New coalition opposes Chiu's Airbnb legislation UPDATED

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SF-based Airbnb is the biggest facilitator of short-term apartment rentals in San Francisco, despite their illegality.

An unlikely coalition has formed to oppose legislation sponsored by Board of Supervisors President David Chiu that would legalize and regulate short-term apartment rentals facilitated by Airbnb and other online companies, which are now illegal in San Francisco.

[UPDATE: Some of those same opponents are also now threatening to place a rival measure on the fall ballot, the San Francisco Chronicle just reported. It reportedly shares some aspects with the Chiu legislation, such as a registration system, but it limits rentals to only commercial areas and includes rewards for those who turn in violators to the authorities].

The coalition includes landlord and tenant activists, as well as organized labor and neighborhood groups. It will square off against Airbnb and its hosts, which have pledged to lobby against limits created by the Chiu legislation -- all of which could elevate this to the biggest fight of the summer at City Hall. Tomorrow [Tues/28], the coalition of opponents will rally outside City Hall at 10am, while Airbnb supporter will hold a "Speak Up for Home Sharing" rally at 12:30pm.

As we’ve been reporting, it took Chiu more than a year of negotiations with Airbnb, the San Francisco Tenants Union, affected city agencies, and other interested parties to arrive at legislation that requires hosts to register with the city, finally pay the city’s transient occupany tax, and limits stays to 90 nights per year.

But after more than two years of Airbnb’s defying city law and refusing to pay its taxes -- scofflaw behavior tacitly supported by Mayor Ed Lee, who share a financial benefactor for the company in venture capitalist Ron Conway -- several city constituencies pledged to oppose legislation that would now legalize its activities.

In particular, some longtime affordable housing and neighborhood activists say the legislation irresponsibly legalizes the conversion of residential apartments into tourist hotels throughout the city, creating neighborhood safety concerns and overturning decades of work to protect rent-controlled housing.

Meanwhile, Chiu’s opponent in the race for the Assembly District 17, David Campos, has been highlighting lobbying reports showing 61 contacts between representatives of Airbnb -- including formers City Hall insiders David Owen and Alex Tourk -- and Chiu’s office.

“Do you think tenant and neighborhood groups met with David Chiu 61 times?” Campos said during his endorsement interview with the Guardian last week, accusing Chiu of letting Airbnb write its own regulations without regard to neighborhood concerns.

Chiu didn’t immediately return our phone calls, but we’ll update this post if and when we hear back. [UPDATE: Chiu legislative aide Judson True just called and disputed how the legislation is being characterized by its opponents and rejecting calls to withdraw the legislation: "Everyone is entitled to a position on Sup. Chiu's legislation, but we would hope they would engage in the legislative process and not just toss hand grenades. This is a serious policy issue that requires thoughtful dialogue and to simply call for the withdrawal of the legislation is irresponsible."

True also said the legislation only legalized short term rentals "under very narrow circumstance and that legalization allows enforcement against the most egregious actors." He also noted how Chiu has consistently opposed converting apartments to tourist uses and called for Airbnb to pay its taxes, calling the legislation a difficult balancing act: "We know that Airbnb has issues with the legislation. They didn't write the legislation, period."]

In the meantime, here’s the full text of the press release issued today by the new coalition, which will be holding a press conference at 10am tomorrow on the steps of City Hall:    

For Immediate Release: 
Monday, April 28, 2014

NEWS RELEASE

SAN FRANCISCO CITYWIDE COALITION SAYS NO 
TO PROPOSED CHIU LEGISLATION

Board of Supervisors trying to convert residential housing to 
short-term rentals

Press conference Tuesday April 29, 2014 Steps of City Hall at 10:00 am

San Francisco -- Organizations representing usually divergent interests ranging from tenants to landlords, and from hotel workers to the hospitality industry have joined forces with neighborhood and homeowner associations to oppose legislation introduced by Supervisor David Chiu to legalize the short term rentals of residential property throughout San Francisco.

“In the face of an unprecedented housing crisis, Supervisor Chiu’s legislation to legalize the short term rentals of residential property will only exacerbate the housing crisis. This practice is detrimental to our rent-controlled housing stock”, said Janan New, Executive Director of the San Francisco Apartment Association.

“Our studies have shown that with over 10,000 units of housing being rented out over Airbnb, HomeAway and other websites this practice is having a negative impact on hotel workers and San Francisco’s hospitality industry”, said Mike Casey, President of UNITE HERE Local 2.

“The proposed legislation would rezone the entire city from residential zoning to commercial zoning in one fell swoop. We hear complaints from almost every neighborhood about the detrimental effects of short term rentals on the quality of life of tenants and residents”, said John Bardis, former President of the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods and former San Francisco Supervisor.

"Supervisors Chiu's legislation would repeal hard won controls on Single Resident Occupancy housing, threatens current affordable housing provisions for over 30,000 permanently affordable units, would transform newly approved "in-law units" into high priced motel rooms and make "below market rate" units lifetime luxury hotels. It is the single biggest threat to affordable housing ever proposed by a San Francisco Supervisor” stated longtime affordable housing advocate Calvin Welch.

“Airbnb and other hosting platforms owe the City millions of dollars in unpaid hotel taxes. It is high time that the City collect these taxes which pay for the arts and vital city services and programs. The proposed legislation does not clearly hold Airbnb and similar organizations responsible for collecting and remitting the hotel tax”, said former Supervisor Aaron Peskin.

All of these organizations are calling for Supervisor Chiu to withdraw his legislation at a press conference on Tuesday April 29 on the steps of City Hall at 10:00 am.