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Phil Matier: Is Senator Feinstein Putting San Francisco's Mayor Lee On The Hot Seat Over Airbnb Legislation?

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— California Senator Dianne Feinstein has some strong words about proposed Airbnb legislation under consideration by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

Feinstein, a Democrat and herself a former supervisor and mayor of San Francisco, said in her op-ed piece, that it's a short-sighted action that would "destroy the integrity of zoning throughout San Francisco."

Feinstein has never been shy when it comes to weighing in on San Francisco. She still lives here and is very active and involved in the local political scene. She's been vocal about the 49ers' move to Santa Clara as well as the building of the Central Subway.

She's not exactly crazy about what Airbnb and the Board of Supervisors has put together. In a nutshell it's a motion to have short-term rentals become legal in the city, because technically right now, it's not. You can't rent out a room in your house or your house for short termers, because essentially that's turning your house into a hotel.

She said if you allow this to happen with short-term residential companies like Airbnb and VRBO that the zoning laws will be affected and that you'd be turning residential neighborhoods into de facto motel rows.

In addition, she's calling for these companies to pony up $25 million in back taxes, which is something Mayor Ed Lee and the board has put on the backburner as something they would rather deal with later.

Is Sen. Feinstein Putting San Francisco's Mayor Lee On The Hot Seat Over Airbnb Legislation?

Some have been critical of Feinstein's opinion and argue that many San Francisco residents use these short-term residential rentals as a way to make money or even to make ends meet to continue living in an increasingly expensive city. But on the other hand, you have to look at the people, the neighbors, if you will, of the people who are renting and are not okay with a high turnover of strangers being brought in to live in their neighborhood, albeit on a temporary basis.

This legislation directly deals with a vision of two cities; one that embraces technology and the shared economy and one that says enough is enough. It's also happening with the transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft and the agreements they're getting with SFO Airport.

Mayor Ed Lee has been very tech friendly and supportive of what you'd call the new San Francisco. He's been the poster boy, so to speak for things like the Twitter tax break, Google buses, you name it.

It's not surprising that a lot of the Airbnb backers and investors have been supporters of Mayor Lee. Ron Conway was one of the early backers of Airbnb is very big in the mayor's camp. Feinstein happens to be on the other side of this issue.

It boils down to Mayor Ed Lee being put on the hot seat. Will he ask for the back taxes or will he give them a break? Will this be used against him when he runs in the election again? The mayor has had a pretty mixed record on some of these issues. Recall the Warriors Arena that didn't end up on the waterfront like he had wanted.

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