The backers of the proposed ballot measure which would clampdown on illegal short-term rentals and Airbnb’s business in San Francisco by instituting the “Neighborhood Preservation and Public Revenue Recovery Ordinance” have amended the ordinance to eliminate the explicit threat of criminal prosecution and incarceration for scofflaws.

The amendment, however, simply removes a bit of duplicative language from the ordinance which would become Chapter 41B of the San Francisco Administrative Code.  For as plugged-in people should know, according to San Francisco Administrative Code Chapter 41A, it is already unlawful for any owner to offer an apartment unit for rent in San Francisco for an occupancy of less than 30-days.

And in addition to civil penalties, Chapter 41A includes criminal penalties as well:

Any owner who rents an apartment unit for tourist or transient use as defined by [Chapter 41A] shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. Any person convicted of a misdemeanor hereunder shall be punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000 or by imprisonment in the County Jail for a period of not more than six months, or by both. Each apartment unit rented for tourist or transient use shall constitute a separate offense.

While Chapter 41A has rarely been enforced, the City Attorney is moving forward with a couple of cases and Chapter 41B would make it easier for scofflaws to be identified, reported and prosecuted.  At the same time, if Supervisor David Chiu’s proposed legislation is passed, some short-term rentals in San Francisco could become exempt from the existing law.

It will take 9,702 signatures to place the measure on the November ballot.  Expect to see petitioners for the measure to start circulating within the next couple of weeks.

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by BTinSF

    Can’t wait to sign the petition. For the first time in a long time I look forward to going to the Safeway.

  2. Posted by unwarrantedinlaw

    A post by a woman named Jill made me see the light on this subject. An owner should not have to put up with a hotel room next door, often a parade of drunks.

    Though the politiians don’t seem to be motivated to protect peoples’ property, rather they smell another way to fine and regulate.

    • Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

      Yes, fining and regulating is the way to change the incentives that are producing the undesirable behavior. It also has the advantage of costing less, since criminal prosecution is expensive and putting non-violent offenders in jail is cost prohibitive.

      Someone who is motivated by greed, like those predatory landlords who chose to ignore the laws and open an illegal hotel in a residential neighborhood while avoiding paying hotel taxes, is only going to have their behavior modified by making that behavior less economically rewarding.

      • Posted by san FronziScheme (formerly known as lol)

        The core of the issue still hasn’t been addressed: why do we have exorbitant market rents and why do landlords prefer to do airbnb? They want to get market rent without the rent control punishment.

        The forever legislating of rent control side effects makes me think of rust buckets that are used as ferries in some countries. They add layer after layer of paint, while the metal underneath keeps rusting away. The ship looks good from the outside but it doesn’t take much to sink it.

      • Posted by Keepitup

        You make the laws and we’ll find away around them.

        It’s such a shame that tenants (criminals) can’t make a few extra bucks renting a room in their home. Hey Brahma (incensed renter) , you better put your hands over your ears, because what I’m about to say will make your head explode. Greed is good. Greed is good. Greed is good. Greed is good. Greed is good.

    • Posted by san FronziScheme (formerly known as lol)

      Airbnb brings people who would probably not go to a sterilized hotel. They want to experience life of the locals, which should be welcome if we want SF to keep being one of the most essential beacons of progress in this country.

      Disclaimer: I am an airbnb host for 30+days stays only. I do not get tourists, but professionals relocating looking for a local experience.

  3. Posted by dssJ3

    I’m more interested in this from the property rights perspective. Landlords of rent-controlled units should not have to put up with both not being able to get market rent on their units or easily kick the tenants out AND having to watch the tenants make money by AIRBNBing property that’s not theirs. The lease may say “no subletting” but getting this enforced with a rent-controlled tenant is a nightmare. AIRBNB lets tenants do this safely and securely in a way that wouldn’t be very efficient were it not for AIRBNB.

    • Posted by san FronziScheme (formerly known as lol)

      Do not forget it also allows landlords to offer their place at market rate AND get around overreaching rent control laws. Of course hosting for less than 30 days is illegal. But for me who hosts for 30+ days, it’s a fantastic way of getting the rent without the aggravation of rent control. Landlording benefits society as a whole. It should be encouraged.

  4. Posted by unwarrantedinlaw

    That’s what I mean, your motivation is a righteous anger to cleanse, to “modify behavior” through coercion, the cause of much of the evil in history, rather than to simply protect Jill and her property.

  5. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    As to this:

    The backers of the proposed ballot measure which would clampdown on illegal short-term rentals and Airbnb’s business in San Francisco…have amended the ordinance to eliminate the explicit threat of criminal prosecution and incarceration for scofflaws.

    Not to pat myself on the back, but I think I predicted this would happen.
    On the previous thread about two weeks ago, I wrote:

    Well…I’d be glad to see this make it into law, but I suspect it won’t. San Franciscans have a sense of fair play, even for craven greed heads who willingly violate the law. Making a violation a criminal matter punishable by up to “…180 days in county jail” is a bit over the top for what should be treated as a civil matter.

    Removing the criminal penalties is a politically smart move and probably will derail a few legal challenges, should this actually become law.

    I still think it’ll be challenged, but the criminal penalties were just an additional unnecessary red cape waving in front of the landlord lobby.

    • Posted by san FronziScheme (formerly known as lol)

      “craven greed heads”. Wow. How about “people who want to make a buck”

      Greed is not always “Gordon-Gekko-good”, but it can be “move-your-butt-and-make-things-happen” good.

      I am decently hard working, but greed makes me surpass myself in ways I wouldn’t believe I could.

  6. Posted by anon

    San Francisco is “one of the most essential beacons of progress in this country”? Wow, I’ll be damned. You learn something new every day. This is in many ways one of the most f-d up first world cities I’ve been to. I consider it more of a beacon of corruption, inefficiency and political correctness.

    Right now I’m thinking Bel Air or Cap Ferrat is looking more and more attractive for the fact that they are not ‘beacons of progress’.

  7. Posted by san FronziScheme (formerly known as lol)

    Many new ideas that have gone mainstream started in SF. Yes there are issues, but you can’t deny that some new trends start from here. It used to be social trends, now it’s disruptive tech.

  8. Posted by Jill

    This issue is all about zoning to me. If it’s zoned for commercial use as a hotel, then I’m all for it. But not for hotels in any building even in residential areas

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