PolitiCal

Citing privacy concerns, Airbnb slams bill on short-term rentals

Sen. Mike McGuire, author of Airbnb-related bill, said critics' privacy alarm is 'hogwash and disingenuous'

Popular home-sharing website Airbnb is stepping up its opposition to the first statewide measure aimed at regulating short-term rentals, arguing the proposal would harm consumer privacy.

Airbnb has faced scores of regulatory fights on the local level, including in Los Angeles, but the skirmish over a bill by Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) marks the first major test for the rapidly-growing company in the state Capitol.

McGuire's bill, which passed its first committee Tuesday afternoon, would require online vacation rental sites such as Airbnb to report booking information — such as number of guests or length of stay — to cities and counties.

The proposal would also require the sites to collect lodging taxes at the request of local governments and would prohibit bookings in cities or counties that bar short-term rentals.

In a blog post, Airbnb public policy head David Owen warned that the measure would force the company to "hand over broad swaths of confidential, personal information to bureaucrats who will sift through it in search of potential violations of local planning and zoning laws."

The privacy concerns are echoed by the Internet Assn., an industry trade group, and Consumer Watchdog, a Santa Monica-based advocacy group, which likened the proposal to a "blank search warrant."

McGuire, in a statement, said his critics' claims are "hogwash and disingenuous."

The bill, SB 593, "does not require anyone to divulge the names or any other information about consumers who rent lodging through vacation rental businesses," he said.

"Nowhere does the bill require any host to provide any information about renters to any government agency. What it does do is make big corporations follow local laws."

Owen, of Airbnb, and McGuire squared off at the lengthy Tuesday afternoon hearing of the Senate transportation and housing committee. Owen cast the measure as a “blunt instrument intended to stunt the growth of an incredibly valuable industry.” He was joined by throngs of Airbnb hosts who extolled the economic boost they get from home-sharing.

McGuire said his measure, which is backed by labor unions, law enforcement groups and local governments, is not intended to stifle the sharing economy, but seeks to ensure local laws and taxes are being enforced. The measure passed the committee on an 8-0 vote. 

Follow @melmason for more on California government and politics.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

5:43 p.m.: This post has been updated to include information from Tuesday's committee hearing.

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