Sunday, May 16, 2021
News + Politics Who will oppose the new Airbnb measure?

Who will oppose the new Airbnb measure?

Wiener, Breed, Lee will have to decide, in an election year, if they support enforcing the law or are still siding with Ron Conway's company

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Sups. David Campos and Aaron Peskin have teamed up to take on Airbnb with a simple, clear piece of legislation that could have an immediate and lasting impact on illegal short-term rentals.

The measure would require Airbnb, and all the other short-term rental platforms, to make sure that all of the places listed on the sites are legal and have a city registration number.

The bill will have six votes on this board – and will put a lot of the more moderate supes, particularly people running for office this fall, in a tough spot: Will they side (again) with Airbnb, or admit that the law they voted for has been a failure?

Airbnb spent millions to beat a ballot measure -- but can the company still claim its against enforcing the rules it wrote?
Airbnb spent millions to beat a ballot measure — but can the company still claim its against enforcing the rules it wrote?

Same for the mayor, who has been a big Airbnb ally: Would he dare veto a measure that simply enforces a law that he claims to support?

The measure is very similar to an amendment Campos introduced when David Chiu, then a supervisor and now an Assembly member, pushed through a law written in part by Airbnb’s lobbyists. Campos offered a simple suggestion: If the city agrees that there ought to be rules for short-term rentals, and people who want to use Airbnb ought to register with the city to be sure they are complying with the rules, how about making Airbnb responsible for ensuring that only legal, registered units are listed? That went down, 6-5. He tried again later, and again his proposal was rejected, 6-5.

But there’s been a huge change in the board since then – Julie Christensen, who was Airbnb’s biggest ally, is gone, and Peskin, who has long called for more regulations on short-term rentals, has taken her place.

And to the surprise of nobody, Airbnb has suddenly started talking about how they want to work with the city.

But the reality is that the platform makes most of its money from illegal listings –and a measure that would make the corporation, not the hosts or the city, take responsibility for enforcing the law would be a dramatic change.

It would also set a national standard, since cities all over the country are struggling with the platform that is decimating rental housing – and if SF can do the simple thing, and tell Airbnb (and other similar platforms) that they are responsible for making sure their listings are legal, other cities will follow suit.

Airbnb doesn’t seem to have a problem with the rules the company wrote: You can only list your primary residence (that is, you can’t buy a bunch of buildings, evict the tenants, and turn them into hotels); you can only list it 90 days a year; you have to fill out a form and show the city that your actually live in the place you are renting out.

The problem is, the vast, vast majority of the Airbnb units in SF aren’t registered. So what’s wrong with telling the platform that it can’t list illegal units?

When the mayor and six supes opposed this idea, they said that the new law “needed a chance to work.” We’ve had that chance; it hasn’t worked.

And while Airbnb has organized its hosts to show up at City Hall and demand the right to rent out their homes as short-term hotels, the brilliance of the Campos-Peskin plan is that it has no impact on legal hosts.

“The mom-and-pops who are renting out their houses or spare rooms to make extra money aren’t impacted,” he told me. “The hosts who are following the rules don’t have to do anything at all.”

What could be wrong with that? Only one thing – it will cut deeply into the bottom line of a company that has a major investor, Ron Conway, who is close to the mayor and has spent millions attacking politicians who dare to mess with his agenda.

Sup. London Breed has consistently backed Airbnb. She is in a contested race with a tenant advocate, Dean Preston, who has always supported the Campos approach.

Sup. Scott Wiener, who has always backed Airbnb, is running for state Senate against Sup. Jane Kim, who was one of the five votes for the Campos plan the first time it came up.

If Breed and Wiener support the Campos/Peskin bill, they will have to acknowledge that they were wrong the first time around, that the Chiu bill was, as many critics claimed, unenforceable and costing the city thousands of rental units. If they oppose it, they will have to say: We side with Airbnb and not with the tenants.

Same goes for the mayor.

Gonna be an interesting few weeks as this works its way through the board.

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.

97 COMMENTS

  1. Obviously you did not realize what I put in quotes is straight from the BLA STR Report sent on 4/7/16. So quit making up shit. PLEASE. Dale

    Now lets talk about YOU…..you live in Cow Hollow in your large house and are over 55. You got extra bedrooms that you are not sharing. WHY NOT? These progressive activists need YOUR bedroom. At least I am SHARING my room with STR and LTR – students, interns, people relocating for jobs and even tourists who can not afford to visit SF and stay in a hotel room.

  2. Go watch Guy’s presentation at Land Use on Monday, April 25th. My numbers come straight from his slide deck.

    And his numbers come from Airbnb: The San Francisco law’s most basic component, a requirement that hosts register with the city, has failed to gain traction, with fewer than 1,000 registering. Airbnb said it has 7,046 hosts with 9,448 active listings, while there are thousands more on other sites. http://www.sfgate.com/business/article/Airbnb-to-purge-illegal-hotels-from-San-Francisco-7223613.php

    If you’re going to play, please try to keep up.

  3. wrong again Carlson…..Dale Carlson….It was listings and over 5K hosts as reported by Kevin Guy in STR Office. Get your facts right.

  4. Sure they will go underground and then you will cry foul – ” SEE ITS NOT WORKING” and lets shut the whole thing down. #stupid Why not go after ALL platforms (and that will still leave out future platforms)……and so the real deal here is to leave policing up to STR Office NOT platforms.

  5. OK lets just say government doesn’t work fast enough for you. BOO HOO. I am still waiting on my red curbs to be painted in front of my house and that has been over 3 months. In addition, you must be completely ignorant of legal due process of law. Ever heard of an appeal?

    Now since your handle is Carlson, I must assume this is the Dale Carlson. The infamous Dale Carlson who was NOT registered with SF City Hall to do business for well over 6 years. http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Prop-F-would-require-business-license-but-6571516.php

    And Dale – your number of hosts keep changing up and up and up. It is hard to believe anything you say.

  6. They won’t go too far underground or tourists won’t be able to find them.

    And if tourists can find them, effective enforcement could, too.

  7. This past Monday, the Office of Short-term Rentals reported to the Supervisors Land Use Committee that it has levied $695,000 in fines but collected only $160,000, or 23% of the assessments. That’s not very impressive.

    More telling are the anemic registration numbers. Airbnb self-reported having 7,047 hosts as of March 2016 (up 31% from 5,378 this past November). Assume for the sake of discussion that all 1,210 people currently registered as STR hosts are on Airbnb, and not any of the other 60 platforms. That means 83% of Airbnb’s hosts are operating illegally.

    If you take Airbnb at its word — that it holds more than 50% of the STR market in San Francisco — there could be upwards of 14,000 hosts, with the registration rate falling below nine percent (9%).

    If we saw such poor compliance rates with any other ordinance, we’d quickly conclude it was ineffective.

    So the current law isn’t working. REALLY.

  8. The proposed ordinance from Peskin and Campos is finally online at File 160423. It requires the Office of Short Term Residential Rental Administration and Enforcement to perform an inventory of all active listings, requires Hosting Platforms to remove any listings without registration numbers within 1 day or face penalties of $1000/day, and earmarks all penalties for use in the Housing Trust Fund’s Small Sites Program. The definition of “Hosting Platform” remains broad enough to include anything from craigslist to Nextdoor to email lists, and there’s still no word on whether this can be enforced against websites headquartered outside of San Francisco.

  9. Yes, if you know a location accommodating short term renters, I URGE you to use the link provided by flight505 to determine if the owner/landlord has a permit. Or call 311 with the address and the can look it up.

    So not sure that everyone knows this but Peskin’s and Campos’s proposal will not Craigslist because Craigslist is considered an “AD” site.

    So guess what? People engaging in short term rentals who know they will never ever qualify for a STR permit will switch over to Craigslist to list their short term rentals.

    These are one unforeseen consequence of this new proposal that I am wondering if Peskin and Campos in their fervor to address the housing crisis in this city, have taken into account?

  10. And Airbnb is the ONLY platform that pays TOT tax to the city so all these STRs will go underground and NO tax will be collected – smart move Peskin / Campos!

  11. yes file a complaint and stop whining about illegals. If you know it is going on and not reporting it, then you are part of the problem.

  12. really not working? REALLY……just 650K in fines alone and over 450K collected or some figure close to that. Really?

  13. One of these days, something is going to put you in a position of real need and you will be left hanging to dry. Chalk it up to Karma. You obviously are as a very selfish person. Why don’t you take a hike!

  14. Let me see if I can clarify a few things.

    First, Airbnb recently disclosed that it has more than 7,000 hosts in SF, more than 9,000 listings (include some duplicates) and controls about half the market for short-term rentals in the city. There are more than 60 websites offering residential accommodations to tourists, and most of the listings on those are for full units, not spare rooms. Fair bet they’ve become year-round STRs, not apartments or homes.

    With just 1,200 people registered to legally offer STRs on ANY platform, it’s abundantly clear that the current law isn’t working.

    The Office of Short-term Rentals reports that it has turned down more than 400 applicants, mostly due to their desire to register a unit that isn’t their primary residence, as the current law requires. Its director surmised that the 5,800 unregistered Airbnb hosts are probably offering non-primary residences to tourists; live in condos where the homeowners association precludes short-term rentals; or are tenants renting without the landlord’s knowledge or permission. He doesn’t believe those folks are ever likely “to come in from the shadows.”

    Second, it’s hardly fair to those who’ve gone to the trouble of registering (including acquiring $500k insurance policies) to be faced with competition from the unregistered (and uninsured). And for those folks, the Campos-Peskin proposal doesn’t change their requirements but will help level the playing field.

    Third, there’s every reason to feel confident that the law, if adopted, will withstand legal challenge. The same requirement on hosting platforms is in place in Portland, Oregon, and the LA Planning Department’s proposed STR regulations include the very same provision. In other words, three city attorneys for major cities believe that limiting platforms to listing only properly registered units is perfectly defensible.

    It’s common sense, really. Uber and Lyft wouldn’t be allowed to carry unlicensed drivers in unregistered vehicles on their platforms. Hertz and GetAround can’t rent to unlicensed drivers. Why should Airbnb, et al. be aiding and abetting — and profiting from — illegal STRs?

    Finally, in response to those arguing “I have the right to do whatever I want with my property,” a) no, you don’t and b) neither do your neighbors, at least not in any municipality with zoning codes.

  15. This legislation is long overdue and its elements should have been incorporated into the original STR law. Consider an extreme example:

    Recently there was a fellow who was renting an aging VW microbus for $35 per night and parking it on Bernal Hill. No water, no toilet, no electricity but it was listed on Airbnb. Someone posted a link to the Airbnb listing on Nextdoor and it had several recommendations. Not sure whether the listing is still there.

    This came to light when two women who had camped out in the microbus had their car broken into and the incident was posted on Nextdoor.

  16. Nice going hiker_sf. !!! Obviously you don’t know how to have a civil discourse. And by the way, it IS LEGAL to do short term renting in one’s home, as long as one has a permit. That gives those with STR Permits the right. Also there are all kinds of people working from home or have a home based business, in case your head has been stuck in the sand.

  17. You don’t have the “right” to operate a business in your home. It is a privilege based upon zoning laws, etc.

    And frankly, you all have been arrogant pricks, so who cares about you.

    Please not that in about 100 major cities and other jurisdictions they are clamping down on these types of short-term rentals.

  18. I wish our “housing advocates” spent half as much time supporting new housing starts as they do hunting AirBnB bogeymen. But hey, populist witch hunts are much easier than the unpopular heavy lifting of approving new homes.

  19. The city is getting more income from the TOT being collected from short-term renting than ever before. But instead of investing the TOT or the potential income from these penalties if this law is passed on increasing personnel at the Office of Short Term Renting to deal with more efficient processing of permits, this piece of amendment wants all the penalty income to go to Affordable Housing. Does this not give you some insight into the political shenanigans of both Campos and Peskin and their ultra left wing progressive objectives? They are not at all interested in making short term renting accessible and efficient for those who have every right to do short term renting.

  20. I have read it and just so you know I am not an Airbnb ” fan” or “shrill” although I will admit I have used their platform before. Airbnb and any of these online platforms like VRBO, Homeaway, Flipkey, Wimdu, etc… don’t own any properties so I am not sure how you can say these platforms are breaking laws. Is there a law that says such a platform is illegal. These platforms just facilitate by bringing hosts and renters together. So how are they “breaking the law”?

  21. 661-665 Fillmore/921 Hayes has been operating as a hotel. Planning Dept issued a notice of violation on 4/18.

    1314 Eddy Street (a 3 bed, 2 bath house) sold last fall. The new owners never moved in. It has been operating as a hotel since then. A complaint was filed on March 24. Somehow it didn’t make it into the system, so the complaint was resubmitted on April 25.

    You can check any property at: http://propertymap.sfplanning.org/

    Enter the address in the search box or locate the property on the map. Once located, click on the “planning apps” tab. Scroll down until you see the “Short Term Rentals” link.

    If you know a place is being Airbnb’ed (I mean, shared) and it is not registered, send an email to shorttermrentals@sfgov.org to file a complaint.

  22. You have reading comprehension issues – you need to finish reading the sentence you just quoted part of.

  23. Yeah, the number of Hunters Point rentals is the same as in North Beach.

    It’s like saying ‘the number of murders city-wide last week’ when there was one murder and it was in the Tenderloin.

  24. The ‘lot of people needing extra income’ argument is an AirBnB talking point.

    If you want a streamlined process that probably needs more staffing, I’m sure you’ll be happy to pay and additional tax to pay for it.

    Sorry, you get no compassion from me. 4 months is not a long time to wait to change the use of a residence to a business.

    Deal with it.

  25. If you needed a driver’s license to drive and the DMV took 4 months to issue you one or renew one for you, and the need to drive in order to earn you money in order to put food on the table and a roof over your head, pay your medical bills and pay your college debt , I am 100 percent certain you’d be whining too. Until the City comes up with a better, stream-lined method of getting the permit process more efficient, I see alot of people needing extra income from short-term renting getting sabotaged because their listing will have to be removed. Got empathy? Compassion?

  26. Well it isn’t in a few neighborhoods, the estimate is city wide.

    And it isn’t my estimate. I provided a link to the city’s Budget Analyst report saying that there are a total of 1,055 units being rented over 90 days. Which jives with all other estimates except Tim Redmond’s “about 6,000”,

    If Airbnb went away a fraction of those 1,055 might become available at market rates, offered by very aggressive landlords.

    There’s a reason why Tim made up the 6,000 figure. It’s because the truth is that the net effect will be extremely neglibible.

  27. Your statement “And I don’t oppose these companies in concept, I oppose them coming to our city” is what is leading me to assume you think noone else but the people already living here are entitled to live in San Francisco. So if a new company gets set up in San Francisco, obviously they need workers, right? So they hire these new workers but the city does not prepare itself to have more housing to accommodate the influx of these new workers. So the shortage of housing then increases rents and motivates greedy landlords to evict existing tenants. These new workers also want to own their own places and buy up properties, I mean after all they need a place to live, just like you and me, right? . So the real estate prices go up as well because of the increase in demand. So now all the problems this city is suddenly the fault of these new companies and these new workers?? So who are these “paid operatives” who are subverting the will of the people? Which people?

  28. “and will put a lot of the more moderate supes…”

    Why do you constantly eat the ass of The Establishment by calling conservatives “moderates?” Get a spine. Call them what they are: Conservatives. They’re not fooling anyone by hiding behind that BS “moderate” label.

    Just three examples: There’s nothing “moderate” about a conservative law of hate for the homeless (sit-lie) or a conservative city-wide nudity ban or the conservative closing the parks at night so the homeless can’t sleep there. There are many other examples I could give.

  29. 400-500 units in a few neighborhoods is a lot. And I believe your estimate is very low.

    This is the first step towards better regulations of all short-term rentals.

    You can run, but you can’t hide.

  30. I’m sorry, I’m not understanding how this hurts legal AirBnB rentals or their owners.

    While waiting 4 months may be a pain, it is hardly the end of the world. Stop whining.

  31. Point is paid operatives (I assume) were making the case that no further legislation would be going forward, as it would be subverting the will of the people. But point taken.

  32. Uh haha. Yes I was born here and have lived here my whole life. No I do not think no one else should be allowed to move into San Francisco. I will leave it to you to explain how you got to that conclusion.

  33. On today’s Board of Supervisors Meeting, on the agenda was an opposition to SB 1102 sponsored by Peskin and Campos because it is supposed to undermine local governments ability to collect the Transient Occupancy Tax and effectively enforce short term rental laws. Does anyone know exactly what SB 1102 introduced by State Senator McGuire is all about?

    Maybe Tim Redmond and use his investigative “talents” to educate all of us? Any volunteers?

  34. Why don’t you also count how many short term rentals listed are on VRBO, Craigslist, Homeaway, Flipkey, Wimdu, etc??

  35. Carl,
    Were you born in San Francisco or did you “come into” this city? Even if you were born here, what makes you so special that you think noone else should be allowed to move into San Francisco?

  36. These to me are the most interesting numbers

    7,029 – Total number of Airbnb listings as of November 2015
    5,378 – Number of unique Airbnb hosts as of November 2015

    I would wager that the group abusing the are the multiple (3+) property / absentee owners.

  37. I’m with you, Playland! Only the foolish believe everything they read Moreover, just because there are 5000 listings does not mean that there are 5000 hosts A single host can have multiple listings within the same address For example, if I go on vacation or away for a short business trip and I want to rent both my bedrooms which would amount to 2 listings for my address and if I want to rent out my entire place, I might activate another listing for a whole place but block out all the days that I will be home and not away. That would be 3 listings for one address I would take down two listings after I return from my trip and just have one listing for my spare bedroom (when I don’t have friends and family visiting) But Campos and the media and the pro-Proposition F advocates would like to sensationalize these issues and mislead the public

  38. People are being misled about the scale of units that have possibly been taken off the market. Tim Redmond likes to talk about “at least 6,000” but what he says isn’t even remotely close to being true. From the recent Budget Analyst Report:

    “Of the total 4,033 entire home Airbnb listings from November 2015, an
    estimated 1,055, or 26.2 percent, had bookings for more than 90 nights per year”
    http://www.sfbos.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=55575 (page 15)

    And that’s 90 days…if something was being run as a full time hotel it would be booked about 300 days. Clearly, not all of those 1,055 are going to become available rentals.

    So are we talking about maybe 400-500 units here? Maybe?

    I’m not saying that 400-500 units are inconsequential, I’m just saying that people who believe Tim Redmond and Aaron Peskin are going to be sorely disappointed.

  39. Yup…they are trying to keep in the good graces of the NIMBYs and extreme left wing so-called progressives who think we should not increase housing for anyone in this city except for those who qualify for Affordable Housing. And of course, also catering to the Housing activists who think a renter should have more rights than an owner.

  40. The Office of Short Term Rentals can show that short term rental permits have increased almost two-fold in the past year. For Campos and Peskin to introduce these extreme amendments is their SNEAKY WAY to accommodate the Pro F Initiative advocates who are mainly NIMBY’s and extra left wing extremists.

    In the last quarter alone, more than 450 STR hosts have applied and received permits. The number of short term rentals have doubled in less than a year in a half. And we would have had more applicants and more permits issued if the City was willing to increase the number of people in the Office of Short Term Rentals.

    Yes, I am registered and am operating Short Term Renting legally. It took 4 months to get my Short Term Rental permit after I submitted my application for a STR permit…YES. 4 months!

    How would like if you needed to drive to make a living and the DMV took 4 months to issue you a driver’s licence???

    So unless there is a faster, more efficient method for the Planning Dept to come up with a way to issue STR permits, I say this amendment gets shelved. Campos and Peskin, put your efforts to producing more efficiency before making more laws that will hurt your legal Short Term Rental hosts/constituents in San Francisco. .

  41. This proposal isn’t what was on the ballot though. Many of the people who voted against Prop F are fine with sensible regulation, including myself.

  42. This ordinance, if enacted will quickly be overturned in the courts because it is incompatible with the Communications Decency Act, but it will give Compost and Pesky an opportunity to pretend they are doing something for the little guy.

  43. This is so idiotic. Why is it so hard to believe that Wiener and Breed would support something as reasonable as this? I see nothing wrong with this new proposal. This is why so many people voted against Prop F in the first place. We all knew there was a better solution. This seems very reasonable. Get over yourselves. Stop making everything an “Us v. Them” situation.

  44. Wow, yeah! Can’t wait to see the Airbnb shills show in this comments section up and start pretending they are unbiased parties! I think last time I was conversing with one here, he was telling me how there was no way the board was going to try to pass something that was voted down on ballot, and essentially calling me an idiot for thinking otherwise! I actually like Airbnb in concept but the way they have conducted themselves is shameful. And I am more on the ‘keep our residential neighborhoods residential’ tip than the ‘Airbnb drives up the cost of housing’ tip, though that is a real concern, as well. I don’t oppose these companies in concept, I oppose them coming to our city, breaking our laws, and then expecting to be accommodated while they create more and more bad faith with San Franciscans.

  45. It’s almost embarrassing how stupid we are. Mayor Lee & his surrogate Ron Conway, took all the time they needed to negate any AirBnB, Tech buses & Lyft/Uber regs. Just per last, there are 37,000 clogging our streets. And SFTransit is trying to make buses run on time & w/new routes, etc. Ron Conroy won’t let this happen. Our mostly absent Mayor has become a joke, as compared to people voting for him who thought he was a straight shooter, but not at all.

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