Final Showdown on Short Term Rentals Law

Short Term Rentals to new City Council January 24th

There are two proposals before the Council tomorrow. One would allow folks who have been breaking the law by renting their “in-law” unit to visitors to continue to do so while continuing to ban others with in-laws (the ones who have been abiding by the current law) from short term rentals. Yes, you heard me. Item 41a would reward some duplex owners who have been breaking the law by “grandfathering” their short term rentals! This item is a carry-over from the previous City Council, and BTU hopes and expects the new Council to see the inherent risk to renters and reject Item 41a.

Instead, BTU is asking the City Council to support proposals by the Rent Stabilization Board (see below) which would make Item 41b into a short term rentals law much closer to what we have all hoped for: one that would protect our housing stock while allowing owners and tenants to rent their own homes out on AirBnB and other platforms now and again for some extra cash.

BTU did not make these signs, but we were happy to see them

BTU did not make these signs, but we were happy to see them

When is a Kitchen not a Kitchen?

The whole vote on Tuesday will be made extra-confusing by an adjunct proposal; Item 42 changes the definition of kitchen. This may also be an issue renters and those concerned with housing policies will want to weigh in on: can folks rent their converted garage or other “Accessory Building” as a short term rental? Under Item 41b and 42 the answer will be yes, as long as the building does not have a history of being rented for the long term.

There is just one problem with this compromise regarding Accessory Buildings: the new definition of kitchen says a kitchen is not a kitchen if the refrigerator is small! A kitchen would now be defined as “A habitable space used for preparation of food that contains at least a sink, a refrigerator of no less than 10 cubic feet, and either a cooktop and an oven, or a range.This leads to the questions: if you can put a full kitchen in your garage, then why would we allow it to be a vacation rental but not a permanent home at a time when we need housing? If you put a kitchen in your garage, will it be safe for short or long-term renters? BTU has always said we are fine with folks renting their garage as a short term rental if it does not have a kitchen, and thus could not be used for long-term housing.

Short Term Rentals Enforcement

Last summer the Council also directed staff to take action to enforce the existing ban on rentals of less than 14 days if an owner had more than three units listed for the short term. BTU worked with Councilmember Worthington’s office to provide information about several such owners. So far we have not heard of any action taken. Also last summer, the staff from Berkeley put out an RFP and decided to hire a private firm called Host Compliance to enforce the new rules. The firm also contracts with Oakland, Napa, Los Angeles, Denver, Toronto and many other cities, according to their website.
The Rent Board’s recommendations to Council also include language to make enforcement of the new law more effective.

Council Items 41a, 41b and 42 Concern Vacation Rentals
http://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/City_Council/2017/01_Jan/City_Council__01-24-2017_-_Regular_Meeting_Agenda.aspx

Rent Board Gives Advice
The Board is requesting that Council consider proposed revisions to language in the definition of Short-Term Rental (23C.22030 –D) and Host Residence (23C.22030 –D).  I addition, we believe there should be a definition for Long-Term Rental and have provided possible language.  The Board also recommended that Council adopt enforcement language similar to the City of San Francisco to prevent hosting platforms from ignoring local regulations.”
RSB to Council: rent-board-strs-2017
Harr / Simon-Weisberg Proposal: harr-simonweisberg-strs-2017
Soto-Vigil Proposal: soto-vigil-strs-2017

Previous City Council Vote
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2016/07/11/berkeley-council-votes-to-crack-down-on-short-term-rentals-of-multiple-units-by-same-owner/

The Company Berkeley Hired To Do Enforcement
https://hostcompliance.com/

“The AirBnB Police”
http://money.cnn.com/2016/10/01/technology/airbnb-police

Oakland Still Working on STRs
http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2017/01/16/oakland-airbnb-issue-highlights-citys-gentrification-fears/

In Other News

Student Groups Support Harrison in District 4
“We have an opportunity in Berkeley today to lead the way on progressive solutions to our nation’s challenges and ensure that the legacy we leave for those who follow in our paths is an equitable, sustainable, affordable and livable community for years to come. Kate will bring the lessons she has learned from her work as a consultant on the global stage to keep our city welcoming and inclusive and make it an even better place to call home.”
http://www.dailycal.org/2017/01/20/students-support-kate-harrison-district-4-city-council-special-election/

SF Tenant Gets $400,000
A San Francisco woman was forced out of her home when she was hit with a 400 percent rent increase in 2015. The renter’s attorney announced Tuesday that his client had won a $400,000 settlement in her lawsuit alleging an unlawful eviction.”
http://abc7news.com/realestate/san-francisco-renter-wins-$400000-settlement-/1707689/

Warehouse Item Being Developed in Berkeley
http://www.cityofberkeley.info/uploadedFiles/Rent_Stabilization_Board/Level_3_-_General/CTTE_17%20Jan%2013_4x4%20Ad%20Hoc%20Committee%20agenda(1).pdf

Artists Not to Blame
http://fusion.net/story/373688/dont-blame-artists-bay-area-oakland-ghost-ship-housing/

Permits Bureaucracy Drives Events Underground
“Everything about the permitting system is designed to discourage the type of electronic music events that people want to hold, Keenan said, from dropping off special permit applications at the city’s Eastmont police substation on 73rd Avenue, to the applications themselves that say in block-faced letters: “Dancing is not permitted between 1 a.m. and 9 a.m.”  Plus, permits have to be filed at least 30 days in advance. And, it can also be incredibly costly, he said. Each permit has its own associated fee, and while special event permits are only $50, extended-hour cabaret licenses can run as high as $2,900, according to the city’s master fee schedule. There’s also the added cost of hiring security for the event if the city deems it necessary, and acquiring insurance, which is also required.”
http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2016/12/09/musicians-artists-costly-permitting-system-forces-events-underground/

Oakland Tries to Shut Down Legit Activist Space
David Keenan is a BTU Member.
Omni founding member David Keenan said the experience calls into question public statements from Mayor Libby Schaaf that city officials would not be conducting a “witch hunt” and would be using “compassion” in their handling of fire and code enforcement complaints. Those types of complaints spiked in the two weeks after the deadly Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood earlier this month.”
http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2016/12/28/omni-commons-experience-highlights-oaklands-heavy-handed-approach-for-artist-spaces/

 

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