City Council to discuss short-term rentals at Thursday meeting

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At a special meeting Thursday, Berkeley City Council will discuss a short-term rental ordinance that would legalize and regulate short-term rentalsa dwelling used for less than 14 days and popularized by services such as Airbnb — which are currently illegal in the city.

City Council adopted a first reading of the ordinance at its May 31 meeting. The ordinance would require Berkeley residents who rent living space on Airbnb or other similar websites to have a business license and would prohibit short-term rental of accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, such as standalone structures such as guest houses.

Instead of adopting a second reading of the resolution, City Council proposed amendments to the first reading, which would include removing the requirement to post a business license number with a listing and exempting many ADUs from the ban.

“It’s a technical clean-up and I have no problem with that, personally,” said Igor Tregub, vice chair of the Housing Advisory Commission regarding the ADU amendment. The (business license) amendment … does strike me as being counter to the initial referral that City Council passed unanimously a year ago.”

According to Tregub, requiring online listings to include a business license number is important to ensuring that the city has the ability to enforce the laws. He said he would be open to removing that requirement if a different system of enforcement were introduced.

Complicating the matter, however, is a separate independent proposal from Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates that involves striking a deal with Airbnb in which the company will collect transit occupancy taxes — those paid by hotels — from its users and give that money to the city. Airbnb and Oakland reached a similar agreement, known as a voluntary collections agreement.

“All of a sudden, at the 11th hour, this whole new approach happens because Airbnb has been lobbying the mayor,” alleged Councilmember Jesse Arreguin. “We worked hard over the past year to craft a compromise that will allow short-term rentals and at the same time have strong enforcement so that we’re not losing housing.”

City Council will also be discussing a proposal from Councilmember Kriss Worthington to add a referendum to the November ballot that will increase accountability and oversight of Berkeley Police Department.

“Worthington is proposing we update our Police Review Commission law — which hasn’t been changed in 40 years — to reflect new approaches and best practices in police oversight,” Arreguin said.

According to the agenda packet, Worthington’s proposal would allow the Police Review Commission to hire and fire the chief of police as well as to conduct investigations into the police department.

The meeting will take place Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at the council chambers at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

Contact Karim Doumar at [email protected].