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One of the most aggressive moves yet in the online rental battle seems virtually impossible to enforce.

This week in Airbnb vs. the World, two significant developments out of California.

On Thursday, the city of San Francisco released a report detailing the negative impact of Airbnb on its airtight housing stock, revealing that somewhere between 925 and 1,960 units have been removed from the regular rental market so that their owners can rent them out to short-term visitors via Airbnb.

The finding comes mere months after San Francisco passed a law requiring short-term rental owners to register with the city, pay a hotel tax, and limit guest stays to 60 consecutive days. Unsurprisingly, the compliance rate has been about as slim as the housing supply, and city planners already say the law is unenforceable and needs to change.

Which probably doesn’t lend much confidence to Santa Monica’s decision this week to ban all rentals lasting fewer than 30 days. According to the Los Angeles Times, the law permits homeowners to rent out spare rooms, but will require them to obtain business licenses and pay a hotel tax. It may be the most aggressive attempt yet by a city to block the avalanche of rentals off Airbnb and other sites. The L.A. Times reports:

Santa Monica officials admit they may struggle to rein in the booming industry. The new rule outlaws more than 80% of the city's estimated 1,700 short-term rentals, but the city plans to hire only two code enforcement officers and a data analyst with revenue from the home-sharing tax.

It’s a bullheaded move. Enforcement of the blanket ban seems virtually impossible, particularly since the tourist-heavy beach town has had a short-term rental market since long before the days of Airbnb. Some of my family members, for example, have been renting an oceanfront Santa Monica apartment for a week every summer for years. By now, they know the owners well, and I doubt the ban is going to prevent their Labor Day visit.
Nor is it likely to stop a savvier portion of Santa Monica property owners from finding ways to preserve a reliable form of revenue.

"The profit margin is so great, and the demand is so great," Scott Shatford, who has three Santa Monica listings on Airbnb, told the L.A. Times. "If people recognize the dollars are there to do it, they'll figure out any possible method to make it work."

Will other cities follow Santa Monica’s lead?

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