Mayor Lee, Supervisor Farrell Propose Amendments to Airbnb Law

Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Mark Farrell have proposed amendments to San Francisco’s short-term rental law in hopes of making it more enforceable and streamlined.

The amendments to the current short-term rental law, nicknamed the Airbnb law, would not only cap all short-term rentals at 120 days a year but also create a new city office to regulate short-term rentals. The Office of Short-Term Rental Administration and Enforcement would register residents, investigate and enforce short-term rental laws.

Staffed by the Planning Department, Department of Building Inspection, and the Treasurer/Tax Collector’s office, the new office would provide the public with a one-stop location to apply for the City Registry.

According to Farrell and Lee, the proposed amendments aim to correct the city’s currently unenforceable short-term rental legislation.

The amendments would allow permanent San Francisco residents to rent out their home or a portion of their home for periods of less than 30 days for up to 120 days. Currently, the rental of entire unoccupied homes is capped at 90 days but there is no cap on “hosted” rentals by residents who are present in their homes.

Farrell said he wants to make sure that the law governing short-term rentals protects San Francisco’s housing stock, simplifies the short-term rental hosts’ registration process, and clarifies elements of the law to ensure that it is enforceable.

“With all eyes on San Francisco and how our innovative City continues to approach regulating short-term rentals — it is important that we get this law right,” Farrell said.

The proposed amendments also allow, after a certain period of time has expired, residents of the building, neighbors within 100 feet, housing nonprofit organizations and neighborhood associations, to sue for attorney’s fees and injunctive relief for hosts alleged to have violated the short-term rental laws.

Lee said the proposed legislation will “streamline permitting and enforcement under a fair set of regulations.”

ShareBetter San Francisco, a campaign committee that disagrees with the proposed amendments, maintains it moves the city in the wrong direction.

ShareBetter SF co-founder Dale Carlson said Lee and Farrell’s legislation, “exacerbates the incentives to illegally convert residential units to tourist accommodations,” and that it indemnifies hosting platforms such as Airbnb, that are “aiding and abetting illegal activity.”

While the city’s Planning Department has said the legislation is currently unenforceable, Carlson said he fears the proposed amendments will make the problem much worse.

Carlson said ShareBetter SF is preparing an initiative for the November ballot that could allow San Francisco voters to weigh in on the rules for short-term residential rentals.

Farrell and Lee’s short-term rental legislation will be discussed at the Planning Commission on April 23 and is expected to be heard in the Land Use and Economic Development Committee as soon as the 30-day hold on the ordinance is lifted.

Hannah Albarazi, Bay City News

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