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December 12 2016

San Francisco Mayor Sides with Airbnb

Patrice L. Onwuka

Airbnb dodged a bullet in one of its most popular cities and earliest adopters, San Francisco, when the city’s mayor stopped efforts to place greater limits on home sharing there.

Last month, the city’s board of supervisors passed a bill in a 6-2 vote that decreased the number of nights that hosts can rent their houses and apartments on Airbnb from 90 days to just 60 days in a year. Currently, they can rent rooms or their entire homes for up to 90 days when they are not present. If hosts are present during the stay of guests, they can lease rooms year round.

Late last week though, Mayor Ed Lee, said not so fast and vetoed the bill.  San Francisco Examiner reports:

 “I have concluded that this legislation will make registration and enforcement of our short-term rental regulations more difficult and less effective, and risks driving even more people to illegal rent units,” the mayor said in his veto letter.

“Other cities have found balanced solutions, we can too,” Lee said in his veto letter, vowing to work with Breed on improving the regulations and enforcement.

Not only did Lee reject the bill, he underscored that this in line with where voters are. Last year, voters rejected a proposal to place a 75-day cap on short-term rentals.  

The bill is likely dead since it doesn’t have enough votes to override the veto, and lawmakers are upset, but won’t give up.

"I'm disappointed, but the mayor has finally agreed to work with me and stakeholders to look at regulations and long-term solutions," [Board of Supervisors President London] Breed told the San Francisco Examiner. "We will develop a working group and make recommendations by the end of February 2017 to address some of the most challenging issues with this industry."

Furthermore, Airbnb has a lawsuit in federal court against San Francisco over fines of as much as $1,000 a day for each listing from hosts not registered with the city. Airbnb contends that enforcing the fines would be onerous and a violation of free speech rights. We’ll see if they keep the lawsuit in light of their “win” with the mayor.

Lately, Airbnb has shifted from its stand of defiance against added regulations to one of acquiesce as it has brokered deals with New York City and New Orleans as well as cities overseas.  

This is an important turn of events considering the history that Airbnb has with San Francisco. The company launched there just eight years ago and not only is Airbnb headquartered there, but San Francisco was the first to work with Airbnb to legalize short-term rentals. Other cities are looking to San Francisco for cues on how to proceed with Airbnb in the future.

Let’s hope the lesson they take away is to embrace common-sense policies that encourage individuals and families to use home sharing options as both a home-away-from-home and a way to generate extra income.

Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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