City Council unanimously votes for further regulations on short-term rentals

Micah Carroll/Staff

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At its last meeting before the city’s newly elected council members and mayor are sworn in, Berkeley City Council unanimously voted to adopt an ordinance that would further regulate short-term rentals and may impact companies like Airbnb.

The ordinance stipulates that hosts in the city of Berkeley may use accessory buildings — or a structure that is detached from and smaller than a regular building — as short-term rental units. Before, city law prevented accessory buildings from being rented in any capacity and from containing a full bathroom or any cooking facilities.

The new ordinance stipulates that accessory buildings may contain a full bathroom and some cooking facilities. Structures of this sort that contain a full kitchen, however, are classified as accessory dwelling units and are not eligible for short-term rental.

The short-term rental ordinance the council adopted also includes a grandfather clause allowing hosts that have been short-term renting for more than a year to continue doing so even if their units do not meet the requirements outlined in the proposal.

Mayor-elect Jesse Arreguin was initially hesitant to support the grandfather clause and said he wanted to prevent the transformation of long-term and rent-controlled rentals into short-term rentals, which can often be more profitable.

The grandfather clause, extending back a year, was proposed by Mayor Tom Bates because the council didn’t wish to harm residents who depend on the income to live in Berkeley.

“In my case, I wouldn’t live in the city if this wasn’t available to me to rent as a short-term (renter),” said Berkeley resident Barnaby Richards, who rents a unit that does not have a kitchen, at the meeting. “As a resident, again, it helps us live here.”

According to Professor Przemyslaw Jeziorski of the campus’s Haas School of Business, who spoke to the council, visitors to the university often depend upon short-term rental housing, such as Airbnb, which he said is often more affordable than staying in hotels. He questioned the premise that short-term rentals steal from the long-term market.

The ordinance also stipulates that after initiating a no-fault eviction, property owners would be restricted from short-term renting for five years.

In addition to the discussion of short-term rentals, the city manager announced at the meeting that an emergency winter shelter will open Friday, at the North Berkeley Senior Center, replacing Berkeley’s previous emergency winter shelter, which was damaged in a fire located at the First Congregational Church.

This regular meeting was the last for Mayor Tom Bates and Councilmembers Laurie Capitelli, Darryl Moore and Max Anderson. For two hours at the start of the meeting, members of the public, city staff and the remaining council thanked the mayor and council members for their approximately 50 combined years of service.

“It’s been the honor of my life to serve on this council and take upon my shoulders the responsibility of trying to seek justice and equity in the city for those who find sometimes equity and justice is hard to come by,” Anderson said at the meeting.

Contact Edward Booth at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @Edward_E_Booth.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that all accessory buildings must include a full bathroom and a mini-kitchen. In fact, accessory buildings may have a full bathroom and a mini-kitchen but are not required to meet this classification.