

  65. This year (maybe last year too) they have provided a Form 1099-K which shows income, by month paid by credit card (which is the only way AirBnB accepts payment) remitted to the payee, i.e. the renter.

  66. Yeah. That’s not proof, BTW.

    Also, @huckabubble:disqus , In the post Tim writes:

    >”Oh, and by the way: As housing activist Calvin Welch testified at the hearing, there are now some 10,000 complaints about short-term rentals”

    So Welch says 10,000, you say 2,000 (including 500 dropped off this weekend by one advocate). I can’t keep track of progressive lies. Too many. Tim Redmond gets congratulated when he gets close to the truth.

    And there are 6 Planning meeting Minutes online for April; none of them include a reference to the 1,500 complaints that you offer as proof.

  67. Nobody is manipulating SF’s housing stock. All that is happening is that some property owners no longer want to deal with rent control and so utilize other options. One of those is Airbnb but there are many many other options

  68. That is three people who could otherwise be doing the real work that Planning is supposed to do.

  69. As a matter of fact, I do. When the issue was heard at Planning in April, staff reported that they had more than 1500 complaints. That weekend, a housing advocate filed more than 500 more. Thanks for asking!

  70. >Tim is closer to the truth on this one than you.

    I didn’t say anything…I was just pointing out some of the demonstrably false things that Tim included in this post.

    Congratulations on feeling that Tim was close to the truth on this one, but there are people who stumble upon this site and are not aware that a large percentage of what Tim Redmond writes is fabricated material.

    What I don’t understand is why you progressives aren’t embarrassed.

    BTW, you don’t happen to have any proof that Planning is sitting on 2,000 short term rental complaints, do you?

  71. Sure, there will be some non-controlled homes that are on Airbnb

    But the question here, raised by Tim, implies that owners are taking controlled units off the rental market only because of Airbnb. I doubt that. Those owners have already decided they do not want to deal with rent control. If they didn’t use Airbnb, they would use something else, as I have done.

    You are correct that if a LL evicts for OMI, Ellis or condo conversion then he cannot re-rent. The law already covers that so Tim is being mischievous there.

  72. I feel sorry for anyone who is trying to get an application through Planning for a genuine project at the moment. Sounds like the Planning Department cannot do what it is supposed to do because it is swamped by all these petty complaints about sharing.

  73. Herrera filed and settled two — TWO — suits. Planning is currently sitting on a backlog of more than 2,000 short-term rental complaints. Tim is closer to the truth on this one than you.

  74. Wrong. You file an income tax return and list each source of income, or each transaction that yielded a capital gain. Airbnb sends the IRS 1099s for each host, disclosing names, addresses, SSNs and income.

  75. “A woman can buy birth control devices on eBay in a business transaction.” Birth control? No. But if she’s buying a Schedule II-IV drug, the purchase is reportable, just as if she walked into Walgreen.

    Go read Airbnb’s Terms of Service. When they sign up, hosts and guests acknowledge that the company can turn over data for law and tax enforcement — or sell it to third parties.

  76. You are asking me to prove a negative.

    Imagine this. Iran passes a law that forbids Airbnb from listing stays in Iran. But Airbnb ignores Iran and carries on advertizing those places. How does Iran enforce that prohibition?

    Other than going after its own hosts of course, which is what I am saying is the city’s only real option here for any hosting website outside its jurisdiction.

    Stricter regulation could just push sites like Airbnb into domiciling themselves offshore, in order to compete with foreign competitors who are not affected by US laws, just like the on-line poker sites have done.

  77. The chance of Airbnb’s statements being truthful is equivalent to the best bet you’ll find in a Las Vegas casino (the ‘odds’ bet on a craps table, even money). That shouldn’t bother you, if you like the idea of your city’s housing stock being manipulated by the motivations of a Las Vegas casino owner.
    Why Should I Trust Airbnb? (You Shouldn’t)

  78. You appear to have a vastly inflated view of the power that SF has to project power across national borders.

    The city could not enforce a foreign website to hand over details of SF stays that that website had organized for foreigners. Nor could the city enforce any collection of alleged taxes due from that foreign entity.

    Time for a race card, perhaps?

  79. OK, so you admit that if the Allied Bank of Tehran sells dollars to the Peoples’ Bank of China, then US regulations about that are moot?

    Likewise if a Swiss hosting website places a French visitor in a SF home, the only leverage the city has is against the SF host, because that is the only party to the transaction that is within the city’s jurisdiction and subject to its laws.

    These threats only work because Airbnb happens to be located in SF. That could change. Otherwise all you are doing here is helping foreign competitors compete with a SF-based successful business. Why would anyone in SF want that?

  80. Unless you have an non-complying foreign bank account for those foreign dollars from foreign tourists using a foreign-based home-hoteling website, your transactions can and will be tracked.

  81. Airbnb state that they operate in 4,000 cities. No evidence has been presented to question that claim.

    Major world cities that are not regulating Airbnb appear to include Chicago, Miami, Toronto, London, Paris, Rome, Madrid, Rio, Mumbai, Dubai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo, Sydney. Each of those are true world class cities and not small provincial cities like SF

  82. Give it rest. Are you really trying to compare SF to Des Moines, Wichita Falls, Timbuktu? Why don’t we just look at the top 40 tourist cities in the world and extrapolate. Your 4,000 number is being deliberately obtuse. (i.e., you are arguing just like sffoghorn).

  83. LOL, so you admit that such laws only apply either to US citizens or for transactions in and out of the US.

    My point was that such laws cannot be effective on foreigners where there is no physical entity or action on US soil. You appear to now agree with that.

    Other examples? ha ha.

  84. OK, so having dug around you are now up to 9 cities out of 4,000.

    IOW, 99.9775% of cities see no reason to regulate Airbnb

  85. New Orleans, Malibu, Berlin, and get this – in Amsterdam, they are spinning this as a “AirBnB-friendly” law, that allows residents to rent out their homes for up to two months each year, but they are required to pay the taxes, including “tourist taxes”. And there are others. Do your own searches.

  86. “But how many units are specifically taken off the market only because of Airbnb? I can answer that one. Almost none.”

    While i can accept this in theory, I’d like to know if any condos or SFHs are ever listed. Of course, these too may just be trying to fill a temp need; as any tenancy is basically mid-long term; any legal dispute no matter how valid can prolong tenancy for months and sometimes years – certainly not what you want if you have another use coming up in 6 wks/months.

    Just look at Tim’s example of people evicting for ABnB (Susan Wentzel on 18th); this was an eviction for condo conversion! – NOT for ABnB, though that may have been a temp usage.

  87. You are ignorant. For example, hundreds of foreign currency exchange companies are not based here, have no physical presence in the US and are highly regulated by US laws for US citizens or transactions into/out of the US by non-citizens.

    There are other examples as well, but I’m not going to do your work for you.

  88. Gary, you only cited five cities so evidently you are not aware of any other specific examples

  89. “. . .and many other big cities. . .”

    Again, you have reading comprehension issues. Or, more likely, you are a troll.

  90. Also, if what Tim said is true then Campos wouldn’t be pushing for a 60 day limit. Do the math — 60 nights x $239 a night = $14,340 or $1,195 a month.

  91. Generally speaking, tax reporting is done in the aggregate, e.g. total income, total capital gains etc. Taxpayers are not required to itemize every transaction except during an audit.

    The idea here is to effectively audit everyone engaged in this business. That is over-reach.

    My point about NSA was about the hypocrisy of wanting some types of snooping but not others. But I would draw a distinction between fighting domestic terrorists and seeking to impose a puntive tax on sharing

  92. In Santa Monica, West Hollywood, Paris, Barcelona, New York and many other big cities, regulation or outright ban of AirBnB is being discussed or implemented.

  93. Yes, Tim believes that homes being used for Airbnb raises rents, but that building new homes does not lower rents.


  94. @RichLL – just a bit of helpful advice here…they don’t know what the word ‘evidence’ means.

  95. Demanding records of fiscal transactions for tax and other regulatory purposes is not ‘snooping.’

    Regardless, are you saying that you support ‘alleged snooping by the NSA’?

  96. Keep distracting, you know I have nailed you, yet again.

    About time for that race-card play, Gary

  97. If they so deperately want more long term rental units on the market, they should encourage new development. Which, of course, is the great irony about the progs. They’ll be screaming at the developers this thurs night to block the development at 17th and Van ness. The one that will replace an empty, blighted lot. The cognitive dissonance is stunning.

  98. Keep digging. Soon, you will stray so far from what I wrote in an attempt to divert attention from your own reading-comprehension deficits that you will be discussing desert tortoises or something.

  99. Foghorn/marcos speaks for very few residents, but always claims he speaks for most of them. His circle is very limited so that might explain the discrepancy.

  100. It’s interesting that the same progressives that hate alleged snooping by the NSA suddenly love it when it is their municipality that is doing it.

  101. Also, a different type of web scraping would work. The BLA just took a snapshot at one point in time (Dec 2014) and tried to count the customer reviews to estimate the frequency of listings (page 12). Instead you could just scrape the major websites periodically to see which listings are always there.

    The concept that the government is entitled to the information because it is a business transaction is absurd (even if Ron Conway did invest in the company). A woman can buy birth control devices on eBay in a business transaction. Should eBay send that information to the government? After all, she might be involved in prostitution.

    Every phone call you make is a business transaction between you and your carrier.

  102. LOL, you were the one claiming that we are on his payroll.

    Lee has majority support in this city, meaning that you misjudge how most of us perceive him

  103. A few nutcase libertarians? Lee beat Avalos 60-40 and is heading for an even more decisive victory this year.

    You do not know your fellow voters very well, evidently

  104. Hundreds of thousands of San Franciscans would prefer that housing in residential be used to house San Franciscans rather than converted to on-the-cheap tourist hotels.

  105. Thousands of ordinary city residents evidently like to use their services. Why do you hate them?

  106. SF is just one of 4,000 cities in which Airbnb operates, and nearly all of those cities see no reason to hound and persecute them like SF does. So, yes, ultimately Airbnb will do fine even if they were totally banned from SF.

    I would expect them to move their business outside of the city if we are foolish enough to victimize them, and of course the city will lose all that tax revenue.

  107. It’s possible when that business has a physical presence in the US, but not otherwise any more than a foreign government can pass laws that you have to comply with here.

  108. You might catch the odd one that way. But it would be expensive and time-consuming to do, with no guarantee that it would make any difference

  109. Sting operations can easily figure this out with penalties sufficient to cover the costs of enforcement and assess punitive damages.

  110. AirBnB has a market cap of $20,000,000,000.00 which means that not a few investors see an increase in revenue on the horizon.

  111. Tim writes: “The landlords who take units off the rental market because they can make more money off Airbnb are the ones Campos is trying to control.”

    No, it is not more profitable to rent short-term than long-term. You will have slack periods. You have to furnish and equip the place. You have cleaning work to do on each change of guest. There is more wear and tear that you have to worry about. It’s a hassle. The reason owners do it is much more simple – control. You know the guest will leave and you know that rent control doesn’t apply. Purely in terms of rent, it’s a wash at best.

    There are of course landlords who take units off the rental market. That is what Ellis and TIC conversions are all about. That should not shock you since the entire point of rent control is to significantly limit the profitability of a rental business, and so of course landlords will quit the business. Everyone knows that is the result of rent control, even if they don’t like it.

    But how many units are specifically taken off the market only because of Airbnb? I can answer that one. Almost none. Because the primary decision is always to no longer rent under rent control. Once an owner has made that decision, he then decides what to do with the unit. It might be Airbnb but, if not, then something else.

    The over-riding factor is that these units are already lost to rent control because the owner has already made that decision that he no longer wants to deal with rent control. Airbnb is just one of many non-controlled uses that may be chosen.

    Tim is attacking a symptom of the the real problem, and not the problem itself. And that problem is excessive regulation, for which Tim’s suggested solution is even more regulation.

  112. You’re right. Businesses based in foreign countries are never forced to comply with US, state or local regulations. *facepalm*

  113. No, it would be very difficult to collect that data from, say, CraigsList, because those are just ads. There is no way of determining whether the advertized rental was taken.

    And what about those of us who are using overseas platforms e.g. those based in Europe which specialize in finding places for Europeans visiting SF?

    The city might eventually be able to compel Airbnb to provide data, if the privacy concerns are overcome, which would probably be a matter for a court to decide. But even then only because Airbnb just happens to be located in SF

  114. No, that might tell you the income declared for someone at a particular address, but it does not tell you how it was derived. Short-term rentals are reported to IRS and FTB in the exact same way as long-term rentals, because they are taxed in the same way. So much of that income would not be liable for the TOT and there would be no way to determine that from FTB records.

    Also it is nor reported by month AFAIK, but annually.

  115. “And, as Planning Commish Jackson noted (though the Ex didn’t mention), regulatory measures for one platform (ABnB) simply aren’t gonna work for others (Craigslist).”

    Model the data collection policies, legal issues and operation on AirBnB. Then apply it to others. E-Z.

  116. “But when you rent out a room or an apartment on Airbnb, you are running a business. And when you run a business, you get regulated by the city. And when you get regulated by the city, the city collects data on your business.” – Tim

    Yeah but … they don’t collect data on the business of renting rooms or apts on a monthly basis. Actually, the City collects more data on renting garage space than ppl-space. For instance, though traditional B&Bs are regulated, what are some numbers on that?

    And, as Planning Commish Jackson noted (though the Ex didn’t mention), regulatory measures for one platform (ABnB) simply aren’t gonna work for others (Craigslist).

    So, are we trying to regulate “home-shares”? Or are we (i.e., the progs) trying to regulate Ron Conway and his company? Your answer is in the text – where heap is mentioned abt Conway and scrape abt VBRO/CL/HA etc.

    Lotsa heat, little light.

  117. Mayor AirBnB doesn’t want to piss-off his overlords. And given Rahaim’s past boyfriend issues, maybe Mayor AirBnB’s overlords are holding some information about him to ensure they get him to act in their best interests – see link below.

    But let’s get to the issue: The data is needed to enforce the law. City officials claimed the data is needed and now they are backtracking. Webscrapes? Yeah, only an imbicile believes that is the proper way to enforce the law. It’s bad enough that the Republican Ron ‘get rid of the progressives’ Conway buys his way into city hall. But to think that we citizens of SF are that stupid to believe this nonsense shows his utter disrespect for San Francisco and San Franciscans. Of course, I’m not addressing the few nutcase libertarians who are paid to post on this blog.

    While Lee will win the election if he is unopposed, watch for the rest of Conway’s political machine be dismantled.


  118. The amount of BS in this post is stunning, even by Tim Redmond standards.

    >”The City Planning Department essentially admitted today that there’s no good way to enforce the laws against short-term rentals without forcing Airbnb to give the city data”

    No, they didn’t. They said that it would be helpful but that it was imperfect (because no one source has all the data) and that they could work without it.

    Tim even admits this later in the post.

    >”Today, Rahaim testified that there’s no need to force Airbnb to give the city anything. “There are other ways to get that data,” he said.”

    So what happened? Did Tim forget that he had already lied about that one?

    Referring to Airbnb, Tim says:

    >”The company knows how many apartments or houses each customer offers on the site. It knows how often those places are rented, for what periods of time.”

    No, they don’t know how often those places are rented. That’s the point that Tim just can’t get. Craigslist, VRBO, the other platforms and personal sales are not all cleared through Airbnb. Tim also seems to think that Airbnb reports night-by-night rentals to the IRS.

    >”The Budget and Legislative Analyst reported that a significant percentage of the city’s rental housing stock has been converted to hotel rooms.”

    Well, yeah…if you consider 0.4% to 0.8% to be “a significant percentage”. The economist pointed out that if they had been converted to hotel rooms they would be occupied about 85% of the time (310 nights). The budget analyst uses, I think, 58 nights.

    >”There has been zero enforcement of the short-term rental market since Airbnb arrived on the scene. Zero”

    City Attorney Dennis Herrera Sues Landlords for Illegal Airbnb Conversions

    There are just too many more…for example, Google does NOT share an individual’s search history with advertisers.

    I’m not saying that nothing that Tim wrote in this post is true, just that an extremely large percentage is completely made up.

  119. Currently the Franchise Tax Board provides the city with a list of all the businesses operating with a San Francisco address, which is then used to ensure a corresponding business license is current.

    AirBnB is now required to report to the IRS rental income generated by each of it’s participants which in turn is reported to FTB. No doubt this is available to the city as well. Though the number of nights is not reported, it is reported by month.

    Seems like at least part of the information the city needs for enforcement is already available, all that’s missing is the will.

  120. But – but – lets you and him share, and pay me for letting you share, and you pay the fees on what I collect for the sharing. Sharing, people!

    Cue #paidwingnuttroll whining in 5… 4… 3…

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