Help Us Root Out Harmful Laws in San Francisco
San Franciscan Kimberly Conley breaks the law every day when she stores her bicycle in her garage. According to Chapter 6 of the San Francisco Housing Code, “Private and public storage garages in apartment houses and hotels shall be used only for storage of automobiles.” Failing to comply with the law can lead to fines of up to $500. Conley and her husband do not own a car. San Francisco’s intrusive law is particularly out of touch since many San Franciscans are proud cyclists.
Fortunately, sanity may prevail. City Supervisor Mark Farrell plans to repeal the garage storage ban and other absurd laws. Farrell has pledged “to clear any unnecessary laws from San Francisco's books and to tweak laws that need updating.” He invites citizens to scour the city’s code, looking for outdated and harmful laws to scrap, and to suggest reforms.
Don’t worry, there’s plenty of work for everyone. San Francisco isn’t exactly a city known for protecting property rights and economic liberty. To name just a few examples:
- Back in June, the Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to make doing business much more difficult for food trucks, even though they’ve been creating new jobs. Food trucks can now face fines of up to $5,000 per day for a violation, like vending for four days at one spot or being too close to a restaurant—say, 74 feet instead of 75.
- The city’s rent control policies have weakened the incentive to build more housing units in San Francisco, which has a median rent of over $3,400 a month. Last year, only 126 housing units were added.
- San Francisco has been fighting to widen and enforce a 15 percent “transient occupancy” tax on house and apartment rentals arranged through Airbnb, the innovative company that allows homeowners to rent their space to travelers when they’re not using it. That tax has traditionally been levied on hotels. But short-term rentals are quite different from staying at a hotel. Not to mention higher taxes could weaken tourist demand. An economic impact survey found that Airbnb contributed $56 million in taxes to San Francisco.
- Last July, the City by the Bay instituted a $240 dog walker’s license for anyone walking more than four dogs at the same time. But that’s not all, the new license comes with a $100 annual renewal fee, a 20-hour training course covering canine behavior and first aide, and the possibility of up to a year in jail after three violations.