mike koozmin/S.F. Examiner file photoMany people who rent out their homes through short-term rental services like Airbnb say the extra income allows them to remain living in San Francisco.

Cap on short-term stays debated as Airbnb legislation advances

After undergoing a handful of amendments, San Francisco's plan to regulate the exploding online short-term rental industry advanced Monday amid concerns about impacts to the housing supply and enforcement.

Recent City Hall hearings on the ordinance have stretched on for hours, illustrating the popularity of the service offered by Airbnb and others, but also the myriad of concerns it's raising for landlords, tenants, hotel workers and homeowners groups.

Hosts have shown up in droves to tell their stories about how charging people to stay at their homes is essential to helping them remain in a city with a soaring cost of living. But critics of the proposed regulation say it falls short in enforcement and would only exacerbate San Francisco's housing costs. Short-term rentals, those under 30 days, are currently illegal in The City.

On Monday, the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee voted 2-1 to send the legislation, which was introduced by board President David Chiu, to the full board for a vote next week. Supervisors Scott Wiener and Malia Cohen supported it, while Supervisor Jane Kim dissented, indicating the debate will continue next week.

Kim said she wanted a cap on short-term rentals of 90 days total each year.

As it stands, the legislation would legalize short-term rentals in multi-unit buildings and single-family homes. A host would be able to register with The City by paying a $50 fee every two years, but must live in the housing for nine months out of the year. There would be no cap on the number of hosted stays a registrant can offer.

But Kim argued that there will be no way for The City to prove someone has slept in their home for the required 275 days, making enforcement impossible without intrusive investigations.

“This would at least protect the very issue we have been talking about, which is protecting our rent-control housing stock and making sure that people are renting those units out to potential tenants,” Kim said of a 90-day limit.

Wiener disagreed, saying that registered hosts are signing under penalty of perjury that they are living in their homes nine months out of the year, a requirement that “dramatically reduces the risk of these homes being 'hotelized.'”

As the debate over limits on temporary stays continues, Chiu had made several amendments to address concerns and try to gain the six votes at the full board needed for approval. Those included requiring every host to report to The City annually the total number of short-term rentals, establish an operative date of Feb. 1 to allow the Planning Department more time to set up an enforcement program and require an annual report to the Board of Supervisors of how the regulatory practice is working. At a Sept. 15 committee hearing, a provision requiring landlords be notified if a tenant registers to use the service was added, though some landlords continued to ask for the right to be able to deny the registration. A day after that hearing, Airbnb announced it would start collecting The City's 14 percent hotel tax beginning Oct. 1.

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