Sunnyvale, state sue owner of Airbnb party death home

Lawsuit alleges absentee owner bought to rent and wasn’t present during shooting

1447 Navarro Drive, Sunnyvale (Google Maps, Getty)
1447 Navarro Drive, Sunnyvale (Google Maps, Getty)

Sunnyvale and the state have sued the owner of an Airbnb rental where two people were shot, leaving one dead, during a party last August.

The lawsuit alleges that Ke Zhou, of Maryland, bought the home to rent, breaking a Sunnyvale law against short-term rentals where the host is not present on the property, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

“It is extremely unlikely a massive, advertised house party would have occurred at the subject property had the ‘host’ actually been there,” the suit claims, with Zhou showing “a complete and repeated disregard for the city’s laws.”

The city and state are seeking a court order banning Zhou from advertising and operating the home as a short-term rental. They also want the court to force Zhou to forsake revenue made through alleged illegal rental of the property, and to reimburse the city for enforcement costs.

Zhao still advertises the house in Raynor Park as a short-term rental, according to the suit, though San Francisco-based Airbnb deactivated the listing after the shooting. A person who identified as Ke Zhou to the Mercury News said, “No comment.”

As many as 200 people flooded the home at 1447 Navarro Drive home on Aug. 7, 2021, after it was advertised on social media.

Gunshots killed 18-year-old Elias Elhania and wounded another man. A Sunnyvale resident, 17 at the time, was arrested in December on suspicion of murder and attempted murder.

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It was the fourth shooting at an Airbnb party house in Northern California in less than two years, including a 2019 Halloween bloodbath that killed five in Orinda.

The shooting death occurred despite Airbnb imposing a temporary ban on parties a year earlier after the Orinda tragedy. A party ban is now company policy.

Zhou listed the home on Airbnb from July 2018 to August 2021, according to the lawsuit. It said she violated Sunnyvale’s short-term rental law more than 1,000 times by promoting it as a short-term rental, and rented it out illegally for 461 days.

She made at least $81,000 in “ill-gotten proceeds,” the suit claims.

Zhou failed to obtain required permits and approvals to rent the home short-term, and she violated state and city nuisance laws, according to the complaint. City law requires a short-term rental owner reside on the property while renters are present, according to the suit.

Her numerous violations impacted neighbors through the party-night shooting, according to the suit, and caused excessive noise, traffic congestion and garbage.

— Dana Bartholomew

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Brian Chesky, co-founder and CEO, Airbnb (Getty Images, iStock)
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