SF Planning Commission Considering New Short-Term Rental Laws in Hearing

The San Francisco Planning Commission this afternoon is weighing in on legislation that would change laws surrounding short-term home rentals, such as listings through the home-sharing platform Airbnb.

The commission will hold a hearing around 3 p.m. at San Francisco City Hall on the ordinance that San Francisco Supervisor David Chiu introduced in April to regulate short-term rentals through a registration and tax-based program.

Under the legislation, homeowners who want to rent their home for less than 30 days will have to register through the city’s Department of Building Inspection, which will enforce the new rules.

Qualified residents would register for $50 to be listed on the registry.

Other requirements include homeowners or tenants living in the home for nine months of the year and providing a minimum of $150,000 worth of property or casualty insurance either through a hosting platform, such as Airbnb, or personally.

There is also a required hotel, or transient occupancy, tax.

Currently, short-term rentals are prohibited in the city and there are no terms or regulations about short-term residential rentals and the use of hosting platforms.

According to a commission staff report, there are five online hosting platforms that account for about 80 percent of total listings in San Francisco: VRBO, Airbnb, HomeAway, Craigslist, and FlipKey.

The commission report said the city’s Planning Department is recommending the ordinance with some modifications to help preserve the city’s “housing stock, reduce impacts on affordable housing, and to protect the livability of residential neighborhoods.”

The report went on to state that current regulations are “no longer sufficient to address this new technology and its associated impacts” and the likelihood that the city will continue to lose permanent housing.

In correspondences sent to the department, some residents urged the commission to reject the proposed ordinance, while other shared their support.

One dissenter said the new policy would encourage residential neighborhoods to become commercial districts, ruining the neighborhood feel.

Others said transient visitors disrupt the flow of the neighborhood where residents know each other and turn family homes into illegal, unregulated hotels.

Several supporters shared stories about successfully using Airbnb and other home-sharing services to stay financially afloat and continue living in San Francisco.

A news conference by Airbnb hosts will take place at Civic Center Plaza ahead of today’s meeting and will call for support for the proposed short-term housing policy, which will eventually be heard by the full Board of Supervisors.

Sasha Lekach, Bay City News

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