Supervisors approve Airbnb legislation in final vote after further debate 

click to enlarge Short-term rentals such as Airbnb are illegal in San Francisco until Mayor Ed Lee signs the legislation approved by supervisors Tuesday. They could be legal as early as February. - COURTESY AIRBNB.COM
  • courtesy airbnb.com
  • Short-term rentals such as Airbnb are illegal in San Francisco until Mayor Ed Lee signs the legislation approved by supervisors Tuesday. They could be legal as early as February.

A proposal to legalize short-term home rentals in San Francisco was approved by supervisors in a second reading Tuesday, despite a strongly worded opinion piece authored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein in opposition to the law.

While legislation approval requires two readings and the second one is most always perfunctory, that was not the case when it came to regulations for Airbnb and others.

Two weeks ago, the Board of Supervisors voted 7-4 to approve legislation introduced by Supervisor David Chiu to legalize the practice of short-term rentals, those less than 30 days.

But on the eve of the second vote Tuesday, Feinstein published a scathing opinion piece in the San Francisco Chronicle on the legislation, reinvigorating the debate.

Critics turned to Feinstein's op-ed Tuesday to try and gain support for amendments that failed during the first vote. But once again, supervisors Jane Kim, Norman Yee, Eric Mar, John Avalos and David Campos fell one vote shy in amending the proposal to impose a 90-day cap on hosted and nonhosted short-term rental stays, and to require the payment of back taxes before the law would take effect.

The law again passed in a final vote of 7-4, with Mar, Yee, Avalos and Campos dissenting.

For Chiu, who is running against Campos in a heated Assembly race for the general election, it was a significant political victory on the proposal he called "a balanced solution."

Avalos and Kim said a 90-day cap on hosted and nonhosted stays -- those where the resident is not at the rented unit -- was important for enforcement and to protect the rental stock. The ordinance requires an Airbnb user to live in the housing for 275 days out of the year. A host must also register with The City and pay a $50 fee every two years.

Chiu said the 90-day cap "would be tantamount to an eviction notice" for "hundreds" who rely on the rentals for extra income.

But Kim argued "if you need someone for more than 90 days you will get a roommate. That has long been the history of San Francisco."

Supervisor Scott Wiener argued that The City shouldn't postpone legalization of short-term rentals for collection of back taxes, which could get caught up in legal wrangling for years. He said the tax collector can at any time pursue back taxes. By legalizing short-term rentals, The City expects to collect about $11 million a year in hotel occupancy taxes.

The legislation is scheduled to go into effect in February. Feinstein urged Mayor Ed Lee, who has 10 days to decide, to veto the bill. Mayoral spokeswoman Christine Falvey called the legislation "a step in the right direction."

"This industry started right here in San Francisco and we are leading the way in supporting and regulating it," Falvey said.

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