Thursday, San Francisco's Planning Commission is set to consider changes to the law to address both the low registration rate and lack of enforcement. Two proposals -- one from Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Mark Farrell, and another from Supervisors David Campos, Eric Mar, and John Avalos -- include strict limits on rental lengths, whether or not a host is home during a guest's stay.
Hosts are currently allowed to rent out their entire home for 90 days a year. There is no limit on "hosted rentals," when a host stays in their home while a guest is visiting.
"That distinction is very difficult for our enforcement staff to determine," says Scott Sanchez, an administrator with the Planning Department, which supports a hard cap on rental lengths. "Going to a straight number of day limit and not requiring it to be hosted or unhosted just makes the enforcement a lot more straightforward and transparent."
Key Differences in Proposals
Lee's plan would limit a host's Airbnb-style rentals to 120 days a year; Campos' plan would impose a cap of 60 days. The proposals also differ on how to help the Planning Department enforce the law.
Under Lee's legislation, a new city office would process applications and crack down on hosts who illegally rent out units. Sanchez says his department supports the plan to bring together the expertise of the Department of Building Inspection and the Tax Collector's Office.
The ordinance from Supervisor Campos would instead empower neighbors and affordable housing nonprofits to bring legal action against hosts who violate the law, even if a violation has not been determined by the city.
"Enforcement is going to take a role by everyone, not just the city," Campos says. "That there are limits in terms of what the city can do and limitations in what the city can know."
To that end, Campos wants rental platforms like Airbnb to make sure all postings are registered with the city.
"My experience has been that Airbnb will do things not because we ask nicely but because we require them to do them," he says.
Ballot Measure Moving Ahead
If his proposal fails, Campos says he'll support a planned November ballot measure that could provide another chance to limit short-term rentals in the city.
The group ShareBetter San Francisco plans to file an initiative next week that would include many of the changes proposed by Supervisors Campos, Avalos and Mar.
A letter from ShareBetter cofounder Dale Carlson to the Planning Commission says Lee's proposal "incentivizes the continued conversion of residential units to de facto hotel rooms."
San Francisco-based Airbnb supported the city's initial ordinance, which housing activists and others characterized as a major victory for the company. But with increasing pressure coming from state lawmakers as well as in its own backyard, the company says it will fight new regulations.
"Instead of Trojan Horse proposals designed to effectively ban home sharing, lawmakers should focus on making it easier for San Franciscans to share their homes and follow the rules," Airbnb spokesperson Christopher Nulty said in a statement.