Livermore is exploring whether to regulate short term housing rentals offered up on sites like HomeAway, VRBO and Airbnb.
The city’s Community Development Department is expected to present to the City Council early next year a report looking at a range of available options for regulating and collecting fees and taxes from short term rentals.
The study comes amid heightened scrutiny of home-sharing sites that critics say do not adequately police party house landlords and rowdy renters who connect on their platforms.
The Halloween shooting in Orinda that left five dead and several injured was advertised on social media as an “Air BNB Mansion Party.” The owner of the house told the San Francisco Chronical he rented his house to a woman who said she planned to host a family reunion for a dozen people. Instead, she threw a party attended by about 100 people.
In response to the shooting late Thursday, the San Francisco company’s CEO took to Twitter on Saturday to announce Airbnb was banning “party houses” and cracking down on abusive host and guest conduct.
“It’s the embodiment of our worst fears for something like that to happen,” said a spokesperson for newly-formed Livermore Citizens for the Regulation of Short Term Rentals. He asked that his name not be published because he worries about internet retaliation for voicing his opinion. “It’s just awful.”
The group of neighbors from North Livermore voiced frustration to the City Council last week about disruptive parties, increased noise and traffic brought by a short term rental on their cul-de-sac. They urged the city’s elected leaders to rein in similar rentals in residential neighborhoods throughout the city.
City Councilman Robert Carling said crafting rules on short term rentals is one thing, but if the city seeks to enforce the rules, it will need to get a handle on basic information, such as the number of short term rentals available in the city, who owns them and where they are located.
At the League of California Cities annual meeting in Long Beach last month, Carling attended a presentation called “The Secret to Effective Short-Term Rental Regulations.”
He decided to attend the panel and report back what he had learned after hearing concerns from residents that short term rentals were harming the nature and quality of their neighborhoods. “My antennae were up,” he said.
Cities in the Tri-Valley and throughout the state have adopted a patchwork of obligations placed on hosts, who rent all or part of their homes on a short term basis, and on the companies that run the platforms.
Dublin requires a business license for owners of residential rental property. San Ramon considers short term rental housing to be lodging, which requires a conditional use permit. Danville requires a 30-day minimum stay for “unhosted” rentals of entire homes. A call to Pleasanton was not returned by press time.
The League filed a friend-of-the-court brief with 9th Circuit Court of Appeal in support of a Santa Monica law that was challenged by Airbnb and HomeAway. Santa Monica prohibits whole-home short-term rentals in properties where the host is not present.
In a ruling this year, the three-judge panel upheld Santa Monica’s strict regulation of vacation rentals, and dismissed the companies’ claim that the city ordinance violates a federal policy that protects internet publishers from liability for posting third-party content.
The League’s brief said the companies “are more like pawnbrokers than journalists and bulletin boards.” They were obligated to follow the law, whether they conduct business on the internet, or from behind a card table at a strip mall storefront.