Supervisor Chiu’s proposed framework to legalize, but limit, short-term rentals in San Francisco has been amended and approved by San Francisco’s Planning Commission.  The framework will now head to San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors to review.

While the proposed limit of allowing a unit to be rented for no more than 90 days per year will most likely stick, including for single-family homes, it might be relaxed for “hosted rentals” where the host is present during the stay.

And while all units will need to be registered with the city, whether or not the registry will be made public and mapped as recommended will be a battle for the Board.

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by anon$random

    The registry has to be made public for this to work.

    • Posted by DanRH

      Agree 100%. Seperately, anyone have any idea what the proposal says for an in-law (legal or illegal) that’s part of a SFH? This is where many of the existing VRBO listings are.

      • Posted by SFLandlord

        There was talk about making airbnb/VRBO responsible for tracking the frequency of rentals internally as that would be difficult for the city to police. All listings would be required to have a registration number. The registry would be maintained by the city, would be tracked by address and subject to sunshine laws. I think they would require tenants to get landlord permission as part of the registration process. It was nice to see the Commission taking so much care and discussing the issues so thoroughly.

      • Posted by parklife

        Wouldn’t maintaining an in-law (legal or illegal) that is part of a SFH cause this property to then be subject to the proposed punitive transfer tax proposition? I believe that SF considers a SFH with an in-law to be a two unit building. If so, I would think it would not be wise to register with the city.

        • Posted by SFLandlord

          If it’s not legal, why not simply register it as part of a SFH?

          • Posted by parklife

            That would be the more prudent move. However, you are still opening up yourself to the possibility that the city will ultimately deem your SFH to be a multi-unit building.

          • Posted by BobN

            How could the City distinguish your illegal in-law as anything other than “hosted” space in your SFH? They say they’re considering relaxing the rules for “hosted” space (not sure on the logic of that one).

          • Posted by BobN

            And this means they’re actually favoring the illegal in-laws over the legal ones… sigh.

        • Posted by Andrew Bates

          No, an in-law apartment in some areas of the city is Not a 2 unit building. More often than not it’s a single family home with the garage serving as the in-law unit.

          • Posted by sfrepro

            If you are operating a second unit ie collecting two rent checks, you have converted your SFR to a 2 unit building in the eyes of the SF Rent Board and court system. Having the inlaw legal or not, you will lose the Costa Hawkins protection afforded to SFRs and condos. Its judged based on the current use not original use.

  2. Posted by anon$random

    that being said, short-term rentals should not be legal for rent-controlled units

    • Posted by lsf

      I agree, rent-controlled units should not be using for short-term rentals ala airbnb.

      • Posted by kbbl

        I don’t see why. Under current laws a landlord of such a unit could get the same bypass effect with a string of 30-day leases. One of my neighbors does this already.

      • Posted by san FronziScheme (formerly known as lol)

        Good point by kbbl, but do you include non-tenant occupied units as well?

  3. Posted by sixtypercenttogether

    Presumably, most rent controlled units would have a provision in their lease that prevents the tenant from subleasing without permission from the landlord. I’m pretty sure every lease I’ve ever signed had such a provision. I doubt this legislation would supersede that. So if a landlord objects to a tenant airbnb’ing their rent controlled unit, then they could just evict them.

  4. Posted by OMN

    I don’t understand how this is legal for single family (owned) homes.

    • Posted by DanRH

      My interpretation: it’s a zoning issue. You buy a SFH to live in it. If you want to change it into a short term / vacation rental, that’s your right, but then the city sees that as a business. And it is. They already have a process today for this that a SFH owner should follow (ie, turning their place into a B&B).

      • Posted by DanRH

        …maybe I misinterpreted your question though! Basically this proposal is saying ‘ok, SFHs can get in on this too’.

        • Posted by OMN

          I think you’ve got it right. My question was basically, why can I not buy a property and then rent it out as a vacation rental, if it is my property? Why are there limits to how many days per year I can do this? There aren’t any limits for the number of days a landlord can rent out an apartment through craigslist; why are there limits for AirBnB?

          • Posted by SFLandlord

            There are limits now; they just aren’t enforced. It is currently illegal for anyone to rent anything for less than 30 days because it is considered a commercial use.

          • Posted by Chris

            Rentals, even of your own property, are controlled by zoning, health and safety, and where applicable, rent control laws. Your question seems to be asking why can the city regulate what I can do with my own property? Well, the government can and has for generations placed various limitations on what you can do with your own property, including your own single-family home.

            San Francisco has laws that limit short-term rentals, including for single-family homes and also apartments. These laws have not always been strongly enforced. Now Supervisor Chuis is proposing a change to the laws that would permit short-term rentals subject to a regulatory framework (like registering with the city, paying taxes, keeping within certain limits on rentals, etc..)

          • Posted by BobN

            The existing laws on SFH rental for “short-term” required stays of longer than 30 days. There was no limit on number of days a year the unit could be rented, right?

          • Posted by lsf

            There are limits, because we cannot open an hotel-like place wherever we want.
            If it is a SFH, I can see that the 90 days rule could be relaxed a bit. But for a condo, I doubt I would like my neighbor changing every week with not always considerate tourists (and I don’t blame them, vacation is for relaxing, going out late and party too).

  5. Posted by anon94123

    This has become a huge issue down in the Palm Springs desert resort communities as well. I believe both Rancho Mirage and Indian Wells are trying to stop Airbnb-ing with various legislative proposals. It is not just a San Francisco issue.

  6. Posted by SFrentier

    Will landlords be able to rent out investment property up to 90 days? (Or can you only rent out your “principal residence?”). Simple. Limit under 30 day stays to 90, and the rest over 30 days (but be aware they become legal tenants!). That’s what fonzi does.

    And to all landlords out there: FFS! Don’t allow your tenants to airbnb, unless they are super responsible and will share the proceeds with you.

    Also, was there any talk of a complaint hotline/mechanism? If a host has complaints that are not corrected, the city or airbnb should be able to shut them down. That way neighbors have an effective tool to control noise, etc.

    • Posted by OMN

      “(but be aware they become legal tenants!)”
      That’s a pretty big caveat…

      • Posted by san FronziScheme (formerly known as lol)

        Yes, but here’s the thing: a guest staying with me will pay 20 to 30% over a similar price for the same unit on the open rental market. Yes my hosting includes furniture, utilities, towels, etc…

        Now I am aware of the possibility of a crazy guest who likes my place so much he wants to stay long term. Or who’s simply not a good enough candidate to be able to snatch a regular rental. He would be paying way more than market rate plus I would stop providing free utilities and furniture/stuff.

        My experience with “pay more than market” tenants: they do not stay very long. Whatever reason they had to decide to go long term with me would be temporary, or they would have more time to find something more affordable housing. Guesstimates In % terms: chances of someone asking to switch to regular lease: 2%. Chances of these 2% to stick around long enough to end up paying under the current market rate: 25%. That’s a very limited risk. I have seen it done once, for a host who actually proposed it to the guest, and at a lower price than the airbnb price. This was for convenience only obviously. The guy left after one year.

        • Posted by Chris

          I think the greater risk is not that some crazy guest will insist on becoming a long-term tenant while paying you way more than market rate, but rather that some crazy guest will stop paying you and then assert his or her tenant rights and force you to go through a lengthy and costly eviction process to get rid of the individual.

          • Posted by San FronziScheme (formerly known as lol)

            There is that risk with regular rentals too.

          • Posted by Dolores Guerrero

            @ san FronziScheme, question for you. With long term tenants I have less concern about them becoming squatters because I screen very carefully based on what type of tenants have been good tenants in the past, I get an application, I verify employment and the last landlord, and I run a full credit report and eviction search. I do all these things to minimize the risk that the tenant will turn out to be a flake. With a short term tenant, are you doing these types of things? I would think this is an area where it would increase your risk as it might be cost prohibitive to do this kind of screening for each short term visitor, and impossible to do for foreign visitors.

  7. Posted by Conifer

    What was the vote? Who voted on each side?

  8. Posted by BTinSF

    I’m more interested in the effect on condos. My HOA CC&Rs limits renting of units to 4 rentals a year and forbids supplying of “hotel services”. Actually, the registry could help us catch violators but I am very opposed to the idea of vacationers in significant numbers traipsing in and out of the building. Long-term renters are bad enough in their general lack of respect for other residents and the common areas.

    • Posted by lsf

      I am with you. Not all condos have the sound proofing and even clear emergency exits, to accommodate random guests in vacation. Hotels are built with sound proofing between rooms, in hallway, etc. I think some people underestimate the nuisance that such activity in normal buildings can do.

  9. Posted by Bib B

    If you think that the City will effectively enforce this, I suggest you check complaint number 201319831 about an illegal in-law at 225 Lee Ave. I saw the in-law when the house was for sale (along with many other obviously illegal in-laws). All the way to the Director of DBI, and no action.

  10. Posted by Keepitup

    This BS legislation will do nothing to solve the housing shortage in San Francisco.

    Read the Planning staff report. This is a made up crisis.

    OMG….1.2% of SF housing stock is used for short term vacation rentals! And this is number is moving target and can’t be substantiated.
    OMG……..complaint calls from incensed neighbors have increased from 20 calls in 2012 to 40 calls in 2013 to 90 calls in 2014! And how many of these calls have been investigated for authenticity? My guess ZERO.
    Quick run for the 48hills…….save the woman and children………

    Classic….Saul Alinsky’s 12 Rules for Radicals…..
    RULE 3: “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.” Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty. (This happens all the time. Watch how many organizations under attack are blind-sided by seemingly irrelevant arguments that they are then forced to address.)

    “…..never let a good crisis go to waste….” Even if it’s a fake made up crisis.

    Rumor has it Calvin Welch and company are demanding changes in the proposed legislation that all tenants and owners wishing to participate in this rental program have their registration number tattooed on their arms. They want the city to create a bounty on violators so predator lawyers can search out and cleans the city of scofflaws.

    Are you really going to let a few old has-been radicals control your life?????

    Wake up SF your government is creating a Ministry for State Security…..i.e. Stasi (see name link)

  11. Posted by Jake

    The planning dept report (pdf at namelink) recommends some reasonable changes to the ordinance (page 8-12), including
    – public registry with registered units shown on the SF property map on the public web site
    – all rental ads display the permit number similar to billboard ad rules
    – quarterly reporting of number of rental nights by each registered unit
    – more detailed enforcement mechanisms and authority

    Nearly 1.3% of all housing units in SF being removed from the housing stock may not seem like much, but it is about the total number of housing units added in the past four years 2010-2013 inclusive (4776 units). It is also more than 10% of the total number of legal hotel rooms in SF (~34,000).

    FWIW, the complaint progression from 25/year to 40/year to 95/halfyear has the look of exponential growth, though three data points isn’t enough to curve fit with confidence.

    Seems to me that SF is a year or two late to regulate this, but I guess that is still way ahead of the usual pace.

    Also, if you are going to quote from the report, you may as well quote accurately.

    Here are the relevant quotes from the report with page references:

    “Based on surveys that the Department conducted, staff’s conservative estimate is that at any one time, anywhere from 4,000-5,000 entire units have been removed from San Francisco housing stock and are being advertised online as short-term rentals. This number accounts for nearly 1.3% of all housing units in the City. For comparison sake, there has been much public concern about the conversion of rental housing to condominiums. From 2009 to 2013, 2,669 units were converted into condominiums—about half the number of units that may currently be lost to tourist use. To address that loss of rent controlled housing, the Board passed an Ordinance that allowed condominium conversions currently in the queue to move forward, but halted all future condominium conversion for 10 years.”
    (page 4)

    “Department records show a dramatic increase in the number of listings posted online in San Francisco. In 2011, the Department counted 1,595 rental listings on one short-term rental site. In 2012, that number increased to 2,533 and in January of this year that number increased to 6,960. Approximately 70% of listings from one site were for an entire unit. Other research has found 5,000 listings on one short-term rental platform alone, including both hosted and non-hosted rentals. In 2012, the Department’s enforcement team started to track short-term rentals with a separate tracking code. That year the Department received 25 complaints related to short-term rental use. In 2013 the number of complaints increased to 40, and as of June 27th of this year we have received approximately 95 complaints.”
    (page 6)

    • Posted by Keepitup

      “…In 2012, the Department’s enforcement team started to track short-term rentals with a separate tracking code. That year the Department received 25 complaints related to short-term rental use. In 2013 the number of complaints increased to 40, and as of June 27th of this year we have received approximately 95 complaints.”

      Without investigating the calls as to authenticity, who’s to say several were not made by the same person/organization? Proof please?

      Now that the Google buses have been accepted by the city the leftest wacko radicals are off and on to the next cause celebre……AirBnB….and the like. They just can’t stand it when someone is making money or successful.

      “…..Based on surveys that the Department conducted, staff’s conservative estimate is that at any one time, anywhere from 4,000-5,000 entire units have been removed from San Francisco housing stock and are being advertised online as short-term rentals.” (This is a flawed number and unsubstantiated.) Vacation rentals are a moving target. And again, the survey is suspect. Many reservations get canceled. Owner/tenants plans change and move back into their units for various reasons. Planning staff are siting ” listing websites” to make some broad claims. How scientific of them……lol.

      I’ll make some similar claims for ya’ll. Based on casual observations and conversations with property owners, 30,000 ~40,000 rent controlled units have been pulled from the market. You want to dispute that number, ask the Ex Director of the small property owners association. My educated guess is the 4000 ~ 5000 units claimed by the planning staff lay somewhere in those 30K ~ 40K units that have been pull off the market. These are not new units being removed from the market, but existing units owners are unwilling to lease out for fear of tenants taking control of their property. The term “Rent control” is a misnomer…….it should be called “Property control”. Even the city claims, “it’s their housing stock”.

      Classic….Saul Alinsky’s 12 Rules for Radicals…..
      RULE 3: “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.” Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty. (This happens all the time. Watch how many organizations under attack are blind-sided by seemingly irrelevant arguments that they are then forced to address.)

      If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it must be a duck.

    • Posted by Jake

      I share your concerns about the poor quality of the data we have on these short term rentals.

      All the more reason to get some modest regulations in place that yield better data and can be modified as we understand better.

      Otherwise we are likely to get a ballot measure that is more restrictive and harder to modify than this ordinance.

      • Posted by Keepitup

        How about a ballot measure to abolish the 30 day minimum stay on all residential units in the city?

        My finger in the air tells me the voters are more likely to get behind a ballot measure allowing them to make ends meet than cutting off the hand that feeds.

        Why do you think Calvin and company abandon their dumb proposal. It’s a loser…..they couldn’t stomach the thought of spending $250,000 on a losing proposition.

  12. Posted by sassyboyfrisco

    Hello…does any City Official give a *** bout PUBLIC SAFETY in MULTI-UNIT BUILDINGS???
    which would become hotels facing common yet significant risks of hotel industry, includes
    – NO BACKGROUND CHECKS
    – INSUFFICIENT SECURITY
    – PARTY GOERS
    – SEX PADS (i.e., ESCORTS)
    – BED BUGS
    So…when children get molested, when residents get assaulted, when apartments get burglarized, and when buildings get burned down, …will SF PAY DAMAGES TO ALL VICTIMS from its ill-gotten tax revenue???

    • Posted by Keepitup

      The same standards apply to owners and tenants.

      “Oh, but he was so quite and such a nice guy.” How many time have you heard this statement about the guy living next door after being arrested as child molester or rapist?

      Classic….Saul Alinsky’s 12 Rules for Radicals…..
      RULE 3: “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.” Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty. (This happens all the time. Watch how many organizations under attack are blind-sided by seemingly irrelevant arguments that they are then forced to address.)

      Are you suggesting that San Francisco city government shut down all the hotels in the city? Hysterics……..”Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty.”

      If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it must be a duck.

  13. Posted by SFrentier

    So can you only airbnb your own residence (rental or owner)? That’s how it reads to me, meaning, a landlord can’t (legally) short term rent out rental units, even for 90 days or less each.

    Is that an accurate read of this proposed legislation??

    • Posted by Jake

      AFAIK, yes, the ordinance as currently written only allows the “permanent resident” to register the unit for short term rentals. It exempts SFH, but the the planning dept recommends the same rules be applied to SFH (see page 12 of the pdf at namelink).

      • Posted by SFrentier

        So landlords with multi units get no benefit from this. God, that blows.

      • Posted by Jake

        This would grant a new right to property owners. The right is only conveyed to the tenant through the lease. Landlords wouldn’t be required to pass it on to their tenants for free.

        I expect some tenants would be willing to pay for the right to short term rent, maybe extra monthly rent or maybe per transaction.

        Conversely, an owner of a multi-unit building could make their building all ‘no-hosting’ to attract tenants that didn’t want the potential hassle of living in an Airbnb hostel.

        Either way it is something of value granted to owners to negotiate with tenants.

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