Supes punt Airbnb vote toward voters

When the San Francisco Board of Supervisors this week postponed by a month a vote on legislation that would regulate short-term rentals in The City, it sparked concerns among some proponents about behind-the-scenes deal making.

San Francisco Supervisor David Campos is the author of legislation that would limit short-term rentals on platforms such as San Francisco-based Airbnb while Supervisor Mark Farrell and Mayor Ed Lee have introduced conflicting legislation that would also regulate short-term rentals, albeit less aggressively.

Campos’ legislation would also require Airbnb and other platforms to disclose the addresses and dates of rentals to The City. Farrell and Lee’s legislation suggests the creation of a new enforcement agency, but doesn’t compel the online platforms to share relevant data needed for enforcement.

Campos said that in order for The City┬áto address its housing crisis it must limit short-term rentals, which he said “are removing long-term housing opportunities for San Francisco residents.” The short-term rental industry is taking up to 23 percent of vacant units off the market citywide, Campos said. In the Mission District, up to 40 percent of vacant units are on Airbnb, while in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood the percentage is even higher, at 43 percent.

Supervisor Julie Christensen said she is hopeful that the board will be able to iron out a solution. She said both pieces of legislation raise good points, but that so far, she is “troubled by aspects of both proposals.” Various members of the board suggested at their meeting this week that they work toward a general consensus over the next month, but so far no additional meetings have been placed on the agenda.

Campos expressed his disappointment at Farrell’s motion to continue the items for another month and expressed concern that the Brown Act, which governs meetings by public agencies, could be violated in that time.

According to the San Francisco City Attorney’s Good Government Guide, which states the laws governing conduct of public officials, an unlawful meeting can occur under the Brown Act even if a majority of the members of the board are not present in one place at one time.

Any communications among the majority of the members outside of a noticed public meeting are considered unlawful, according to the Good Government Guide.

Farrell’s legislative aide Jess Montejano said that while the supervisor is engaged in ongoing “conversations with our colleagues” he “would never violate the Brown Act.” While a violation of the Brown Act could invalidate an action, and is considered a misdemeanor offense by participants, it is difficult to enforce.

When asked how the public would be able to detect if, or when, the Brown Act was being violated, neither Campos and Montejano could say.

Montejano said that the board will work toward a general consensus and that the issue lies in “just a couple of key difference between the bills.” He said that mostly likely there would be a vote on those items on July 14th and that there is only a slim chance that anyone would be introducing substitute legislation or amendments to the current legislation.

Campos said that if his measure were voted down after the one-month continuance he would work to take it to the voters in November.