San Leandro expects short-term rental ordinance next spring

A posting Thursday on AirBNB for a seven-bedroom short-term rental in San Leandro going for $1,495 a night.

Residents in San Leandro’s leafy Bay-O-Vista neighborhood have complained about excessive noise, millennials loitering late at night, talking on phones, and gobbling up parking spots to one short-term rental property near Graft Avenue.

Other short-term rental listings in San Leandro, also commonly referred to as AirBNBs, have come under scrutiny for  attracting rave-like parties. The city has issued seven citation over the past year leading to a likely ordinance sometime next spring to regulate hosted and non-hosted short-term rentals in San Leandro.

An outright ban on the non-hosted variety was recommended by city staff during Monday’s work session, along with punitive penalties such as a $1,000 fine and six months in jail for the first offense. Some councilmembers asked for further study on the non-hosted ban. While others asserted the fine was too low and merely the price of doing business in San Leandro where some property owners are charging $1,000 a night for large rentals. The recommended fine is the maximum allowable under state law, said San Leandro City Attorney Richard Pio Roda. His office would prosecute violations of a proposed ban, not the District Attorney, he added. “It’s a real threat.”

Strict regulations on hosted short-term rentals, characterized as less than 30 days, however, appears to have earlier support of the council. Several voiced interest in reserving property owners the ability to create additional income for themselves, perhaps allowing financially-strapped residents to stay in their homes. “The last thing we want is for people to lose homes for yet another reason,” said Councilmember Deborah Cox.

At least once member of the council questioned whether allowing any types of short-term rentals in San Leandro is wise. “I’ve made my position clear,” said Councilmember Corina Lopez, “I’m not for the commercialization of the neighborhoods.” She later, questioned the prevailing wisdom behind some of colleagues claim that AirBNBs will truly help San Leandrans pay their mortgage.

“I’m not buying the whole, ‘We need to rent our house every third day to make sure our mortgage is paid.’ Normally you’re going to try to find something more consistent,” said Lopez.

A recent city survey, however, found that residents narrowly favor allowing short-term rentals in San Leandro. Those who disagreed, according to the survey, cited the loss of parking and excessive noise. Long-time resident Jim Hussie said allowing AirBNBs to proliferate breaks the covenant home buyers made with the city when they chose to live in San Leandro. “I didn’t purchase a home in a commercial area. I purchased a home in a residential area,” he told the council.

San Leandro’s staff proposal would limit property owners hosting short-term rentals to 120 days a year. A business license short-term rental license would be required, in addition, to the property owner collecting the city’s Transient Occupancy Tax (hotel tax) from renters. The hiring of a third-party company is also recommended to monitor short-term rentals in the city. Violations of the proposed hosted short-term rental proposals would result in a $1,000 fine and the first of three strikes against the property owners. The third violation comes with a permanent revocation of their license.

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