San Francisco Supervisor David Campos.

Amendments proposed to strengthen City’s short-term rental law against legal challenge

Campos and Herrera agree that modest revisions can both address platforms’ objections in federal lawsuit and fulfill the intent of a fair, enforceable ordinance
San Francisco Supervisor David Campos.
San Francisco Supervisor David Campos.

SAN FRANCISCO (July 12, 2016)—Supervisor David Campos will introduce today amendments to legislation passed unanimously last month to hold Airbnb and other short-term rental platforms accountable for violations of the city’s short-term rental law.

The amendments, created in consultation with City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s office, answer legal objections raised by Airbnb in the civil complaint filed in U.S. District Court on June 27 while maintaining the primary focus of the law, which is to require that short-term rental platforms conduct business solely with registered hosts, and refrain from aiding and abetting thousands of unregistered scofflaws in San Francisco. 

At the same time, the proposed amendments would more strictly define language that Airbnb has misconstrued; make modest revisions to City enforcement mechanisms; and authorize City-issued administrative subpoenas to ensure compliance instead of a voluntary publication option.  As amended, Campos and Herrera agreed, the ordinance would substantially strengthen the City’s litigation position and potentially obviate Airbnb’s lawsuit altogether. 

“Our objective on the Board of Supervisors was to create a short-term rental law that’s enforceable and fair—it wasn’t to spend years litigating over the interplay of federal and local laws,” said Campos.  “After conferring with the City Attorney about Airbnb’s legal arguments, we agreed that we can simultaneously address Airbnb’s legal objections and fulfill the intent of San Francisco’s ordinance with a few modest revisions, which I’m proposing today.  But let’s be clear: the reaction by Airbnb and other hosting platforms to our amendments today will speak volumes about their willingness to work reasonably and in good faith for needed regulation—or whether their real motivation is to continue facilitating lawless tourist rentals with impunity.”  

“Our Board of Supervisors was in full agreement that San Francisco’s short-term rental law should be effective and enforced even-handedly,” said City Attorney Dennis Herrera.  “They proposed common-sense amendments to help our existing local law succeed—which Airbnb chose to sue over.  I think Supervisor Campos and his co-sponsors deserve credit for going the extra mile with their proposed revisions today, which thoughtfully address Airbnb’s legal objections.  These proposed amendments will strengthen the City’s position in this litigation, and hopefully remove the basis for Airbnb’s federal suit.”

“We’ve already heard from residents citywide that it’s time to hold web-based corporations responsible for business models that compromise public safety and exacerbate our housing crisis,” said Supervisor Aaron Peskin, co-sponsor of the legislation. “These amendments prove once again that we are focused on the most effective and legally defensible policy possible, and that we will continue to prioritize the well-being and best interests of our constituents.”

On June 7, the Board of Supervisors adopted an ordinance to provide registration verification and disclosure requirements for short-term rental hosting platforms, including Airbnb, VRBO, Homeaway, Trip Advisor and others.  Airbnb sued in U.S. District Court on June 27, 2016, both to preliminarily enjoin the law from being enforced and ultimately to invalidate it for violating federal law.  Homeaway has since petitioned the court to intervene in the legal challenge.  Briefs in support of Airbnb’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction are due this week, with San Francisco’s opposition brief due on July 29.  Replies from Airbnb and potential intervenors will be due on August 5; the U.S. District Court is currently scheduled to hear the preliminary injunction motion on Sept. 7. 

The case is Airbnb, Inc. v. City and County of San Francisco, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Case No. 3:16-CV-03615, filed June 27, 2016.


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