By Phil Matier

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — Are Airbnb operations in San Francisco about to come screeching to a halt? Or, at the very least, be severely curbed?

A trio of well-connected San Franciscans is taking on the explosion of the short-term rentals, largely brought about by tech startup Airbnb and other more established companies such Homeaway and VRBO, by backing a ballot initiative that would drastically curb their operations, according to Tuesday’s San Francisco Chronicle.

The group includes longtime housing activist Calvin Welch, public relations professional Dale Carlson, and former San Francisco Planning Commissioner Doug Engmann.

These are the guys from the dot-com era that was marked by live-work lofts and downtown development fights and now they are taking the explosion of short-term rentals.

While short-term rentals have been around a long time, the ability to book them instantly and easily has brought about a industry that has led to a reduction of housing stock, evictions, lawsuits and now—like most much else in California—ballot initiatives.

Some residents—both renters and owners—are renting out their places just so they can afford to live in the City and the Board of Supervisors and the authors of the initiative are trying to accommodate them. But a basic rule in bureaucracy politics is that every time a law is created to solve a problem, new problems inevitably sprout.

These types of laws aren’t new. Monterey and Carmel have laws governing short-term rentals because residents there saw homes next door to them become vacation rentals. So laws are there but they can be muddy.

The question is: how do we deal with the gluttonous landlord, who is trying to make a buck versus the person trying to make ends meet, or the student who leases out their apartment on the weekend and then gets evicted for subletting?


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