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Stickering it to the man: Airbnb packs SF City Hall for public meeting on home sharing law

April 25, 2015

By : pando – excerpt

The battle lines were clearly marked as the overflow crowd filled San Francisco City Hall on Thursday evening. The city’s Planning Commission were to consider three amendments to the ‘Airbnb law‘ which regulates the operation of “home sharing” companies. Supporters on both sides had been busy handing out stickers…

The session lasted ten full hours, seven of them devoted to the short term rental issue. Commission President Rodney Fong’s quaffed silver mop presided over the hubbub without sign of wilting.
First to speak were Supervisors Jane Kim, David Campos and Mark Farrell, the respective authors of the amendments under consideration.

Kim spoke first, making her case for expanding the public’s right of action in short-term rental matters, allowing neighbors and qualified non-profits to bring civil proceedings against wayward Airbnb hosts…
Next, Campos and Farrell took turns representing either side of the yawning political schism that cleaves all talk of Airbnb at City Hall…

After that, the Supervisors filed out. A Planning Department representative presented his organization’s modified recommendations, and a hired academic researcher gave brief testimony about a report he’s drafted, using the admittedly limited dataset about Airbnb listings which he was able to cull from the open web. Then the floor gave way to three hours of public comment.

The audience participation section of the hearing gave the clearest look at the sort of disruptive innovation that brought hundreds of San Franciscans to vast granite mausoleum of City Hall on a sunny Thursday afternoon in the first place…

By 10pm the Planning Commission arrived at its final recommendations:  A 120-day cap; expanded public right of action, and support for the Mayor’s proposed “one-stop shop” for Airbnb regulation — the Office of Short Term Residential Rental Registration and Enforcement. So add the OSTR3E to the official glossary of City acronyms…

The strictest and most onerous rule recommended by the commission is a requirement that any rental listing offered for less than 30 days must have a registry number verified by the platform against the City’s database, as part of every transaction. The Commission voted 4-3 in favor of the ordinance, which was strenuously opposed by Airbnb’s Regional Head of Public Policy David Owen, who provided testimony and answered questions from the commission. No other short-term rental/sharing platform openly sent a soul…

At the end of the day, the Planning Commission officially recommended, in accord with the Planning Department’s advice and against that of the Mayor, Supervisor Farrell, and Airbnb, that hosting platforms only list registered units. Boom. Though nobody wants to run against Ed Lee for Mayor this fall, he’s catching some powerful opposition here and there. First Rose Pak, then Airbnb and now Planning?

The commission was less obstreperous on other items. Platforms still won’t have to provide the full compliment of data the Planning Department asked for in March before changing its mind. Hosting platforms won’t be subject to the same public rights of action that their hosts are. In fact, if the commission’s guidance prevails, hosts would assume the full burden and risks of regulatory compliance. Meanwhile, Airbnb would continue to “voluntarily” pay the hotel tax on their behalf…(more)

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