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SF torn between regulating AirBnb listings


I see both sides of the arguments, but as a host I obviously have a vested interest to not regulate short term rentals. What do you think?

SAN FRANCISCO — After watching this city’s Board of Supervisors again fail to agree on tougher home-sharing rules, housing advocates alarmed over skyrocketing rents and increased evictions here are looking to put the issue directly to voters.

“We’ve already collected 10,000 signatures and we’ll have enough to get it on the ballot,” says Sara Shortt, executive director of the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco.

Shortt’s vow came as we spoke in the City Hall rotunda, immediately after a bitterly-divided board voted 7-4 on Tuesday to delay voting on a proposal that would limit short-term rentals made via websites.

The measure by Supervisor David Campos — which would require home-sharers to register with the city and pay fees, force Airbnb and other rental websites to remove illegal listings here, and limit such rentals to 60 days a year — was tabled until the board’s July 14 meeting.

The legislative inaction — made via an unusual procedural move by Airbnb supporters — disappointed those who say illegal abuse of such home-sharing services are making San Francisco’s housing shortage worse.

“I support home-sharing with limits,” Supervisor Campos said during the debate, but the city “needs to restrict proliferation of Airbnb units.”

The start-up has more than 5,000 listings in the city, while rival VRBO, a unit of HomeAway, has 1,200, said Campos, who represents the Mission District.

It’s a neighborhood where growing numbers of well-paid technology workers have been displacing low-income, mostly Latino residents in recent years.

Campos’ main opponent on this issue is Supervisor Mark Farrell, who along with Mayor Ed Lee has proposed a rival, less-restrictive measure.

john shinal
John Shinal, technology columnist for USA TODAY. (Photo: USA TODAY)
“I believe home-sharing is here to stay…we should support it,” said Farrell, whose District 2 includes the affluent and scenic Marina District near the Golden Gate Bridge.

In areas favored by tourists, residents are using short-term rentals to earn much-needed cash, said Supervisor Julie Christensen, who represents North Beach and the Fisherman’s Wharf area.

“I have constituents who are hanging on by the skin of their teeth,” in part by renting out their homes to tourists, Christensen said.

“There are aspects of (Campos’) legislation that are troubling to me,” she said.

The proposal that would allow residents to bring civil action against neighbors for illegal Airbnb activity.

Supervisor Jane Kim looked to forge a compromise, saying she would support a 75-day limit as well as an “expedited private right of (civil) action,” while also voicing concerns about collecting data on residents.

That was too much for Supervisor Eric Mar, a Campos ally on this issue, who called Kim’s privacy concerns “bogus” as the meeting grew more divisive.

One member of the gallery was ejected after getting into a shouting match with the Clerk of the Board, who repeatedly had to ask those in attendance to refrain from outbursts of clapping, cheering and loud jeering.

“You’re out of order,” yelled clerk Angela Calvillo, after the unidentified woman had yelled: “We are not ‘the audience.’ We’re residents!”

As the meeting drew on and Farrell looked to have the votes to force a delay, several Supervisors expressed strong distaste over his move to withdraw his own measure from the agenda, then motion to table Campos’ plan.

“Is that what we’re willing to do — force a continuance on another colleague’s ordinance?” asked a clearly-frustrated Supervisor John Avalos.

That’s exactly what the board did a few minutes later.

The inaction left Campos cynical about San Francisco’s accommodation of Airbnb, which is headquartered here, even as cities from New York to Los Angeles look to pass tougher home-sharing rules.

“The last thing we need is to give Airbnb lobbyists more time to do what they’ve been doing in this building for several years,” Campos said. “We owe it to the people to act.”

If the board doesn’t do so soon, voters here may do it for them.


My feeling is, life has always been about displacement and competition. No one would ever have left their native countries if there wasn’t something better to be found here. Everyone is out looking for a better life for themselves and there is no fairness about it. If you can’t take the rising rent, then move somewhere else. Heck knows the Native Americans had to.

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