Proposed Sacramento Airbnb Ordinance a Mixed bag

I’ve finally had the chance to look over the proposed ordinance going before the Sacramento Planning and Design Commission tonight. If you’ll recall, I previously blogged about this.

The good news is that the ordinance does not prohibit property owners or renters from renting their property on a short-term basis. The bad news is that several permit fees and taxes will now be imposed on them for the “privilege” of using their own property.

Fortunately, the requirement that the host remain on the property from 11 pm to 5 am appears to have been removed. My biggest issue going forward (at least until I see how much this is all going to cost your typical host) is the arbitrary limit to 90 days of bookings for hosts renting out a secondary residence. How did the city arrive at 90 days? And why?

While I’m happy to see the city taking the attitude of welcoming the business models of hosts using sites like Airbnb and VRBO, this ordinance still leaves much to be desired. I know I have unrealistic expectations, but I believe that all associated problems with these activities can be resolved with existing nuisance law. Further, treating people as ATMs who are simply hustling to make extra money is a tired approach to governance.

Instead of allowing the market and existing law to sort out any (mainly speculative) problems, this ordinance begrudgingly accommodates property rights and economic liberty. Only when city bureaucrats stop acting like city residents must ask permission for everything they do will we truly see economic growth take off.

Thanksgiving “Monopoly” Money!

That a California state legislator lacks a basic grasp of economics should come as no surprise. But, when that lack of knowledge is coupled with the absence of considering even the obvious likely consequences, well, that should always be shocking and soundly rejected.

The latest bill that shows this lack of knowledge is San Diego Assemblywoman, Lorena Gonzalez‘s proposal to force large retailers to pay workers double on Thanksgiving. Showing how out of touch she is with economic reality, Assemblywoman Gonzalez views California retailers who provide needed jobs and products as “egregious perpetrators of expanding this idea of working on the holidays.”

Why she feels the need to demonize the very companies providing jobs to people in California, including her constituents, is beyond me. And does she not understand that these stores are open because their customers demand it? If she really wanted to address this perceived “problem” she should try to shame the people of California into not shopping on Thanksgiving. Good luck with that. Continue reading

Privacy Concern With Arena Parking Plan

Construction for the Kings’ new arena, Golden 1 Center, is moving right along. As with all downtown arenas, ample parking will be an important factor in the success of the arena as a popular venue. One inevitable byproduct of a multitude of parking garages in a limited area is the potential for people to forget which one they parked in. Apparently this routinely happens in the open lots at Sleep Train Arena.

To help address this problem once Golden 1 opens, the city of Sacramento has come up with an idea: install license-plate recognition cameras in city-owned garages, and provide a phone service for people to use that will tell them where their car is.

In theory this idea sounds pretty innovative. But, I have yet to find (granted I haven’t asked the city yet) any policies on how this data will be protected. For example, I’ve written before about many police department’s lack of policies on retention and use of license plate tracking software and data. In this case I would also be very interested in hearing how the city plans to make sure that only owners or authorized users of the vehicle are able to access the system. I also don’t think it’s unreasonable to be concerned about how this system could be abused by stalkers, abusive spouses, etc.

So, while I applaud the idea and think it could be used effectively, I am also eager to see how the city plans to protect the data. Specifically, I would like to see four things included in an official policy:

  1. A limited amount of time that the city stores the data
  2. Access to the data limited to necessary city personnel
  3. Safeguards to limit accessibility to vehicle location while a vehicle is parked
  4. Limits on sharing the data with other departments, agencies or governments

Making parking in downtown garages easier and more convenient is definitely welcome, but even more important is safeguarding the privacy of people who choose to use those garages. Hopefully the city will take these concerns seriously.

Sacramento Airbnb regulations to be considered

California’s next round of potential regulations on Airbnb and its competitors to be considered will take place December 10 in Sacramento. The Planning and Design Commission will hold a hearing that night to discuss and debate the latest regulatory proposal.

Included in the proposed regulations are the requirements that hosts register with the city and remit hotel taxes. Alarmingly, the most burdensome regulation is a requirement that the host remain at the property from 11pm to 5am, or face a permit fee of $3,000.

I haven’t had the chance to fully read over the proposed regulations and consider their impact. However, I will do so in anticipation of the Dec. 10 hearing, and plan to voice my concerns then, and on this blog beforehand.

NOPD Finally has a Policy on License Plate Tracking Technology Use

In December 2012 I noted that NOPD had no stated policy regarding its use or retention of data gathered through license plate scanners. Then, in July 2013, I noted that the ACLU had released a nationwide study on law enforcement use of the technology. The results of the study were not very encouraging if you are concerned about privacy and transparency.

Well, I am happy to announce that I recently discovered that NOPD finally has a policy! Policy 462 of the New Orleans Police Department Policy Manual of December 15, 2014 covers Automated License Plate Readers (ALPR). The policy begins on page 376 of the PDF if you want to read the entire policy, and also picks back up on page 891.

Some highlights:

  • The technology can only be used for official and legitimate law enforcement purposes.
  • In the event of any real-time alerts generated by the technology, officers are urged to verify the validity of the alert before taking enforcement actions.
  • Access to data gathered by the system is controlled.

Some concerns:

  1. Under the policy, data is allowed to remain on the reader for 30 days, and once downloaded to the main server it is retained for up to 180 days (6 months) unless the data is identified as evidence or subject to records requests.
  2. The policy allows for all data to be shared with other law enforcement agencies.
  3. The policy also mentions that images are gathered but treats them the same as other license plate-only data that is gathered.
  4. The policy does not include any public reporting of the use of the technology beyond what is mentioned in the policy.

I am concerned about #1 because data could be stored for 7 months under this policy. It is impossible to know if this is too long of a retention period absent further information from NOPD that retaining info for up to 7 months is necessary. I am of the opinion that the shortest possible retention periods are to be preferred.

Number 2 concerns me because the policy does not specify any limitations on sharing data with other agencies other than the requirement that it be for legitimate law enforcement purposes. The policy should require that the agency shared with also maintain a policy of short retention periods and controlled access.

Concern #3 could be addressed by a clarification of how images are stored, what they are used for, and the extent of detail included in images. Are we talking headshots of drivers and passengers, or just images of the vehicle surrounding the license plate?

Finally, #4 concerns me because while the policy requires regular internal audits, it does not allow the public to know how much data is gathered, how many crimes are solved with the data, how long data should be stored for, how many false alerts are generated, or primary neighborhoods the technology is deployed in, etc.. The ACLU recommends at least an annual public reporting, and I’m happy to agree with that at the moment.

In any event, I am pleased to finally see a written policy on the use of license plate scanners. This is a good first step in transparency and privacy, but it should be just that: a first step.