“The Airbnb solution,” In My View, Jan. 10
‘Solution’ raises many problems
San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee Member Joel Engadio’s suggested legislation to require Airbnb “to only list legally registered hosts.” He offers this as a “solution” to “keep users accountable and help weed out bad actors.”
This idea is popular among some city supervisors and short-term rental hosts alike. But it is not without problems. For example, unstated is how Airbnb is to verify each registration number and what is Airbnb’s responsibility when the number provided is inaccurate or when a registration lapses. Will there be criminal and/or civil sanctions if the host submits a bad registration number or if Airbnb performs imperfectly its legal duty to list only legally registered hosts?
Making hosting platforms properly police the registration status of hosts and their listings would require substantial data sharing between government (Planning Department) and private companies (not just Airbnb, but all platforms that list short-term rentals). This raises thorny issues regarding constitutional and contractual privacy rights of hosts. It is important to consider whether it is proper and legal for a government agency to hand over masses of citizen data to multiple private companies (imagine the DMV handing over all its driver or car registration data to insurance companies).
I hope these issues can be worked through. But one thing is clear: Making hosting platforms like Airbnb police and enforce the registration status of hosts may not on balance benefit its citizens and is not the quick-fix silver bullet that many, including Engardio, imagine.
Executive Director, Home Sharers of San Francisco
Co-chair, Home Sharers Democratic Club
Engardio misses the point
The simple issue is that we need housing and we have limited space in a city surrounded by water. We have existing people that live here or need housing here, and the effects of Airbnb have proven to affect negatively the housing availability citywide and the price point for getting in.
Banks, real estate and developers push pro-forma spreadsheets and costly developments, and that won’t change much in the future unless we look seriously at the 1979 rent control laws that do not allow units to be regulated in some way for a reasonable price level for rents.
If Engardio did not have a house, he would to be priced out. When we see a lovely ad for a William Wurster home with 12,000 square feet of land and 4,100 square feet of living space for $3.75 million in St. Francis Woods, and we get a lovely follow-up item by Nato Green on the issue of St. Francis Woods and West Portal needing to “densify” due to proximity to three transit lines, there is a direct need to start addressing spatial needs in San Francisco.
Space to subdivide lots, build secondary units and improve public systems like transit, open space, libraries, parks and playgrounds and pools are just as needed as Airbnb as an option.
The problem is when you have too much of one item (Airbnb) and high-end housing. We than need to rethink neighborhood planning to include public housing and essential rental housing in all those quaint neighborhoods that Airbnb houses are listed. Then we may see a more integrated city and balance that we currently do not have in The City.
There are solutions to the issues. The problem is whether the monied interests and corporations can stop sucking up profits long enough to think philanthropically about the essential need for low cost rental housing in all districts of San Francisco.
“Super Bowl cost: $4M,” The City, Jan. 8
City should split cost
Santa Clara should fork up a good portion of the bill for Super Bowl 50.
Remember, they don’t play in San Francisco, and the name should be changed.