Residents debate regulations on short-term rentals

Dozens of San Francisco residents expressed their clashing views Monday afternoon on whether the city should limit the number of nights that short-term residential units can be rented out and the impact that online hosting platforms, such as Airbnb, are having on the city’s housing stock.

Proposals being considered during a hearing held by the San Francisco Board of Supervisor’s Land Use and Transportation Committee Monday afternoon include placing a cap on the number of nights that constitute short-term rentals and the possibility of requiring sites, such as Airbnb, VRBO, Flipkey and others, to share data about their listings with the city.

Airbnb representatives and homeowners were in attendance at a small rally at Civic Center Plaza outside City Hall prior to the hearing.

Those who use short-term rentals for extra income spelled out their concerns about increased regulation.

Nancy Rosales, a San Francisco resident who lives in the Hunters Point neighborhood and who frequently rents out a room in her home for short periods for $60 to $150 a night, said she doesn’t think it is necessary to increase regulations on homeowners who want to use their extra space to generate income in an expensive city.

San Francisco supervisors David Campos, John Avalos and Eric Mar all spoke at a rally on the steps of City Hall Monday afternoon, shortly after the first rally, and expressed a need for increased oversight of the short-term rental market.

Campos said what Airbnb is doing to the city is “untenable.”

Sara Shortt, the executive director of the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, said what Airbnb is doing to San Franciscans is unconscionable and that it needs to be held accountable.

Supporters of increased regulation of short-term rentals chanted “Homes Not Hotels” outside City Hall and urged the Board of Supervisors and Mayor Ed Lee to protect the existing housing stock in San Francisco.

Malcolm Yeung, the deputy director of the Chinatown Community Development Center said Monday that San Francisco’s Chinatown residents are experiencing displacement and that he believes Airbnb is part of the problem.

Yeung recalled one instance last year where Chinatown tenants came to the Chinatown Community Development Center to report a landlord who was pressuring them to leave their homes.

The tenants didn’t want to leave, Yeung said, but after substantial pressure they took a buyout.

Once they left the units in the building, located in the 700 block of Commercial Street near Grant Street, the units were posted on Airbnb for an exorbitant price within months.

he said:

“Chinatown is an immigrant gateway.”

Explaining that he doesn’t want to see San Francisco’s Chinatown become a place that doesn’t
serve those newly arrived immigrants who are struggling to make lives for themselves in the United States.

Yeung said Airbnb has a business model that encourages people to push others out to make larger profits.

He said he is fighting to keep Chinatown affordable for low-income residents.

According to San Francisco’s Office of Economic Analysis, a segment of the city’s housing stock has been used for short-term rental purposes since at least 1990, but since the development of online hosting platforms around 2005, the practice gained prominence.

The Office of Economic Analysis maintains that it has not been able to determine how many housing units are being removed from the market to be used as short-term rentals on a permanent basis.