I put Proposition C, the Affordable Housing Preservation Bond, on this November’s ballot because creating new housing isn’t enough. San Francisco has allowed thousands of existing units to be lost to illegal conversions, speculative real estate schemes, and illegal hotelization, aided by corporations like Airbnb.
It’s been more than two years since former supervisor David Chiu passed a law supported by Airbnb to legalize short-term rentals (STRs) in the city, which many of us decried as a corporate giveaway and unenforceable. Earlier this year, Supervisor David Campos and I went back to the drawing board to strengthen it, and Airbnb hit back hard with a lawsuit. Board President London Breed and I have now introduced a measure to further strengthen our existing short-term rental law by capping them at 60 days for those who register after Oct. 11, 2016. Good actors would be grandfathered in to the existing model of a 90-day limit for unhosted and 365 days for hosted. What would not change is that Airbnb (and corporations like it) would still be required to do business with legally registered rentals only.
This is common-sense legal enforcement that would ensure we are not turning valuable San Francisco housing into 24/7 hotels. A recent study has confirmed that 72 percent of listings (whether legal or not) rent for 60 days or less, and the impact would be squarely shouldered by bad actors who have been renting entire buildings or turning housing into “tech dorms,” as seen in NBC Bay Area’s ongoing investigations. And we’re not alone in having to stand up for our constituents. Amsterdam, Barcelona, and Santa Monica are all feeling the wrath of Airbnb after sticking up for residents. Hours after New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a law that would fine Airbnb hosts who break the law, Airbnb filed a federal lawsuit. It has also created an $11 million super PAC that is targeting New York state lawmakers who supported the bill. Here in San Francisco, Airbnb has flexed its political muscle by dumping almost $10 million into local races this past year, making it San Francisco’s number-one political spender.
The bottom line is that Airbnb can’t have it both ways: It must either stop aiding and abetting illegal activity, or the city must take action to protect San Franciscans. It’s time for Airbnb to start acting like a good corporate citizen and not like a schoolyard bully. As one constituent recently pointed out to me: Airbnb suing its city because it’s being asked to follow the law is like a city supervisor suing his city after being assessed a $191,000 ethics fine. It’s just not right. We all have to follow the law, and it’s frankly designed to protect our most vulnerable residents, many of whom have nowhere to go if displaced from their homes.
VOTE HOUSING FORWARD SF FOR AFFORDABILITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY
I want to reiterate my support for the Housing Forward SF slate that I wrote about in last month’s column. Please remember to vote yes on Proposition C (Affordable Housing Preservation Bond) so property owners can fund critical safety upgrades to at-risk buildings and the city can buy multiunit buildings for affordable housing. Vote yes on Proposition M, which would create a Housing and Development Commission to oversee those city departments currently operating with little or no oversight, while managing hundreds of millions of dollars of public funds. It would force them to implement a strategic plan for housing and development citywide and hold the departments accountable for how dollars are spent and what development deals are cut. Finally, please vote no on Propositions P and U, the real estate agents’ disingenuous antihousing measures designed to halt and eliminate affordable housing. The national, state, and San Francisco real estate agents’ associations are dumping millions of dollars of dirty money into races across the country. Whether they’re funding tea-bagger Republicans in Nevada or funneling money into efforts to stop passage of affordable housing laws in California, they have made it clear how little regard they have for our communities.
Take a stand this Nov. 8 and vote the Housing Forward Slate for affordability and accountability — and to show the real estate agents that San Francisco can’t be bought!
See you at the polls — and around the neighborhood.