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Most Of SF's Airbnb Listings Technically Illegal As Homeowners Struggle With Rigorous New Application Process

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— Many San Franciscans say they haven't been able to register their homes or apartments under the city's new short-term vacation rental law. Only 60 permits have been given out under the city's so-called Airbnb law since the new regulations went into effect February 1st.

Critics complained Wednesday at a Board of Supervisors committee hearing that the process is simply too hard and that there's a whole slew of red tape to go through in order to apply and put up property listings on rental sites like VBRO and the Texas-based HomeAway.

Despite the 60 permits that have been granted, it's estimated that there are as many as 6,000 short-term vacation rentals listed on sites like Airbnb in San Francisco.

Homeowners say that number would be higher if it weren't for all of the red tape.

Rebecca Esther San Miguel has been renting out her Sunset District home since her husband was diagnosed with Parkinson's. She wanted to make extra money, but she can't do it right now, legally, until she gets registered and that has been tricky.

"It's not easy, straightforward, or as efficient as it could be. First, the in-person appointment is a bit old-fashioned," she said.

Many of the people who spoke before the San Francisco Supervisors' Budget and Finance Subcommittee hearing on the progress of the new law said that showing up in person can be too hard for people who work full time.

Scott Sanchez with the San Francisco Planning Department said that component of the application process is not an arbitrary part of the new law.

"We believe that the face-to-face interactions of the scheduled appointments also help to reduce the occurrence of potentially fraudulent applications being filed," Sanchez said.

He explained that in order to get a permit, you have to prove that the property you're trying to list is actually where you live by showing either a lease or specific bills. You also have to have a business license, which takes several weeks to obtain. That could in part explain why Sanchez says they've gotten only 159 applications since the requirement was put in place last month.

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