The tug of war is the latest clash between the council and the mayor over the home-sharing legislation. It comes as tensions have heightened between the council and Bowser over other issues, including funding for affordable housing and United Medical Center, and whether the D.C. Circulator should be free.
In a sign of bad feelings, John Falcicchio, the mayor’s chief of staff, mocked Mendelson on Twitter and accused the council of “wanting to kill most home-sharing, taking money out of the pockets of D.C. residents.”
The Airbnb law will prevent D.C. property owners from renting out second homes on a short-term basis and bar them from renting spare rooms or basements in their primary residences for more than 90 days per year when they are away.
Bowser opposed the measure, which she said was too onerous, and later warned it was probably unconstitutional. But she allowed it to become law without her signature after the council approved it unanimously in November.
Now the law’s supporters fear Bowser is trying to sabotage it by having the city’s Office of Planning, which Bowser oversees, delay releasing a report needed by the Zoning Commission. The commission will use the report to revise zoning rules so the law can take effect as scheduled in October.
Mendelson, in hopes of gaining leverage with Bowser over the Airbnb matter, wants to add a provision in the city budget that would block approval of building permits for city government construction. The embargo would last until the Office of Planning delivers the report to the Zoning Commission.
The council is scheduled to consider the budget provision Tuesday. If approved, it would take effect in June. Bowser would then have to veto the entire budget to allow the building permits to be issued.
City Administrator Rashad M. Young, who reports to Bowser, tweeted Wednesday evening that the council’s threat “recklessly risks school openings and will impact the health and welfare of our residents.”
Mendelson fired back on Thursday with a tweet complaining that Bowser has blocked the Airbnb law by failing to deliver the report to the Zoning Commission.
“It’s been 7 months and no report, not even a promise to deliver it,” Mendelson tweeted. “To force the mayor to comply with the law, we’re saying no new permits to construct buildings for the government. If the mayor delivers the report tomorrow, the issue is resolved.”
Falcicchio retaliated, retweeting Mendelson’s tweet with numerous revisions and comments. Of the threat to halt construction, Falcicchio wrote, “This means no permits for your schools, recreation centers, jails, fire houses, etc. Who does that?”
Some council members reportedly want to exempt school modernization from any ban on permits for government buildings.
The Office of Planning report will provide the Zoning Commission with recommendations for changing zoning rules to permit short-term rentals in residential areas. Much home-sharing in the city is currently in violation of zoning rules, though the regulations are seldom enforced in such cases.
Andrew Trueblood, director of the Office of Planning, declined to predict when the report would be released. But he said he hoped it would happen in time for the Zoning Commission to revise the regulations so the home-sharing law takes effect as scheduled in October.
“These reports require a degree of research and understanding. . . . Reports often take months and even years to finish,” Trueblood said.
The short-term-rentals law will affect thousands of D.C. property owners who have turned to home-sharing to earn income. It drew support from the hotel industry and its unions — which do not like competition from Airbnb — and from affordable-housing activists and community groups that argue that short-term rentals are destroying the character of residential neighborhoods.
Airbnb and similar companies lobbied hard against the measure, saying it would cost property owners tens of millions of dollars in lost income and reduce lodging options for tourists and business travelers.
In January, Bowser warned the D.C. law might be unconstitutional because it had mandatory reporting requirements similar to ones in a New York law blocked by a U.S. district judge. The judge said the requirements would violate Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.