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City proposes 60-day limit on Airbnbs

Hard limit would be city’s hardest line on short term rentals yet

San Francisco is Airbnb’s hometown, but they might not feel terribly welcome at home these days. Lawmakers executed the latest maneuver in the city’s ongoing standoff with short term rentals this week, proposing a hard limit on how long homeowners may let out any one unit on Airbnb or its competitors.

Sixty days per year would be the max under Board of Supervisors President London Breed’s proposal. Sponsors told the San Francisco Examiner that 60 days is a good compromise number that allows significant yearly revenue but stops anybody from turning housing stock into a permanent de facto hotel.

This isn’t the first time the city has pondered a two-month cap; in fact, last time the idea came up, Breed voted against it. She tells the San Francisco Chronicle that since then she became more amenable to the idea after enough time passed that it she could conclude that existing regulations aren’t enough.

Of course, Supervisor Breed is up for reelection in less than a month too. Whether this is an election-year an appeal to her district’s left flank or just ongoing city business depends on whose word you take. Breed and her cosponsors will pitch the STR cap (which of course would affect all Airbnb competitors too) at next Tuesday’s board meeting.

Two San Francisco lawmakers and one Oakland City Council member were also among those who signed an open letter to the Federal Trade Commission urging the FTC to probe Airbnb’s practices this week. San Francisco’s Senator Dianne Feinstein (and two other sitting Senators) made a similar appeal earlier this year.

An awkward week for the STR juggernaut, all told, although they’re probably getting used to all of the scolding and prodding by now. Airbnb is presently suing the city to block tougher regulations passed during the summer.

Asked for comment, an Airbnb spokesperson called the proposal "one more barrier" and criticized lawmakers for not "fixing the broken registration system" instead. In the past, the city has argued that the onus for registration laws falls on Airbnb, while the company insists that it can’t tailor its business practices to individual cities.