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Backlash over city's business license crack-down

Original post made on Jun 6, 2016

Amazon, the online retail giant, sells truckloads of goods every day in Mountain View, yet the company apparently doesn't have a city business license. A fleet of Uber drivers chauffeur customers around Mountain View, yet that company also has no business license on file. Airbnb and Alphabet -- both worth billions of dollars -- evidently also operate without having paid the city's modest annual license fee.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, June 6, 2016, 11:46 AM

Comments (17)

Posted by vonlost
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 6, 2016 at 2:23 pm

Instead of enforcing a rule that obviously doesn't make sense, change the rule. Bureaucrats need to speak up when they see nonsense.

Posted by Tina
a resident of Castro City
on Jun 6, 2016 at 2:33 pm

Tina is a registered user.


a) that the auditors get a commission. Makes sense, I guess, but seems like it's also making them more like those annoying telemarketers, but with gov't power.

b) is our city so desperate for $$ that they need to go this far? Granted, it is something that should be enforced if that is the rule, otherwise, Why have business licenses?

c) stupidity of the auditors. Seriously? You're auditing business licences, wouldn't the first thing you check be your own company?

so... Thanks for the story, but wow.

Posted by juan olive
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 6, 2016 at 2:33 pm

Find out how long this has been going on. I am not a business owner but this must really get people upset. Profit, Profit is what it's about when you get down to it.

Posted by PeaceLove
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jun 6, 2016 at 2:47 pm

License: n. When the government takes away an existing right then sells it back to you.*

*Unless you're a billion-dollar corporation

Posted by vkmo
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 6, 2016 at 3:08 pm

This was an ugly thing to do by the city. City should refund everybody who was forced to pay.

Posted by property owner in Socal
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jun 6, 2016 at 3:14 pm

There are over 100 properties listed on airbnb in the City of MV. I am sure they are all paying for a business license. NOT.
Their business is clearly in MV, mine is not. Regretting now, to have paid my fee and fine.

Posted by FYi
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 6, 2016 at 3:55 pm

I've had a business license for years - it costs $30 a year. What's the problem here? What's wrong with complying with the law? Ignorance, as we know, is not defense.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 6, 2016 at 5:25 pm

I find it ridiculous that any city could require a license to do business. I know it's common practice, but still, shame on you Mountain View (and CA for the things the state licenses). Running businesses is mutually beneficial to businesses and residents.

People should be free to sell each other goods and services without permission.

Posted by Working Stiff
a resident of Castro City
on Jun 6, 2016 at 6:25 pm

A timely and long-overdue issue for reporting.

I called the city last week about a homeowner who converted their entire home to Airbnb resulting in rental cars all over the place, smoking within 25 feet of my window, etc. I called the city Code Enforcement Department and asked if the homeowner had a business license. The lady who answered said it was not an issue because the city is not enforcing Airbnb at this time (i.e., the typical "go away" response you get from the city these days) I asked why not? It's a business and the homeowner doesn't live there. One only has to look at all the great reviews the place gets on Airbnb. People stream in and out of the place every week, just like at a hotel. But it's not a hotel or a business in the eyes of the city apparently. I then asked if the fire department had inspected this Airbnb hotel? Their is an ordinance for that as well. That was followed by a long pause. Hello, are you there? I was told she would pass it on to the City Attorney and that she would get back to me. Well, I'm still waiting.

BTW concerning Airbnb, there are also city ordinances regarding hotels, which are very broadly defined by the city and which include Airbnb-type arrangements. One of them mandates a 12% tax. The city is definitely missing out on that revenue as well. And there is also a rather obscure city ordinance that states that there must be one parking space for every room in a hotel. My neighbor's Airbnb fails on that score as well. Good luck finding parking in my neighborhood. Meanwhile, the rest of us working stiffs trying to scrape out a living and follow the law have to pay for higher water. garbage and sewage costs, to rent a BBQ at a mangy park, or to swim in the city lap pool.

What this is really about is people trying to get around the law and city employees too comfortable in their secure jobs that they are not performing. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. All businesses/individuals should be expected to pay for the license (I have one) and pay hotel taxes if they are running an Airbnb type lodging.

Posted by Reader
a resident of another community
on Jun 6, 2016 at 9:47 pm

This is utterly asinine.

So if I take a phone call or read an e-mail from one of my colleagues at home, I basically need to pay for a business license. And if I take calls in Sunnyvale, Palo Alto, Redwood City, or Santa Monica, I also need to pay for those cities' business licenses?


Taxpayer dollars and city employees time are being *WASTED* on these utterly MORONIC harassments.

Posted by residing in mv
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2016 at 10:39 pm

Working Stiff,
I think it's time to contact our elected officials on the city council. They need to come up with an ordinance to control these rentals, since no hotel should be run in a residential neighborhood. Don't we have zoning laws in Mtn View anymore. And how many housing units are taken off the rental market this way.

Posted by Huh?
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2016 at 11:21 pm

Most residents are living in rentals in MV. Greedy landlords are taking advantage of Prop 13 to pay next to no property taxes while charging astronomically high rents to their poor tenants.

Most of these money-grubbing landlords HAVE NO BUSINESS LICENSES!!!!! Go after them.

AirBNB is not the problem. If you have a problem with a neighbor (renting or not) due to noise or crime, then call the police. If they are not breaking noise or other laws, but are an AirBNB, then what are you complaining about? Sounds like you are the one with the problem.

Posted by Evan
a resident of Jackson Park
on Jun 7, 2016 at 6:49 am


This article is about the city going after businesses that are in accordance with city ordinances.

Per the city's ordinances as stated homeowners who make money with Airbnb must pay a business license fee and the city's hotel or transient lodging fee. They are not.

Posted by property owner in Socal
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jun 7, 2016 at 8:13 am

@FYI the complaints here are not regarding following the law, I am all for it. But I am not doing business in MV, doing business in other CA cities and pay my fees there. YET the City of MV went after me and not the people who are actually doing business here. By the way Sunnyvale is getting their fair share from all airbnb rentals, an easy thing to do, the listings are public. I pay fees for my rentals in these other CA cities that MV does not have. The City of MV is definitely missing out and not very smart about their income sources for fees, occupancy taxes etc.

Posted by Steve
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jun 8, 2016 at 2:59 pm


"If they are not breaking noise or other laws, but are an AirBNB, then what are you complaining about?"

Zoning. Perhaps I should open a heli-port next to you.

Posted by moreoversight
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 10, 2016 at 2:55 pm

The city hired a telemarketing/bulk mailing firm whose only goal is to make money for themselves, not to educate the recipients correctly when a license is required. The city provided poor oversight and training. The mailing was poorly targeted (casting a wide net) by design. Many hundreds of people probably received erroneous letters looking for fees. Self managed HOA's are exempt, but did the letter state specifically who is required to pay for a license and who is exempt? Hopefully, no seniors, nor anyone else were duped into paying a fee that was not required.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of North Whisman

on Sep 25, 2017 at 11:04 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

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