Business & Real Estate

Airbnb rolls out new safety steps in Orinda massacre’s wake

FILE - In this Feb. 22, 2018, file photo, Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky speaks during an event in San Francisco. Airbnb says it will spend the next year verifying all 7 million of its listings as it works to improve user trust. Chesky said the company is also launching a 24-hour hotline for guests, neighbors and others to report problems. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)
FILE - In this Feb. 22, 2018, file photo, Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky speaks during an event in San Francisco. Airbnb says it will spend the next year verifying all 7 million of its listings as it works to improve user trust. Chesky said the company is also launching a 24-hour hotline for guests, neighbors and others to report problems. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File) AP

Airbnb’s CEO and co-founder on Wednesday, calling his company “a business fueled by trust,” said it will fully verify its millions of listings, expand screenings of reservations and open a round-the-clock neighbor hotline in the wake of the Halloween night mass shooting at a Bay area party house that left five people dead and others wounded.

“Events by bad actors on our platform took advantage of that trust, including at a home in Orinda, California,” Brian Chesky wrote in a Wednesday email to the firm’s global employees. “People need to feel like they can trust our community, and that they can trust Airbnb when something does go wrong.”

Chesky’s four-point plan includes:

Verification of Airbnb’s 7 milliion listings worldwide by December 2020 to confirm addresses, listing details, cleanliness and safety; calling the move “an important step for our industry.

A rebooking guarantee beginning Dec. 15, giving guests a new listing or a full refund if the listing does not meet accuracy standards.

A 24-hour hotline staffed by a rapid response team to take neighbors’ concerns over unruly Airbnb properties to launch in the U.S. by year’s end and globally through 2020. Former Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., police chief Charles Ramsey and former East Palo Alto police chief Ronald Davis who oversaw President Obama’s community oriented policing services, will serve as advisers.

A “high-risk human review” beginning Dec. 15 that would expand manual screenings of what it labels “high-risk reservations” to identify suspicious bookings and clamp down on unauthorized house parties.

Airbnb’s new steps Wednesday came after Orinda City Council on Tuesday backed an emergency 45-day ban on unhosted short-term rental properties – properties that are rented out and the property owner is off-site. Unhosted short-term rentals make up 11 of the city’s 32 short-term rentals, according to information from the Contra Costa city.

The council will approve the ordinance Nov. 19.

Action has been swift in the wake of the Oct. 31 massacre on Lucille Way.

Airbnb’s Chesky took to Twitter last weekend to say the San Francisco-based short-term rental site was banning party house rentals outright “to combat unauthorized parties and get rid of abusive host and guest conduct that ... leads to the terrible events we saw in Orinda.”

Orinda city leaders in the days after the carnage contacted AirBnB to delist the property and were looking at ways to harden rules on short-term rentals in the city.

“There are going to be folks who don’t follow the rules,” Orinda city manager Steve Salomon told reporters at a news conference following the shooting. “The biggest concern is that the city has rules and the challenge is that they’re not being followed - it’s a challenge the city council is going to have to talk about.”

Orinda’s slayings and the renewed scrutiny of short-term rentals have become international news. But violence has visited other Airbnb properties in recent months including at a Fair Oaks mansion-turned-Airbnb party house where a 19-year-old Sierra College defensive back was gunned down early July 21.

Chancelor Fields-Colbert was shot dead at the sprawling 5,000-square-foot home, one of a spate of shootings at Sacramento-area Airbnb rentals in Elk Grove and in Rocklin that wounded at least three people. The Sacramento Bee examined the violent trend in a July report.

Meantime, owners of Airbnb properties in other California cities have begun to speak out in the aftermath of the Orinda shootings on guests’ treatment of their homes.

David and Shiho Oh of Altadena in Los Angeles County told Los Angeles’ Fox 11 of the renovated home they bought and placed on Airbnb and the September incident that caused six-figure damage and brought police, guns drawn, to the home.

The Ohs told the television station a renter signed up for the weekend. The renter assured the Ohs that six people – three couples – would be staying at the home. Instead, “hundreds of partiers” swarmed the home before the police were called.

“There is puke in the living room; puke in the bathroom; puke in the office; urine on the wall,” David Oh told Fox 11 of the party’s aftermath. “The house was absolutely disgusting.”

The cleaning bill: north of $100,000, the Ohs said.

A couple of hours south in San Diego County, home to numerous short-term vacation rentals, neighbors of a party house near Naval Base Point Loma told San Diego’s KNSD-TV, the property has become a near-constant nuisance with loud weekend parties, fights and bottle-throwing revelers.

“I just don’t think Airbnb has a place here,” Point Loma resident Mike Mendoza told the San Diego station this week.

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Darrell Smith covers courts and California news for The Sacramento Bee. He joined The Bee in 2006 and previously worked at newspapers in Palm Springs, Colorado Springs, Colo., and Marysville. A Sacramento Valley native, Smith was born and raised at Beale Air Force Base, near Marysville.
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