San Francisco lawmakers pass SRO rental cap

It will soon be illegal to rent single-occupancy rooms for fewer than 32 days

It’s not easy to get consensus on housing issues at San Francisco City Hall these days, but all 11 city lawmakers voted Tuesday to crack down on illegal tourist rentals in SROs.

The bill, introduced by frequent affordable housing agitator Aaron Peskin, makes it illegal for SRO owners to rent to anyone for less than 32 days.

The Herald Hotel on Eddy Street. Note that hotels pictured here are not necessarily violating tourism rental laws.

This would prevent short-term, quickie rentals to unwitting tourists. SRO owners get certain legal breaks and considerations because they provide cheap housing to residents who otherwise might be homeless. However, some landlords convert units to STR rentals on the side.

Peskin noted that the city’s 40-plus year law governing SRO-to-hotel conversion “has been updated [only] once, in 1990,” and that the Planning Department estimates over a third of the city’s SRO stock has been lost since the ‘70s.

Supervisor Norman Yee was briefly overcome with emotion and unable to speak before casting his vote, noting that his brother lived in such a building for 10 years.

“I worked with a lot of Chinatown families in SROs,” said Yee. “They make the most of it. If it wasn’t for that, they wouldn’t be here. They’re not the best conditions, but we can’t keep losing these units.”

Although a win-win for the supervisors, the law has antagonized at least one local landlord.

“I received a threat from the general manager of the Hotel Tropicana, an SRO in the Mission,” Supervisor Hillary Ronen said Tuesday. “He threatened that if we passed this he’d stop working with Homeless Prenatal,” a local non-profit that finds emergency housing for families with young children.

“Well, he just illustrated why this ordinance is so needed,” added the supervisor.

Ronen was presumably referring to the Hotel Tropica on Valencia Street. The manager of the Hotel Tropica was not available for comment this morning. The SRO law will require one additional reading at the board before becoming law.