Short-Term Rental Law Amendment Summary Adopted

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors has rejected Supervisor Campos’ proposed amendment to San Francisco’s law regulating short-term rentals in the city and instead adopted a watered-down version of a less restrictive amendment sponsored by Supervisor Farrell and the Mayor.

Both votes were 6 to 5, with Supervisors Farrell, Breed, Christensen, Cohen, Tang and Wiener aligned against Supervisors Campos, Avalos, Kim, Mar and Yee.

Having dropped the proposed 120 day cap on all short-term rentals, which would have raised the cap by 30 days for un-hosted units but implemented a new cap for hosted-units, the newly adopted amendment does little to change the current state of affairs with respect to restricting and regulating short-term rentals in San Francisco. But it did add a provision that prohibits units from legally entering the short-term rental pool for five years following any Ellis Act eviction that has occurred since November 1, 2014.

The real battle ground will be at the polls this November.

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by david m

    the public will decide this one in the fall at any rate.

  2. Posted by Mark V.

    If the Anti-Airbnb law is approved by voters this fall, are there any aspects of it which will be challenged and potentially invalidated by the courts?

    • Posted by JR "Bob" Dobbs

      Doubt it. Until recently, all less-than-30 day rentals were completely illegal, punishable by imprisonment. So anything that is a lesser restriction would appear to be perfectly fine.

      • Posted by San Fronzischeme

        Would public flogging be considered fine too? Because by the looks of it, this is what is going to happen once the Stasi enlists the concerned citizenry.

        • Posted by JR "Bob" Dobbs

          “Public flogging?” I guess I don’t understand your point there.

          There is nothing “Stasi” about the enforcement provisions. Many laws depend primarily on private enforcement by concerned citizenry – environmental laws, unfair competition laws, land use and nuisance laws, etc. Thousands of them. There is nothing unusual about this.

          The extraordinary thing was that in the earlier legislation neighbors of an illegally used unit could not enforce the laws even though that unlawful use could so directly affect them. That has now been remedied. This is the most sensible enforcement mechanism, ihmo. If none of the neighbors care, then live and let live (unless the city jumps in, which it nearly never does). If the neighbors are bothered by it, they can seek to stop the illegal conduct.

          • Posted by Ivoryhouse

            Remedies already existed – this Office Of Short Term etc is a joke. Waste of taxpayer money – airbnb remits 14% tax directly to the City. The city should be happy to widen the tax base.

          • Posted by Hitman

            Snitches get stitches: that is the law of the hood. I am sure you wouldn’t understand, Counsel. Interesting how the BOS always wants to divide neighbors instead of encouraging neighborliness.

          • Posted by Jake

            SF was already getting 14% from hotels. Is there any credible evidence that airbnb has increased the amount of hotel taxes paid in SF or has it just diluted the taxes paid across more locations, most of which operate illegally?

          • Posted by san FronziScheme

            Home swapping and short term rentals have always existed, and yet were not necessarily specifically regulated. Now the issue is scale.

            We have a staggering (place your pinky to the corner of your mouth) THREE PERCENT of the housing pool affected by vacation rentals, many of them occasional.

            This is fear mongering with no connection with reality. Just like the non-existant Ellis Eviction crisis the usual suspects try and round up the “criminals” aka people they do not like. Mobilize 100 people against 1 scapegoat and you have yourself a nice street cred for the next ballot.

          • Posted by Jake

            This is not home swapping. Airbnb is not running some kind of barter network. You may as well drop that false front.

            Short term rentals have been regulated in SF for a long long time. SF has huge experience with just about every kind of residential rental going back to the gold rush days. There have been times when a majority of the population lived in boarding houses and rooming houses as well as residential hotels. There are still thousand of rental units like this. These are all in the existing codes and they have lots of sanitary and fire/safety issues.

            This is about compliance with the law and a company that has openly derided a new law that was specifically crafted with their cooperation to carve out a new class of short term rental which had been and would otherwise be illegal.

            As for “fear mongering”, well, a staple of airbnb’s claims for years has been that without their service many residents of SF could not afford to live here. BTW, sfchronicle has a new series on airbnb and it begins with a rent control tenant that had used airbnb in violation of her lease:

            “But when San Francisco implemented its vacation-rental rules in February, registering her unit seemed like a hassle. She feared that the city might compel Airbnb to identify hosts and prosecute those who failed to register.

            But her biggest worry — and the reason she declined to be named for this story — is that short-term renting violates her lease. She took down her listing.”

          • Posted by san FronziScheme

            It is home swapping facilitated by money. In the old days you would go on CL and say you’re swapping your pad with someone else’s and you had one chance out of 10 to get any decent matching. Then you go to the place and mismatches would be numerous. A friend came to Paris last week and got conned into a so-so house 90 minutes from the center while he gave the keys of his sweet Sausalito place. There had to be something more efficient. Like… money. Collect money, spend it on what you exactly want.

            I live partly in my own places and also stay at other people’s airbnb pads. Actually I do that in LV most of the year and also spend vacations using the site.

            About tenants breaking their leases, I hope many get busted.

          • Posted by Jake

            Airbnb’s own stats show 30 times as many renters as listings. Even leaving aside the many users (some being corporations) that list more than one property, it is clear that the vast majority of Airbnb renters will never list a property. These Tom, Dick, and Harry 3-ways that without airbnb would either enrich Paris Hilton’s inheritance or force tommy, dickie, and harry to stay home, are such a tiny part of their business that they don’t matter to what laws are being made in SF. Now, if you would like SF and other jurisdictions to require that all Airbnb renters also offer their own properties on the site, then ok, let’s see how well that scales.

            Meantime, in the real world, Aribnb hasn’t built a multi-billion dollar company on home swapping. By not addressing the serious issues raised, you concede the discussion to others. By not working with the SF BOS to get an acceptable law, Airbnb is conceding to the SF voters, who I think will vote for much more restrictions and enforcement than anything the BOS would have approved.

            I think they missed an opportunity to make the new law work by encouraging or even requiring their listees to register. But they didn’t, and now, instead, ballots not pitchforks or pitchmen will determine the law.

          • Posted by san FronziScheme

            Jake, the beach town where I am currently has an existing vacation rental tradition. One agent will list dozens of places for the account of others. Airbnb offers more flexibility (typical rentals in France are saturday-to-saturday, causing horrible lemmings congestion).

            A friend back in SB, CA is listing his cottage at the back of the main house through an agent who then turns to VRBO.

            It’s not one-property-one-owner-one-host since it takes a bit of elbow grease and business acumen. My last guests are Aussies who also rent out their beach home through an agent.

            By the way, what are the issues raised?

            – Annoyance of neighbors: very limited. The homeless guy who deposits a “gift” on your front porch, or the alarming proportion of insane people roaming at night should have “concerned citizen” up in arms.
            – Depletion of the rental pool. I wouldn’t rent out my place on the open market anyway. I am not a masochist. Without the (again, 30+ days) airbnb option, I would sell and my place would become owner-occupied.
            – What other things are you guys complaining about? The rule of law? In San Francisco? LOL. Just hang out on Dolores Park and try not to get high on the fumes. Look at all the people jaywalking even in the very tame FiDi. Look at the cyclists running the stop signs. Look at the double-parkers on Sunday mornings around churches. Look at the people selling tamales without food licenses. San Francisco is about Live-and-let-live.

            I have a strong feeling that the animosity against airbnb is the fact that normal people are usually not in a situation where they can leverage their homes for airbnb. They’re rent controlled tenants and cannot take the chance, their place is too small, or too cramped, or not the right set-up.

            They see people around them making a ridiculous amount of money, especially landlords who are showing everyone how they can thrive without the burden of a San Francisco tenant.

          • Posted by Jake

            No one has said airbnb doesn’t have renters that also list properties. Of course they do. A very small percentage of their renters have ever or will ever list.

            You go to so much trouble so often to make a point that no one contests because no one cares. It doesn’t matter that some folks both rent and list because if that was all it was then it wouldn’t scale enough to have the negative effects that you disregard but as you have seen on SS many will vote to curtail.

            Why don’t you just flip the questions around:

            – What is so onerous about the current SF law that most hosts haven’t even bothered to registered? Are they so casually engaged with this that they can’t bother to take an hour to do some paperwork downtown? Doesn’t that lax attitude signal how they may handle their responsibilities when/if they have problems with neighbors or the city from doing this?
            – What is so bad about this ballot initiative? Property owners still get to keep their newly granted legal right to short-term rent out their place. All they have to do is comply with very simple regulations, much simpler and less costly than for a hotel or real bnb.
            – Why don’t the property owners that want to do this play smart and negotiate to get more rent-able days/yr in exchange for more compliance or easier administration? This ballot initiative doesn’t have much in it that wasn’t recommended to the BOS by city agencies last year, except for cutting down the number of rent-able days to 60/yr.

            Not taking other people’s repeated concerns seriously is a nearly certain way to get them to overreact when the backlash comes this November.

          • Posted by San Fronzischeme

            I cannot speak for short term hosts. But last year I considered filling vacancies that were less than the legal 30 days. This year, I didn’t register and will I simply raised my rate to make up for the lost rental.

            The reason I did not register for short term stays: I am not a CA resident anymore. And I do not live in the place of course, which disqualifies me by default.

            I think that many airbnb hosts look at the long list of requirements and scratch their heads. The ones with the sweetest deals (out of towners with rent controlled pads) are probably just letting the gravy train keep its course and will stop only when they receive a warning.

            Also, airbnb is arguably anonymous. NYC learned ot the hard way. Once your name is in the system you might have the “curse of the compliant idiot”, being punished for the anonymous masses that the city cannot identify!

          • Posted by Jake

            “the long list of requirements”:
            – an application plus a $50 fee (takes 10 minutes)
            – a business license (takes 10 minutes, costs ~$25)
            – liability insurance in the amount of no less than $500,000 (takes 20-40 minutes)
            – proof of residency, two common docs such as a PG&E bill and drivers license (takes 5 minutes)
            – show up for your appointment at Department of Building Inspection, 1660 Mission Street, 5th Floor
            ________

            other than the biz license and insurance that’s just about the minimum list for almost anything you do in SF. As this is to operate a biz to accommodate the public, a license and insurance are minimum requirements.

            A joke that this was too much of a burden for thousands of otherwise law abiding citizens for whom this income is essential to live in SF.

            You want to see paperwork, start selling retail and sign up with the CA EDD for quarterly sales tax reporting and payment. Yet, there are thousands of small retailers in SF that manage to do it.

          • Posted by San Fronzischeme

            That’s the disconnect between the old world and the new one. Being set up with airbnb takes almost no time, and no need to leave your own living room. But then when you deal with the city paperwork the effort is 10 times what airbnb requires. When you have a few weeks of creds with airbnb everything nexomes really easy. Only offer your place to people with good reviews and proof of ID. When you reach Super Host status you have loads of leverage because of the prime placement.

            Now in Paris airbnb has helped me simplify my tenant selection process: in the old days, you would get 20 visits a day and an application bundle from each. You had to check all references (also, the French do not have credit bureaus). With airbnb I usually birb through 2 applicants to pick the one I want and all I have to do is browse. Sometimes people will visit but often they won’t since the reviews are good and descriptive.

            It’s more casual, more relaxed, less stuffy and people are less suspicious of each other. A new world some bitter people will reject.

          • Posted by Jake

            No, that’s the difference between an entity that cares if you are breaking the law and one that doesn’t, one acting in the interests of the community and one acting in the interests of investors, one with over 160 years policing scofflaws and one with over 6 years being scofflaws.

            Surely, for the benefits of airbnb you have outlined, a host can afford to spend an hour or two one time to register. That is if the host is legitimate and not operating illegally or in violation of their own lease or hoa.

            I wonder if you’ve spent more time complaining about this than it would take a typical host in SF to register. I’d bet on under but close enough that it may be a push.

            Most transactional web sites make things easier or more efficient. That’s a common value add, etc. Many manage to do it within the law from the start. The ones that don’t either get brought within the law or shut down. That’s just the real world, old or new. I doubt airbnb will get shutdown like napster or …; more likely they will find the profits are high enough to operate on the legal side of the laws they themselves are helping to write.

          • Posted by anon

            Even if they’re shut down like Napster, it’s quite possible that they’ve done enough damage to the existing regulatory hellscape that good changes will happen.

          • Posted by soccermom

            “the existing regulatory hellscape”

            The Mad Max world of Bed and Breakfast zoning regulation is indeed a wasteland navigable only by the brave, the cunning, and the damned.

  3. Posted by Ding Dong

    Interesting that our elected officials would be so out of step with public concerns about their continued embrace of the AirFree4All. Guess if they were seeking to improve voter turnout… they are succeeding ….

    • Posted by san FronziScheme

      It’s actually a no-brainer.

      Airbnb is creating value with underutilized resources which is beneficial to the local economy AND it is a company based in San Francisco (jobs and tax revenue).

      Say Joe in Houston wants to go to SF. Mark in SF wants to visit NY. Bill in NY wants to go to Houston. But the hotels are packed and they cannot afford the rate of the very few rooms available.

      The original rationale was that these 3 would leave their places empty while going to hotels at their respective destinations. With systems like airbnb, they can now afford the stays, which means they have money to spend locally.

      A lot of these trips would not have happened anyway. The proof? The hotel is doing more than OK nationwide with record fill rate, and they are surprisingly not very vocal towards what could be considered unfair competition.

      Other benefits: Hotel tax revenue for the city, more tourist expenses, improved reputation of the city, federal and state taxes collected on the income, airlines have increased business.

      Drawbacks: strangers across the hall. Pitchforks!

      • Posted by Serge

        That last line made me burst out laughing. Your post is spot on. If only others were able to think through this as critically as you did.

  4. Posted by CH

    “Home swapping and short term rentals have always existed, and yet were not necessarily specifically regulated.”

    Blame the bad actors and Airbnb. Hotels and B&Bs have always been regulated.

    Prostitution, which is also illegal, has always existed in San Francisco. 9,000 new prostitutes in the city would be a staggering (place your pinky to the corner of your mouth) ONE PERCENT of the population. Ergo, we should allow prostitutes on every corner, right?

    • Posted by san FronziScheme

      Prostitution and home sharing? Apples and Oranges. Your analogy makes no sense. Who are the pimps and the pushers in your analogy? The violence, the submission, the diseases?

      Even from the standpoint of pure economics, this is nonsensical: One home will service one family. A prostitute is shared. There would be no market for 9000 prostitute in SF except if we bring 400,000 sailors/oil riggers.

      In short, this is the kind of drivel we get from people who have no sense of reality. “3 floors” become “Manhattan”, a few dozen Ellis evictions become “mass evictions”, a few bike lanes become a “taking of public property”. In this bizarro world, a few 1000 places used as tourist crash pads IN A CITY THAT IS DIRE NEED OF HOTEL ROOMS is a criminal issue.

      In the mean time, on Pier 14…

  5. Posted by Hitman

    All the commies on this board hate AirBNB because it s such a convenient alternative to the servitude of rent control. The cat is out of the bag and the technology is not going away. Rent control tenants will are going to be extinct soon enough. Ellis them all!

    • Posted by moto mayhem

      i hate rent control and am a huge supporter of homeowner rights. i am also in favor of more buidling and developers right. I also hate the city govt.

      However, i am very much against AirBnB. I just dont want a hotel next door with new people every weekend who dont care about the neighborhood. there have already been a few incidents of loud partying during the week and I work early hours. Its not as simple as going to talk to a neighbor about noise. the short terms renters dont care. I didnt buy a house next to a hotel, and I wont allow one to be there one way or the other.

      • Posted by san FronziScheme

        You work early hours? What’s your means of transportation again? How many people do you wake up when you go to work? I keep raising the same issue with you because I know a few bikers who are hated by all their neighbors for the noise either early morning or late at night.

        Just asking. What would you think is people asked you to stop using your bike? It’s a legitimate request after all, IF you are disturbing their sleep…

        • Posted by moto mayhem

          i have a BMW. its probably quieter than your car.

          on to your bigger issue. if i do something my neighbors dont like im happy to talk it out. vice versa. spoke not long ago to a neighbor who keeps smoking outside the window. he stopped and hadnt realized it was going in open windows. another neighbor was concerned that my wife sometimes walks the dog off leash. we started using the leash 100% of time.

          the difference with AirBnB is the new people staying every weekend are not my neighbors and they have no accountabilty to the neighborhood. they are staying in a hotel next door.

          • Posted by san FronziScheme

            then raise the issue with the landlord. If the hosts is a tenant then raise also the issue with the landlord 😉

            There are drunks on my block on some nights due to a convenience store 1 block away. This is the Castro and I expected that. Am I going to ask the convenience store to stop selling liquor because of some random drunk? I know that if enough neighbors started complaining we could get the SFPD or SFFD to go find a few violations and affect their business. Will I do that? Nope.

            This is San Francisco, not Walnut Creek. If I wanted clean, hassle-free, well behaved, 100% decently affluent neighbors I would move to Walnut Creek. But SF, like Paris, comes with a certain amount of roughness and that’s the way I like it. Just enjoy the fact you are among the happy few who have made their home in a city everyone loves and envies. Heck some people even save for years to visit their dream place: Las Vegas. For Chrissake, Las Freaking Vegas, the city of too many wrong turns.

          • Posted by san FronziScheme

            BTW, BMW or not, the biggest annoyance with bikes is at the low RPM when the engine warms up. Many windows in SF are not double-paned and they will resonate. I put bikes close second to idling delivery trucks in terms of “I have the right to wake you up” level of annoyance.

          • Posted by moto mayhem

            your area is zoned for a liquor store. my area is not zoned for a hotel. i ahve drunks walking by too sometime. its SF as you say. But I do not want a hotel next to my home. its not zoned for that and ultimately i wont allow it.

          • Posted by moto mayhem

            i know this is not the point , but I guarantee my BMW is quieter than your car when it starts, unless you have a hybrid. if i had a louder bike, which i wouldnt, i would rollit into he intersection to start it. i have a friend who does that out of consideration.

          • Posted by san FronziScheme

            My SF car is a bicycle. You can’t beat that.

          • Posted by Hitman

            There is already a mechanism and legal structure for what you describe – it is called a nuisance complaint. The private right of action BS, that gives power to Tenderloin Housing and the other progressive henchmen is a harassment and extortion tactic.

        • Posted by TBK

          Which one is it SFS? In one post you say you don’t live here, then you’re on about your daily experience in the city. So you live in two place simultaneously, or just running your mouth?

      • Posted by Pawlo

        How do you know these people don’t care about the neighborhood?
        BTW our neighbor who is a homeowner throws loud jacuzzi parties almost weekly. His drunk guest blast music and wake me up at 1am or 3am. You know what? Transient guests will come and go, but I’m stuck with my neighbor.

    • Posted by Raymond

      Many of my friends are rent controlled tenants and I don’t wish them ill. I, however, never want to be a landlord again on the property on which I live (I have a vacant unit). Luckily there are many alternatives outside the Airbnb model. I will continue to use them regardless of the outcome of this proposed law.

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