A new ballot initiative hopes to limit Airbnb rentals to neighborhoods zoned for commercial use and provide incentives for people to rat out neighbors renting apartments in violation of the new regulations.
The initiative, proposed by local housing advocate Calvin Welch, PR professional Dale Carlson and former city Planning Commissioner Doug Engmann, is independent of Board of Supervisors President David Chiu's proposed legislation. While Chiu's legislation would legalize Airbnb rentals citywide (with some restrictions), this ballot initiative would only allow for short term home rentals in districts with commercial zoning, which would hamper much of Airbnb's real-homes-in-real-neighborhoods appeal. If a residential neighborhood wants to attract home-sharing, residents would have to bring it up with the Planning Department.
"We don't want to see it run wild all over the city," Carlson told the Chronicle. "If a neighborhood wants to have this sort of thing, there is a mechanism and process at the Planning Department to request a change in zoning."
In addition to the zoning limits, the new initiative would also:
- Create a mandatory public registry of Airbnb hosts.
- Require hosts to show permission from landlords or HOAs.
- Require hosts to have proof of insurance.
- Require Airbnb to verify that each rental unit is registered with the city.
The initiative would require Airbnb to pay the city's 14 percent hotel tax, which the company has already said they will start collecting this summer.
The most contentious part of Welch and company's legislation, however, is a piece that would give kickbacks to any neighbors who successfully snitched on illegal short-term rentals. From the Chronicle:
In addition, the proposal calls for a private right of action for any citizen to file a complaint about an Airbnb rental, go to court, and receive 30 percent of any fines and back taxes that result, along with all their attorney fees.
That portion of the initiative is reportedly "still in flux."
The Planning Commission will hold public hearings soon on Supervisor Chiu's proposal (which was two years in the making), but the board president tells the Chronicle that the issue is far too complex for "the blunt ballot-box approach."
The initiative needs 9,700 signatures by July 7th before it goes on the ballot in November. Welch and company say they have raised about $20,000 towards the effort so far, but declined to where the money came from.
Welch's group will have the opportunity to gather a few more of those signatures Tuesday morning, when a coalition of housing advocates, hotel workers, members of the San Francisco Apartment Association and former Board President Aaron Peskin meet on the steps of City Hall today at 10 a.m. to oppose Chiu's legislation.
Those activists, union members and politicos could also butt heads with individual Airbnb hosts today. Upon learning of the proposed initiative, Airbnb rallied a group of of them, to "come together and show support for home sharing" outside of City Hall at 12:30 p.m.