Saturday, May 26 , 2018, 9:00 am | Fair 61º

 
 
 
 
Advice

Letter to the Editor: Airbnb’s Letter to Santa Barbara Mayor, City Council

Dear Mayor Schneider and Santa Barbara City Council members:

Santa Barbara has a vibrant Airbnb community of responsible hosts, respectful guests and a longstanding short-term rental industry. Home sharing allows Santa Barbarans to turn what is typically one of their greatest expenses into a tool to help make ends meet. Most of our hosts are primary residents who share their homes to pay the bills. Additionally, Airbnb guests generate sustainable, local economic activity that supports small businesses across the city.

As services like Airbnb have grown in Santa Barbara, our company and our community have engaged with the Mayor, City Council, and planning staff to enact smart, fair regulations that will help people share the home in which they live.

However, city code enforcement officials are sending mixed messages to Santa Barbarans who share their homes. Last week, the Zoning Enforcement Section sent a cease and desist order with a threat of heavy fines to Dorothy, a retired widow on a fixed income who shares her home on Airbnb to make ends meet. When Dorothy informed us about the city’s action, she was distraught because she told us that before she began home sharing, she sought advice from the city’s Planning Department and obtained a business license, and has paid her transient-occupancy tax since she accepted her first guest. Dorothy affirmed she is unable to take on a long-term tenant, because her children and grandchildren often visit and stay in that space.

Members of the Santa Barbara City Council have acknowledged that the city’s code does not address home sharing and that clarification is needed, which is why it approved the ordinance process that is underway. Furthermore, in the hearing on enforcement, the council conveyed that those who have complied with applicable tax and business license requirements should not be unfairly punished, and should fall under an enforcement moratorium until the end of 2016.

While the City Council is considering ordinance and code changes that would address this activity, ordinary Santa Barbarans like Dorothy should not be penalized. We ask that the city suspend enforcement efforts against home sharers until the City Council completes its consideration of these code changes. This is not an uncommon practice for the many cities that are currently navigating short-term rental reform.

We look forward to continuing to work with you and are confident we can work together to craft clear, fair rules for home sharing in Santa Barbara.

Sincerely,

Cyn Wang
Public Policy, Airbnb
​San Francisco

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