Meet the Man Behind Proposition F

By Otis R. Taylor Jr. : medium – excerpt

saw the sign.

That is why I had to find Doug Engmann, a San Francisco businessman, landlord and longtime activist.

He’s the guy who authored Proposition F.

Prop F seeks to regulate short-term rentals in San Francisco, while holding host platforms such as Airbnb, FlipKey and VRBO accountable to local law. The law requires hosts to register with the city. Prop F would impose a 75-day annual limit on short-term rentals and it would require tenants to have their landlord’s approval before advertising a property…

“There’s been no other vote of the people on this business model anywhere in the world.”

You might’ve seen a TV ad, heard a radio spot or read a social media post about Prop F. It’s the measure Airbnb is spending millions to defeat, fighting to keep others like Engmann from telling it how to run its billion dollar business.

I saw the sign while walking in Noe Valley. I noticed a poster bowed in a first-floor window. A big, yellow F stood on the left length. The “F” was bigger than the “YES” at the bottom. The poster had a message, “FIX the Airbnb MESS…”

This is the first public referendum on Airbnb. Make no mistake, the vote will affect its business model and how residents and tourists interact with San Francisco. The Future — of course, with a capital F — is at stake.

“There’s been no other vote of the people on this business model anywhere in the world,” Engmann, who has been active in San Francisco politics and neighborhood affairs for four decades, says.

Airbnb’s home is San Francisco, a city that is in the clutches of a housing crisis, exascerbated by rising rents and Ellis Act evictions. Yes is sponsored by Share Better SF, a group Engmann founded with Calvin Welch, a longtime housing activist and Dale Carlson, a public relations professional. With Airbnb, Share Better SF sees a company that offers financial incentive to remove long-term housing from existing stock and converting it into a tourist rental.

Engmann, the former chairman of Pacific Stock Exchange, sees Prop F as a solution: it allows for hosting tourists while preventing a full-scale conversion of permanent housing to permanent hotel rooms… (more)


Most Airbnb listings are entire houses

New data suggests that thousands of listings violate even the current weak law

NOVEMBER 2, 2015 – While protesters occupied Airbnb’s headquarters at lunchtime today, the latest data shows that the vast majority of units rented out through the company are not rooms in apartments or flats but are entire buildings.

InsideAirbnb reports that as of Nov. 1, 57.4 percent of the San Francisco listings on the site were entire houses or apartments.

More than 75 percent of them had “high availability,” meaning more than 90 nights a year.

That strongly suggests that a majority of the units listed this week on Airbnb violate the city’s existing law – which, the evidence shows, clearly can’t be enforced:

Entire homes or apartments highly available year-round for tourists, probably don’t have the owner present, could be illegal, and more importantly, are displacing residents.

Existing law bans any use of houses or apartments as STRs for more than 90 nights a year unless the person listing the place also lives there. In other words, you can rent out that spare bedroom in your house – while you are at home – as much as you want.

But that seems to be a small minority of the listings.

It shows why Mark Andreessen sounds like such an idiot in the New York Times:

As Marc Andreessen, the venture capitalist and philanthropist who invested in, among other things, Twitter and Airbnb, put it in a Twitter post: “Thanks to Airbnb, now anyone with a house or apartment can offer a room for rent. Hence, income inequality reduced.”

Huh? That’s not what’s happening at all. In San Francisco, those listings are just a fraction of the total.

Instead, since anyone with an apartment building in San Francisco can apparently evict all the tenants and turn the place into a hotel, with impunity, income inequality is greatly increased.

UPDATE: Even the head of the city’s Office of Short-Term Rental Enforcement says that most current Airbnb listings are illegal:

According to office director Kevin Guy, most San Francisco listings on Airbnb are probably in violation of current law.

Guy said his staff of four people is prioritizing the “most egregious actors,” such as those who post multiple properties on sites such as Airbnb but don’t live in San Francisco.

That’s just the worst of the worst. The rest, apparently, will just get away with it… (more)


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