Following numerous recent acts of violence on Airbnb properties, including murder, a stalled bill in the state Senate that restricts short-term rental properties is finding a second wind.
The recent five murders at at Airbnb property in Orinda, a previous Airbnb murder in La Jolla, and numerous reports of violence and major disruptions from short-term rentals in San Diego and Los Angeles have spurred a renewed call for short-term rental restrictions. While Airbnb has announced a ban on ‘party houses’ and additional screenings of guests in the wake of Orinda, many people, especially the families of victims, have called on the state to take action. Chief among all the current ways would be the passage of Assembly Bill 1731, which was passed by the Assembly and nearly passed by the Senate in Sacramento last year.
AB 1731, which was authored by San Diego area Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath (D-Encinitas), would have stopped short-term rental companies such as Airbnb from renting ‘vacation’ rentals in San Diego County for more than 30 days a year unless the full-time resident was living there. Renting out a bedroom or other room would still be permitted.
The bill’s intent was to stop housing from being converted from normal properties to short-term rentals. Cities that were already being negatively affected by the housing crisis were seeing the number of places to live go down because of the number of short-term rentals, effectively blocking out countless possible residents from moving in long-term.
“This bill has always been about slowing the bleeding when it comes to our housing stock and returning some semblance of control to our local communities,” said Assemblywoman Boerner Horvath.
The bill was originally planned for all of California, but was slowly diminished to only coastal areas of California, to only coastal areas of San Diego County. With severe limits in a single area of a county, the updated bill became a ‘test case’ to see what the effects would be.
It passed the Assembly last session, but had notable opposition. Short-term rental groups fought hard against its passage, with Airbnb in particular leading a spirited campaign. The biggest surprise turned out to be Assemblyman Todd Gloria (D-San Diego). He was the only Democrat to break ranks simply because he felt that short-term rentals were a local, and not a state, issue. Assemblyman Gloria’s vote against it caused a noticeable drop in support in coastal communities, who have since looked for other ways to alleviate the large number of Airbnb rentals in the area.
In the Senate AB 1731 never made it out of committee. Many Senators were divided on the issue of the rights of homeowners and what’s best for a community during a major housing crisis.
“I’ve used Airbnb in San Diego and really enjoyed it, but I also see that a lot of folks are buying up property as an investment and renting it out and removing rental stock from the marketplace,” stated Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) during subcommittee debate. “I’m torn on this. I think reasonable minds can differ on this. It’s a tool in a toolbox where we have such a housing shortage.”
While it passed the Senate Natural Resources Committee 6-1, Assemblywoman Boerner Horvath pulled it so that it could be retooled and passed more easily.
“I was elected to create sound public policy, not score quick political wins,” said Boerner Horvath on pulling the bill in July. “That is why I made the decision today to hold the bill and take more time to work on it through the next year.”
But now, with many Californians screaming for change to limit the number of short-term rentals, especially those with no owner present that can easily lead to more violent behavior with no one there to keep guests in check, AB 1731 may see passage this coming session.
“Airbnb is still the wild west right now,” said Marco Cortez, a former Airbnb owner who stopped after an assault happened in his garage bedroom while he was away. “This bill, from what I see, would help stop it and make it more like keeping a hotel room. You have privacy, but there’s always someone in the lobby. That sort of thing.”
“That’s what Airbnb needs right now.”
“If we don’t pass laws that protect people simply because some people renting their homes lose a little money, what does that say about us?”