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SF shuts down illegal Airbnbs

Bernal Heights home also played host to gunplay

A graphic showing keys, a house, and the Airbnb logo.

On Monday, the San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera boasted that his office shut down an illegal Airbnb in Bernal Heights, settling with the owners via a $185,000 fine and prohibition on future short-term rentals.

According to a statement from Herrera’s office about the settlement at the Bernal Heights home on Banks Street:

The owners, Erik M. Rogers and his wife, Anshu Singh, had unlawfully converted the single-family home into a two-unit building and then illegally rented it out for more than a year through online short-term rental sites Airbnb and HomeAway/VRBO.

As part of the settlement, the owners will pay $185,000 in civil penalties and be prohibited from any short-term rentals on the property for five years. [...] “This outcome preserves one more house to help a family stay in San Francisco, and it makes the neighborhood safer for everyone,” Herrera said.

Herrera’s comments about safety refer to an October 2017 incident when a party at the Banks Street house ended in what San Francisco police called a gang-related shootout.

As KRON4 reported at the time:

The event got popular because it was promoted on social media. But it ended in violence when police say two rival gangs began shooting at one another. [...] Bernal Heights neighbors alarmed by the violence came to this community meeting to question their elected officials and police.

The owner of 212 Banks is in Bali, according to city supervisor Hillary Ronen. Since he doesn’t live at the home, renting it on sites like Airbnb for a weekend is in violation of the city short-term rental policy.

Herrera sued Rogers and Singh in May, alleging that the pair illegally rented the house 487 nights over the course of 15 months and charged guests more than $700 per night.

According to Planning Department records, Rogers and Singh bought the circa-1910 property in 2010 for $950,000.

Earlier this month, the city wrapped up another illegal Airbnb case from May, which focused on a “chain” of outlaw rentals hidden by an elaborate network of “straw hosts.”

Herrera had sought $5.5 million that case—six times what landlords Valerie and Darren Lee made off their short-term rentals—but ended up settling for $2.5 million. The Lees are also barred from renting on Airbnb and similar homes until 2025.

These anecdotal cases highlight the city’s short-term rental laws and the enforcement of such laws; however, it’s less clear whether or not or not individual prosecutions are a deterrent for other would-be Airbnb bandits.

SocketSite published a report in October noting that “the number of formal complaints related to illegal short-term rental activity in San Francisco has continued to drop” throughout 2018—though down 50 percent year over year in the first three quarters.