Today’s Headlines

  • Transit Data Getting More Accessible in Bay Area and Elsewhere (Wired)
  • San Francisco Transit Future Dreams (KALW)
  • Developers Face Higher Affordable Housing Requirements (BizJournals)
  • Rental Market Cooling Slightly? (SFChron)
  • Telegraph Hill Townhomes to Start Construction (Hoodline)
  • New Law Could Open Properties Currently Used as Airbnbs (Socketsite)
  • Monster Mission Development Clears Another Hurdle (Socketsite)
  • Project to bring 350 More Apartments to SoMa (Socketsite)
  • Car Jumps Sidewalk in SF (Hoodline)
  • A Look at one of SF’s Great Stairways (SFist)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA
Get state headlines at Streetsblog CA

  • PaleoBruce

    Interesting premise in the Streetsblog choice of wording: “New Law Could Open Properties Currently Used as Airbnbs”. Or, said more clearly: New law hopes to force more short term rentals to be long term rentals. The implied problem being that available long term rentals are scarce and, no surprise, expensive.

    What irks me is that almost unanimously, when you ask experts who study economics, the experts agree that rent control law is the culprit for scarcity of available long term rental units. Denying scientific consensus is just as bad with this as it is with climate change denial at the other end of the political spectrum. (And the Board of Supervisors were unanimous in their science denial.) I guess humans are human.

  • jonobate

    There’s no consensus that rent control is the cause of the housing shortage. The data simply doesn’t support that theory. This is the best thing I’ve read on the subject:

  • RichLL

    Wrong, there is a huge inventory of research showing that rent control in particular, and price controls in general, only work in the short-term as a response to emergencies, disasters and war. While long-term they suppress the construction, supply and provision of housing, thereby driving up the cost.

    Studies have shown that 93% of economists support this view – almost as high as the percentage of scientists who believe in global warming. Here is a good place to start your education:

    In fact even the article you cite debunks your claim, here:

    “That’s the amount the rent has gone up every year, on average, since 1956. It was true before rent control; it was true after rent control. It wasn’t entirely true during the 2000 tech bubble, but it was still sort of true and it became true again afterward.”

    Bruce is correct. As a property owner who has done short-term rentals in the past, the main reason was not because it is more money. It isn’t when you include extra costs and hassle, and null periods. It is so I can avoid the punitive drawbacks of rent control.

    This change will be good for CraigsList and bad for Airbnb. But there is no way that I would be willing to deal with rent control. So even if this forced me to stop doing short-term lets, my units are still not going back onto the controlled market. I’m not a masochist.

  • murphstahoe

    this doesn’t make short term rentals a de facto good thing. or a de facto bad thing.

    The problem I have is when someone sets up shop as a short term rental owner but tries to do so on a different playing field from other short term rentals. If you are going to play there, you need to follow regulations, follow zoning, and pay the ToT that is used to support all short term rentals.

    What tends to happen is that following the rules in place makes the short term rental business less profitable, and some potential short term rentals go back to long term.

  • murphstahoe

    So even if this forced me to stop doing short-term lets, my units are still not going back onto the controlled market.

    What would you do instead?

  • RichLL

    I don’t disagree with that, although the ToT is not “used to support all short term rentals”. It’s just slush money for the general fund.

    But as noted elsewhere, at least in San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley (the main Bay Area cities that have rent control) fewer short-term lets does not mean that those units revert to long-term lets. Rather the owner has already decided not to do long-term lets because of rent control, and instead seek other uses.

    Regulating short-term lets is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as it is not excessively intrusive. But doing that just to try and force or lackmail property owners into doing long-term lets would be repugnant. The state’s Ellis Act has already ratified the important constitutional principle that a local government may not pass laws that compel business owners to continue in that business

  • RichLL

    You’re really asking me what I have already done, as I largely stopped doing short-term lets 2-3 years ago when this furore in a teacup started. Examples:

    1) Shorter-term rentals, i.e. rentals that are longer than 30 days (so no ToT) but still of limited term. Foreign visitors on 3-6 month visas are perfect

    2) Rent to an entity rather than a person, so rent control doesn’t apply. For instance I have rented directly to tech companies who rotate employees in and out

    3) Move into your controlled unit and instead rent out your non-controlled condo or SFH

    4) Sell as TIC

  • Anyone in San Francisco interested in hosting a public bench, check out:

    Chronicles our family’s bench:

  • jonobate

    Citing the Cato foundation’s opinion on rent control is rather like citing Donald Trump’s opinion on immigration; as a libertarian think tank, it’s far from an unbiased source. I prefer to base my conclusions on data rather propaganda, and from said data it’s pretty clear to me that there was no significant change in the rate of increase of rents before and after the implementation of rent control, and the volitility in rents seen in recent decades is primarily attributable to the boom and bust tech economy and lack of available housing.

    The lack of available housing is primarily a consequence of NIMBY resistance to new construction in the city. This in turn may be partly attributable to rent control, as someone who enjoys the benefits of rent control has no real reason to support new construction as they will not benefit from the resulting stabilization of market-rate rents. But that’s only part of the reasons people in this city oppose new housing, and I’d rather focus on tackling NIMBYism as a whole than just one part of it.

  • murphstahoe

    Slush money for the general fund – in other words the money that SF uses to make it a city people want to visit.

    Regulating short term lets is absolutely a good thing. We use zoning or HOAs or whatever to produce some housing stock where residents can move in and understand they don’t have short term neighbors. We tax short term lets because they have an impact that we mitigate with money collected from taxes. We put review on the landlord to assure some level of protection for the short term tenants.

    I agree with your premise that the press to make sure the regulations are met are not because that’s “proper” and “fair”, but because the people pushing those regulations think they are doing so to solve a problem that wasn’t sourced by airbnb.

  • murphstahoe

    All valid uses.

    You imply you were doing short term lets before. Did you have your use permit? Were you paying the ToT? What changed? If you were in compliance, this stuff should be a non-issue, n’est pas?

  • RichLL

    The Observer is a fairly left-wing source so you are guilty of the very same bias claim you made about me.

    Rents are driven by a complex set of factors and it’s not possible to isolate just one (rent control) and determine its effect. The closest we can come to that is compare cities of a similar size and notice the difference between the rents of each. Rents are highest in cities with rent control.

    Ultimately rents are set by the balance between supply and demand. It doesn’t much affect demand unless a city also has vacancy control, which is illegal under state law. But it absolutely does affect supply because, as noted, many landlords will not rent out their units long-term if they are controlled. I am living proof of that and there are many others like me.

    The other factor is that tenants with rent control resist moving. That constrains turnover, the vacancy rate and so, again, drives up rents at the margin.

    I happen to agree that NIMBYisn is another factor that drives up rental costs as well. SF really has the worst possible combination – rent controls with NIMBYism. A double blow to affordability.

  • RichLL

    Before Airbnb came along, short-term letting was small scale. Most people who did it, like me, used CraigsList,

    Back then there was little public discussion of the topic, and few people knew about needing a permit, or having to pay taxes as if you were the Hilton.

    And there was zero enforcement indicating that the city did not regard the odd mom ‘n’ pop hosts who were doing this represented a public policy problem.

    So it was a non-issue. When Airbnb started rattling cages, the controversy began, and smart disrupters moved onto the next new thing.

    If I were Airbnb, I’d move the entire operation offshore and give the city a big fat finger.

  • RichLL

    Funnily enough, the biggest problem tenants on my block are from the one building that is tenant-occupied and rent-controlled.

    Two other homes on the block where I live are Airbnb’ed all the time and have never been the slightest problem. The average European guest who typically frequents these Airbnb homes is delightful, and certainly more pleasant than the controlled long-term tenants desperately clinging to their unit.

    The focus should be on problem tenants and not the duration of their tenancy.

  • murphstahoe

    Funny – I’ve managed to be in compliance on two short term rentals for 20 years. Guess I just like following the law – or I am just a sucker.

  • murphstahoe

    long term tenants can be dealt with. Short term tenants are a moving target.

  • RichLL

    In San Francisco? Or somewhere else where regulations are much looser and taxes are lower?

    I don’t blindly follow all laws regardless of their merit and justness. Nor did Rosa Parks.

  • murphstahoe

    I see – you refused to pay your taxes because civil rights.

  • RichLL

    Let’s put it this way. I did the same thing that you do when you are on a bike and there’s a stop sign ahead.

  • murphstahoe

    I recall you – not me – saying “the law is the law”.

  • RichLL

    Seems to me that you support zero tolerance for laws you personally agree with, and zero enforcement of the laws that do not suit you.

    If you’re now telling me that cyclists who break the law should be punished, then my work here is done.

  • RichLL

    Most remedies that you have against a bad neighbor are against the owner of that property and not the tenants. So while such remedies are not unreasonable, I would not single out short-term guests and home sharers.

    But my real beef is that this law isn’t really for that purpose at all, because there are already existing remedies against neighbors who have loud parties, sell drugs from their stoops etc.

    The real point here is a blatant attempt to manipulate owners into renting out their units long term. The best way to get me to do that is to repeal rent control, as PaleoBruce noted.

  • murphstahoe

    Guilty. I have zero tolerance for tax evaders. Done with you.

  • jonobate

    I’m more interested in the data compiled by Eric Fisher, and the correlation he finds to jobs, salaries, and housing availability, than the Guardian’s commentary on it (although I do happen to agree with what they say.)

    People tend to believe whatever supports their own worldview rather than what is objectively true, and this is particularly the case in debates such as this. You want to believe that rent control is to blame because it fits your libertarian worldview, and because ending rent control will benefit you financially as a tax-evading landlord.

    Likewise, the folks protesting the Google buses and new residential developments want to believe that those are to blame because that fits in with their anti-corporate, anti-developer worldview. And some people just want to blame anything new for the housing crisis, and attack Google buses, new housing, bike lanes, bus lanes etc. simply because they are fearful of any sort of change.

    If we agree that destroying the city’s economy is probably not the best way to reduce rents (and not everyone does agree on that, of course) that leaves us with increasing housing supply as the only way to mitigate the crisis. How we achieve that is then another matter for debate, but blaming false causes for ideological reasons – whether that’s rent control or Google buses – will not solve the crisis.

  • RichLL

    I never said I evaded tax . I said I responded to the law in the same way that you do when you encounter a law that you don’t like or agree with, and you assumed the rest.

    But at least you have been dislodged from your formerly precious position of being impeccable with the law. Turns out you’re just like the rest of us.

    And maybe that’s nothing to be ashamed about. The correlation of someone’s adherence of any law is typically related to how much they believe that law is fair, reasonable and just.

    “Done with you” = “You got me there”.

  • RichLL

    I never said that rent control was the only factor, but it should be obvious to anyone who thinks about it for more than a minute that rent control suppresses the provision of rental housing by making it financially unattractive to offer it.

    You only have to look at the thousands of no-fault evictions where the owner then puts the unit to another use to see that effect at work.

    I agree that NIMBYism and a good local economy are factors too, along with the geographical constraints. But it is simply common sense to understand that the best way to encourage owners to make their units available is not to punish them for doing so.

    The fact that you think all landlords are tax evaders shows your own personal bias. The tax breaks are actually fairly good for landlords (for the reasons I cited above) and their activity is public, so there is zero incentive to do that. You betray your prejudice in suggesting otherwise.

  • jonobate

    The fact that you think all landlords are tax evaders shows your own personal bias.

    I didn’t say that I think that all landlords are tax evaders. I said you are a tax evading landlord, and I said that because you admitted as much in a reply to murphstahoe below.

  • jonobate

    As for “data”, politics is far more about values than data.

    Facts are tricky things, aren’t they?

    Anyone can cherry-pick “data” to support their case.

    That’s true, but there’s no indication that that was done in this case. I really don’t believe that Eric Fischer fabricated or cherry-picked his data to cover up the evils of rent control.

  • RichLL

    No, you misread or misunderstood. There was no such admission. I did set an inference trap for Murph which he fell for, and evidently you did too.

    Of course, neither you nor he voluntarily pays CA sales tax on your out-of-state purchases, as you are supposed to do, because nobody does. So you’re a tax evader too.

    But I’d rather debate the issues than throw dirt around. It’s telling that you don’t feel the same way.

  • jonobate

    You – “I don’t blindly follow all laws regardless of their merit and justness. Nor did Rosa Parks.”

    Murph – “I see – you refused to pay your taxes because civil rights.”

    You – “Let’s put it this way. I did the same thing that you do when you are on a bike and there’s a stop sign ahead.”

    Seems pretty clear to me. If you’re saying that you admitted doing something that you didn’t actually do, and were therefore lying to murphstahoe, then any fallout from that lie is your own problem.

  • RichLL

    I see no admission there. I allowed Murph to think what he wanted to think, to entrap him into claiming in a precious prissy way that he always obeyed the law, so that I could then nail him by pointing out that he breaks laws he disagrees with, like the bike stop law.

    I employed a rhetorical device as a tactic to entice him into a position of hypocrisy, in order to debunk his posturing here.

    Evidently it was too subtle and nuanced for both of you.

  • jonobate

    Whatever. Those reading can judge for themselves.

  • RichLL

    They did. Murph ducked and you are doubling down on your mistake.

  • RichLL

    Anyone with experience understands that people start out with values, beliefs and opinions, and then search out “data” and “evidence” that support them. That is the entire basis for confirmation bias, which exists everywhere and with everyone.

    Back at high school and college, I was on the debating team. We’d know what the topic was ahead of time, but not which side of it that we’d have to argue. So we brought along “facts” that supported both sides, and then only used the ones that supported the side we had to argue.

    So I learned at a young age that facts are infinitely malleable. Getting back to rent control, SF has the strictest rent control in the nation and the highest rents. Right there a reasonable person can tell that something is awry with your argument.

    And I’ve lived in SF long enough to know that anyone who is “fascinated” with the subject of rents and housing costs ALWAYS has an agenda.

  • murphstahoe

    That’s not the real point, as I read it.

  • RichLL

    Not as stated, perhaps. But if you listen to what people like Campos are saying, it is clear that they believe that Airbnb has reduced the number of available rent-controlled units in SF.

    And that if Airbnb could somehow be stopped, then those units would magically return to long-term rental.

    I disagree, and I think this is mostly a political move, based on a dislike for tech, Conway, the sharing economy and disrupters in general

  • murphstahoe

    “I did set an inference trap for Murph which he fell for, and evidently you did too. ”

    “I allowed Murph to think what he wanted to think, to entrap him”

    This is supposed to be a discussion board, not a contest where RichLL can try to trap people.

    Can we ban this loser now?

    Looking forward to RichLL’s discussion of how he didn’t actually “trap” me, that I merely inferred it, but actually his real point is that rent control is bad.

  • murphstahoe

    Why are you scared to discuss the issues?

    Is that what we are doing? I thought we were playing a game of trap the commenter?

  • RichLL

    I honestly didn’t think you’d fall for it.

    How about less attempts to get censorship or get others banned, less personal attacks, and more discussion about the issues and the topic?


  • murphstahoe

    “Back at high school and college, I was on the debating team. We’d know
    what the topic was ahead of time, but not which side of it that we’d
    have to argue.”

    I see. You miss the old high school debate days. As the bard would say – SAD!

  • RichLL

    Not really, but the experience gained is useful in winning debates now. And if I wasn’t winning debates here, you wouldn’t be so sore at me.

    But the point here was to get jonobate to see why his obsession with “data” makes his arguments less effective.

  • murphstahoe

    I’m just trying to figure out why any sane person would be “trying to win debates” on Streetsblog.

  • RichLL

    I’m sorry that you don’t enjoy constructive criticism, a diversity of opinions and a robust and vigorous exchange of ideas. You probably miss opportunities to learn by seeking to avoid debates that challenge your thinking.

    As for sanity, I’d normally regard commuting from Healdsburg to the South Bay as something no sane person would do but then, as stated, I don’t feel threatened by diverse perspectives.

  • SF Guest

    How boring would it be if every blogger simply agreed with everyone else and offered no diverse opinion? There are many bloggers here that relish bashing private auto use when given the opportunity.

  • Rob

    You do not offer constructive criticism. If you did, perhaps you would make your previous comments open for review. What you do is contradict yourself and just argue for whatever point is convenient. There is a ‘today’s headlines’ post where you argue about the panhandle path like you have been there when it was obvious from your posts you had no idea what you were talking about. Did you learn that from high school debate?

    I think someone is paying you for each post and you do destroy some of the constructive arguments that I enjoyed reading about in the comments. So money well spent. You win, you argue about nothing. I have such a hard time figuring out what point you are trying to make in your posts. But there are many of them. Perhaps you missed your chance of going into politics — but then, someone would fact check you.

  • Frances Taylor

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  • alberto rossi

    Frances Taylor’s comment is more interesting than most of RichLL’s

  • RichLL

    Alberto, both your comments and hers are totally off-topic. If all you have to say is a personal attack on someone else, then better to remain silent.

  • Kelsiejhouse4

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