OP-ED: Proposition F: Fix the Airbnb Mess

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City Hall asserts it’s protecting neighborhoods from short-term residential rentals to tourists, like those offered by Airbnb. It claims it’s protecting the availability and affordability of scarce housing.  I wholeheartedly disagree.

City Hall passed legislation that’s so weak that every independent analysis reached the same conclusion: the current law is unworkable and unenforceable.

These tourist rentals change the character of residential neighborhoods. When the place across the street turns into a ‘party palace’ for out-of-town visitors, our rights to the quiet enjoyment, safety and security of our own homes and neighborhoods are compromised.

The SAFE Neighborhood Watch program teaches that the single best way to prevent crime is to know your neighbors. That’s hard to do with a constant stream of strangers in and out of apartment buildings and houses.

There are no published reports of violent crimes in San Francisco Airbnb rentals to date, but several homes have been looted and trashed. In other cities, however, the record of assaults is nothing short of horrifying.

City Hall is so enamored of Airbnb that it even granted tenants the right to register their apartments as short-term tourist rentals without the property owner’s permission.  San Francisco Planning Department’s staff requested that City Hall mandate that AirBnb and other websites be prohibited from listing short-term rentals without City permits; this request was rejected, making the current law completely unenforceable. 

Proposition F closes loopholes and grants real and effective enforcement tools to the City compared to the current regulations, which are both toothless and feckless. It sets reporting requirements that allow the City to monitor compliance with the law and ensures that tenants receive a landlord’s permission before renting out their unit.

Proposition F holds corporations like Airbnb accountable by limiting ‘hosting platforms’ to listing only housing units that are properly registered with the City. Proposition F sets fair, reasonable rules for those wishing to rent out an extra room from time-to-time, or their entire house when on vacation.

Proposition F provides notice to neighbors and other building residents when a short-term rental is approved.  And it allows other building tenants and neighbors to go to court to protect their rights to privacy and tranquility in their homes and neighborhoods if, and only if, the City fails to address a serious problem.

These are common sense changes that City Hall should have accepted, drafted by San Franciscans, not lobbyists. Proposition F is a San Francisco solution to a San Francisco problem: it’s fair, reasonable and will be effective.

Join me in voting Yes on Proposition F.