Mayor Ed Lee signs bill regulating Airbnb in San Francisco

Monday, October 27, 2014
Mayor Ed Lee signs bill regulating Airbnb in SF
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Mayor Ed Lee's office shook with applause after he signed a bill to legalize and regulate sites like Airbnb in San Francisco on Monday.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Although it's been going on for years, renting out your home online with websites like Airbnb has been illegal in San Francisco until now.

Mayor Ed Lee's office shook with applause after he signed a bill to legalize and regulate sites like Airbnb in San Francisco.

However outside those double doors the scene was far different.

"They're reducing the supply of housing for the people who live here," one man said.

Protesters set up a mock roadside memorial with flowers, candles and signs proclaiming the death of San Francisco's neighborhoods.

Airbnb, they say, lets landlords take apartments off the market and rent them out one night at a time, just like hotels, for more money.

With affordable apartments already in short supply, the teachers' union's and nurses are getting involved.

"We have 6,000 members, most of them cannot live in the city," United Educators of San Francisco member Hene Kelly said.

"There are people who are having a really hard time making ends meet in this city, they are on fixed incomes and I don't think that this legislation is helping them at all. I think that it's helping a multi-billion dollar company," nurse Rob Blomberg said.

But inside the mayor's office, the sponsors of that legislation say that's not the case at all. They say this law was a carefully architected balancing act intended not to worsen the housing crisis, but to help ease it.

"Our legislation will actually ensure that more people get to afford to live in San Francisco, not the opposite," San Francisco Supervisor David Chiu said.

Chiu says the law fixes the worst problems like banning single room occupancy hotels from listing on Airbnb.

That was hurting organizations that use those hotels to house people who would otherwise be homeless.

The law says you can only rent out your own residence and only nine months out of the year.

It's designed for people like Rodolfo Cancino who rents out a spare room in his house for extra cash.

It helped to pay for my teeth which I put off for five years, it's allowing us to help our son with his graduate education debt," Cancino said.

It also helps pay to run the city. The law requires a tax be collected and requires registration with the city before listing a home.

But it's red tape that serves to legitimize what was a legal gray area.

"We know what we need to do in order to be legal in San Francisco and that clarity is very important for us," Home Sharers of San Francisco Founder Peter Kwan said.