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UncategorizedBallot measure targeting Airbnb headed for November 2015 election

Ballot measure targeting Airbnb headed for November 2015 election

A crowd in front of Airbnb kicks of a campaign for a 2015 ballot measure
A crowd in front of Airbnb kicks of a campaign for a 2015 ballot measure

by Tim Redmond with Manissa Maharawal and Erin McElroy

NOVEMBER 25, 2014 – Former Sup. Aaron Peskin, standing in front of the headquarters of Airbnb yesterday, explained why the company and its local business plan has a serious problem.

San Francisco,” he said, “gets this.”

The rally to kick off a new initiative drive and to demand that the company pay its back taxes brought together the unlikely coalition that is going to create one of the defining issues of the 2015 mayoral race.

Speakers included Sara Shortt from the Housing Rights Committee and Charles Goss of that Apartment Owners Association. Former Planning Commission President Doug Engmann was there, as was Roger Ritter of the West of Twin Peaks Neighborhood Council.

Union leaders from the hotel workers, teachers, and community college unions were there.

Engmann explained that critics of unregulated short-term rentals had drafted an initiative in the spring and collected more than 17,000 signatures. They held off filing the measure in the hope that the supervisors would address the issues — but now they will head back to the ballot:

“The legislation made everything worse,” he said. “It’s impossible to tell what is a legal or not legal unit.”

Since 2012, he said, the city’s tax collector has ruled that Airbnb and its hosts have to pay the city’s hotel tax, but only in the past month has the company actually started to pay.

“You can’t decide when you pay your taxes and when you don’t,” he said. “You pay your taxes when they’re due.”

The money Airbnb hasn’t paid – an estimated $25 million – would pay for 125 new ambulances, 200 more police officers, 250 nurses, or 31 new Muni buses. That’s money that a giant multibillion corporation has simply decided it doesn’t have to pay – and so far, the city hasn’t forced the issue.

Theresa Flandrich, a North Beach resident who has seen 14 apartments on her street turned into hotel rooms, said that “Airbnb is a unifying force” – it’s brought together so many groups that often don’t work on the same issues.

Even Sen. Dianne Feinstein – hardly a radical housing activist – has spoken out against Chiu’s Airbnb bill.

Former Planning Commission president Doug Engmann says a new ballot measure is being drafted
Former Planning Commission president Doug Engmann says a new ballot measure is being drafted

Engmann told me that work is starting on drafting a new measure for the November 2015 ballot that will set much tighter rules on the conversion of rental housing and private homes to hotel rooms for tourists. Among other things, the coalition wants to mandate that Airbnb and other hosting platforms share with the city the data that will allow effective enforcement.

The group also wants some reasonable zoning rules to determine, with input from the neighborhoods, where hotel uses are acceptable – and how many can be set up in any one area.

It’s likely that the measure will also mandate that the company pay all taxes that it owes back to 2012.

Mayor Ed Lee is a huge fan of the so-called Sharing Economy (although it’s not sharing; it’s commerce). There’s a good chance that any serious challenger will side with the new initiative campaign – and find broad-based support there.

Anti-eviction protesters gather at an Airbnb conference
Anti-eviction protesters gather at an Airbnb conference

This was the second demonstration in three days — on Saturday November 22, members of Eviction Free San Francisco and the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project paid a visit to Airbnb’s inaugural Airbnb Open conference at Fort Mason. The protest coincided with Airbnb’s awarding of its first “Community Award” – a bit ironic in the climate of an eviction crisis that Airbnb and other vacation rental corporations helped create. As one protester’s sign read, “This is a Community, Not a Monopoly Board.”

Protesters dropped an “Eviction Free San Francisco” banner in front of the large, eerily lit Airbnb Open sign, and managed to sing and read from a letter — before Airbnb conference organizers turned the lights out around the protesters and called the police.

As the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project recently reported, there are numerous hosts throughout the city displacing tenants for tourists and contributing to a lack of affordable permanent housing, and sometimes increased evictions.

Police arrived in three cars and escorted the protestors to a caged “Free Speech Zone,” which the protestors refused to enter.

AirBnb has shrugged off criticism by housing activists far and wide, as well as investigations by the New York attorney general, whose office released a report in October 2014 that found over three quarters of the rentals in the city are in violation of the city’s housing and zoning ordinances. The report also found that more than a third of the units rented and revenue generated in New York is from commercial operators.

AirBnb rarely talks about these commercial operators, and instead focuses its marketing and public image on the quaint stories of individual hosts opening up their homes to guests. Executive “hospitality guru” Chip Conley was recently quoted as saying that his dream for the company, which is in essence a multi-billion dollar middleman that facilitates people selling space in their homes, is for it to win the Nobel Peace Prize for their role in fostering cross-cultural understanding worldwide.

This fantastical claim is not just the delusional dream of an ambitious CEO but represents a concerted effort on the part of AirBnb to maintain an image that ignores the harm that the company causes. Also often not mentioned by the company — and in fact furiously refuted — are the findings of a 2014 Harvard Business School report that found that black hosts have to charge 12% less than white hosts for rental spaces of the same general quality and in the same general area.


Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
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  1. I’ll just respond to this: “But in the end I’m not sure it’s racism even if guests are avoiding black hosts and homes. It’s just a preference.”

    Is it racism? Yes, it’s an aspect of the systematic bias black people have to live with every day. Does that mean it’s unacceptable? I wouldn’t go that far. If a person is scared to live with someone due to their race, I wouldn’t tell them they should do it anyway, but I would want their choice to be acknowledged as racist, because it quite simply is.

  2. Chris, I didn’t answer your question because it’s a hypothetical so I have no idea how potential renters would react in the real world

    I did have a black roommate in my twenties and I didn’t notice any other friends of mine not wanting to visit or stay over, so based on that anecdotal evidence I’d say it doesn’t make any difference.

    I’m sorry but I think these studies are highly suspect. The researchers are clearly looking for racial bias since that is the whole point of the study. So they find it. When was the last study that found zero bias?

    But in the end I’m not sure it’s racism even if guests are avoiding black hosts and homes. It’s just a preference. Is it racist to only date white women? Only have white friends? At some point you have to allow people the freedom to make very personal decisions according to their tastes and preferences.

    And even if it is true that black hosts make 12% less, so what? There could be other reasons for that. I recall once when I was renting out a unit, one applicant was black and told me he’d been having difficulty finding a place (implying it was because of race although he let me infer that rather than stating it, which would have yelled “trouble maker”).

    He then offered me 10% over my asking rent, as if that was what he felt was necessary to beat out the white applicants. I felt very uncomfortable at this point, figuring that if I turned him down and took a white tenant at 10% less, he’d kick up a stink. I thought I was being played and manipulated.

    So I took the place off the market and re-advertized it at 10% more anyway, which I got from someone else. He never re-applied.

    Point being, it’s hard to really know why these differences happen. This black guy might have thought it was racism, but it was really because he was playing cards.

    It’s like the Fergusen thing. Did the cop shoot Brown because Brown was black or because Brown was attacking the cop? Racism or appropriate policing? Everyone is deciding based on their inherent biases. It’s impossible to have a rational debate about race in America.

    Airbnb should just say that they don’t control the prices and that they are a matter between consenting adults.

  3. Sam, either you’re being dense, or maybe you just don’t understand how airbnb works. It isn’t necessary to determine whether the actual units are similar in decor/style/quality by visiting them in person, because on airbnb, the renters themselves don’t get to see the units in person before they commit to rent them.

    This means that any systematic difference in what units can be rented for can only be because there was a difference in the actual descriptions of the listings on airbnb, including everything available on the site, such as host reviews, unit photos, and the variable that was studied, the appearance of the host.

    So they only had to determine whether this listing-description information was similar, including the host’s reviews and the photos, and that is exactly what the Harvard study did. Even for listings that were comparable in all these ways, black host’s units made less money.

    The other factors you mention are what increase the 12% not-being-black premium to the total 35% more that non-black hosts make overall.

    Your final point could be valid, in that Tim could just be trying to play an irrelevant race card by framing the fact that non-black hosts can make higher rents as somehow reflecting poorly on airbnb as a company, since this reality isn’t airbnb’s making (unless Tim was trying to suggest that allowing hosts to post their photos is somehow uncool because it enables race discrimination). However, if it’s true (as Tim claims) that the company “furiously refutes” the discrepancy in black host’s earnings, that would reflect poorly on airbnb and would justify Tim’s statement.

    But I think it’s telling that you keep making up absurd possible reasons like “guests might negotiate better with blacks” (though at least you admit you don’t believe that one) so that you don’t have to acknowledge the obvious reality that many guests would be scared to rent from blacks, so their units get lower demand.

    I notice that you haven’t denied that, probably because you recognize that doing so would make you sound like a douchebag (that’s a technical term: https://medium.com/human-parts/douchebag-the-white-racial-slur-weve-all-been-waiting-for-a2323002f85d), nor have you answered my question: if you had a black roommate, would you really, truly not expect that posting their picture instead of yours on an airbnb profile would lead to lower demand? (I feel entirely safe in assuming that you’re not black, though I guess it’s possible you could be a rare head-in-the-sand Clarence Thomas type.)

  4. Chris, I don’t think it is possible to accurately determine which listings are “similar” just from the home descriptions on Airbnb. Nor compensate for differences in decor, style, quality of fixtures, and so on.

    You can probably determine that blacks make less in a variety of business situation but that doesn’t mean racism so much as inherent economic differences.

    Of course if you’re going to argue that any such inherent differences are indicative of racism then that’s another whole debate. But I do not believe that guests negotiate better with blacks than other races. I can think of several other explanations for any discrepancies that have nothing to do with racism.

    Maybe universities need to do studies on other factors rather than race. If you look long and hard enough for correlations and do that enough times, you will find them. These researchers keep doing such studies until they get the results they want.

    Tim needs to learn that playing a race card doesn’t win a debate.

  5. In other words, you want to destroy the ability of people to make some spare cash from sharing their home by making the process an onerous bureaucratci nightmare. And for no legitimate reason that I can see except for envy?

    Here’s an idea. If you don’t like airbnb, don’t use it.

  6. Its already been said in some form, but here are my recommendations”

    require airbnb landlords fulfill all local and state health and safety laws.
    landlords be required to carry commercial liability insurance, adhere to all state and federal nondiscrimination law and comply with all accessibility(ADA) requirements, get a business license as hoteliers, pay taxes, then maybe they can justify their enterprise.

  7. No evidence? Even Tim’s brief mention specified that the 12% was a comparison of similar listings. No university study would fail to control for these factors. The full report at http://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Publication%20Files/14-054_e3c04a43-c0cf-4ed8-91bf-cb0ea4ba59c6.pdf (see page 9) actually shows that non-black hosts make 35% more than black hosts overall. It’s only after comparing similar quality listings in similar areas with similarly good reviews from guests that they reached the 12% extra that non-black hosts make, with nothing but the skin color of the host in their photo to explain the discrepancy.

    If you had a black roommate and the two of you wanted to rent out a spare room on airbnb, would it really not occur to you that using your roommate’s photo as the host’s picture instead of yours could negatively impact your earnings, even if you and your roommate wore similar attire, and had similarly pleasant smiles?

  8. Clearly people can afford these new “high priced” homes because they all sell, and quickly. I think what you mean is that you cannot afford them. But then you presumably already have a home here anyway, and so don’t need to be able to afford them.

    Or are you saying that you think you are sufficiently important and noble that you should be entitled to a specially subsidized home?

    The real problem isn’t that some people want to do short-term lets. There is clearly a need for those too. But rather that rent control deters people from doing long-term lets, and so short-term lets make more sense. I learned that some 15 years ago, and would never rent a place long-term again.

    While NIMBYism and restrictive land use regulations ensure that we will never build enough homes. So you are right about one thing – punishing those who are Airbnb hosts totally misses the real point.

  9. It’s important to note that about half of the people in San Francisco who rent their homes and apartments through Airbnb are financially strapped and this is a good part-time job for them. Many of these people have been out of work for a long time and really need this income. The City Attorney has a suit against the most egregious abusers of the Airbnb platform; realty and property management companies.

    Let’s look at the real villains in this housing shortage, the ones who created it: decades of corruption and no real planning for housing for regular folks in this city. And nothing is being done about it–they just keep building high priced housing that none of us can afford.

  10. Yeahm the $25 million number is pure make-believe. The city doesn’t have the data on which to base any tax demand, so people are just guessing.

    If the tax collector wants to go to court for 25 million, he can try. But he’s better hope I’m not on the jury.

  11. Yes, it’s possible that Airbnb agreed to start collecting taxes, even though they could not be forced it, in return for a “waiver” of any alleged prior tax obligation.

    Both sides win. SF starts collecting a tax that the courts may not have allowed them to ever enforce. While Airbnb put a cap on their prior liabilities and, since they collect these monies from the guest, do not suffer any loss.


  12. Chris, my guess would be that rents are lower for black homes because generally speaking, blacks live in cheaper homes and cheaper areas.

    I’d be willing to go out on a limb and say that I bet blacks drive cheaper cars, on average. And that they take less expensive vacation.

    I think someone here is just trying to play a race card where none is warranted. To be meaningful, the statistic would have to compare similar homes in similar neighborhoods, but there is no evidence that they did so,

  13. Come on, must it be spelled out? Lots of people are scared of people with black faces (a form of racism) and so wouldn’t want to stay with them, so demand for their units will be lower and they will have to charge lower prices to get bookings.

    Do you seriously think there’s any significant chance that the lower price for black hosts’ units is primarily due to one of those reasons you invented rather than this culturally pervasive fear factor?

  14. There probably is no “legal” obligation to reveal info of even pay taxes. However, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t have been part of a negotiated settlement.

    In fact, it could still BE in play. AirBnB came out on top compared to rivals Like HomeAway. If other platforms were to be given equal (or greater?) advantage, that might be something ABnB might find costlier than rightfully settling its tax liability. And, yes, the liability is not fully theirs; hosts have a part. But I think sharing the responsibility equally (did I say ‘sharing’?) – a la 50% responsibility – might prove a good PR move for ABnB.

    Granted, I don’t think its gonna be as much as Prog complainers toot; they want it to hurt. And the truth is that it will be fully deductable, so cost less than announced. But, still, it would be something; and the issue of fairness would be a feather in its cap going forward.

  15. What 99%? About 33% of SF residents own their home and very few of them would support any kind of new or higher tax on housing.

    And do you really believe that the average SF property owner is not super wealthy? Trying to turn this into a class war envy tirade is what lost Prop G, because it came across as petty and vindictive.

    I can give you a few other reasons why Prop G lost:

    1) People realized that you cannot make housing cheaper by taxing it more.

    2) People realized that the courts would just bounce G like they did with the Ellis relo extortion

    3) The tax revenues would not be used for housing but rather just funnelled into the general slush fund

    4) It exempted large developments but hit the mom’n’pop property owner

    5) People understood that this tax would simply mean that owners would “Ellis then sell” rather than “sell then Ellis”

    6) The prop wording said nothing about evictions and didn’t discriminate between buildings where evictions happened and buildings where they did not

    BTW, does Richmond even have rent control? I didn’t think so. Oakland has quite a mild form.

  16. Not necessarily, Dale. You can rent for any period of time through Airbnb. For instance, I have done a number of 2-3 months rentals. Anything over 30 days would not be subject to this hotel tax even by SF’s own self-serving rules.

    Airbnb also don’t know whether the host paid the tax already. OK, most don’t but some do.

    Finally I am not aware of any legal obligation for Airbnb to hand over such information because of privacy concerns, even assuming that they keep records indefinitely. It’s up to the city to compute the figure that is allegedly due, and then if necessary for a court to decide whether such lets should be subject to a hotel tax.

  17. Regarding Prop G, I say we take lessons from the right. When you don’t succeed, be persistent. Rework it a bit, put it on the ballot again. Put it on in November 2016 when tenants and young people actually come out to vote. Worst case scenario -you make the landlord lobby part with their millions just to stay in the same place; best case scenario -you make the landlord lobby part with their millions AND you win.

    Even better -make them fight on multiple fronts. Put it on the ballot at the same time in SF, Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond. Make them spread their money thinner and see where it sticks. Progressives need to realize that a class war is being waged on the 99%, and we need to fight back.

    And… I disagree that Prop G was confiscatory. Prop G was very mild, and full of loopholes. Clearly that didn’t make the speculators hate it any less, or spend any less money to defeat it. The whole campaign was based on hysterical lies anyway… so why not write an initiative that would make all their lies true? You’ll still get the same campaign from the other side, so you might as well make the stakes higher.

  18. There’s a very easy way to determine Airbnb’s tax bill: the company’s data. They know EXACTLY how much revenue they collected for short-term rentals in SF. 14% of that belongs to the city.

  19. THANK YOU!!!!!!!!! I appreciate that. I think I’ll now encourage other folks to write them.

    Any suggestions for responses? I’m open.

  20. 17,000 signatures probably means 10,000 are valid. That is barely over 1% of the city’s population.

    You lost – accept it.

  21. Their intent, as with regular rent control, is to make doing this so onerous that you give up.

    And then they complain that rentals are sitting vacant or sold as TICs

  22. I’m not aware of any “landlord fee” for rentals of 31-90 days. Many of us do short-term rentals of 1-6 months precisely to avoid these onerous regulations.

    There is the rent board fee to pay as part of the property tax if you rent for more than 30 days, but that’s AFAIK.

  23. I too would like to know how progs will do it different this time, in terms of voter outreach? For Prop G, we saw the Milk Club and Campos supporters either at 18th and Castro or Mission and 24th preaching to the choir.

    Tim gives Milk Club prez Tom Temprano a perch every few weeks on this site to sound off, and then Tim speaks at the club after the election about what went down.

    Echo, echo, echo chamber? Yeah.

    As I saw on SF GovTV and lots of places around the web, there are very ardent supporters and users of Airbnb. I don’t expect them to much care about DiFi getting her panties in a twist over _one_ local issue, an issue that is seen by these voters as a revenue stream.

  24. 17,000 signatures: think we don’t care? (Many of us didn’t get a chance to sign.)

    Lee is a Silicon Valley whore who endlessly touts the Orwellian named “sharing economy.”

    Remember 8 Washington.

  25. “In the same month Lees administration signs legislation that allows AIR BNB to operate in the city and wipes the slate clean on 25 Million dollars in unpaid taxes.”

    Can you point to a single word, phrase, paragraph, sentence….ANYTHING in the Airbnb bill that says that 25 million dollars in taxes are forgiven?????? Or 1 single dollar in taxes for that matter?


    Do you have a single equation showing that the taxes in question are anywhere near $25 million.


    Or do you just prefer to make up stuff? Its OK, lots of people like to make up stuff that makes them feel good.

  26. ” I often give him a couple bottles of his favorite red wine when I return the saw”

    Thats not “sharing” – that’s battering.

    Never-the-less, all these rules would essentially kill the activity. Notification? Inspections? Penalties?

    I don’t like the current legislation, but I’m not against the concept. I do think a tenant needs to get the approval of the landlord. And I think – if its rent controlled unit – that there ought to be ‘sharing’ of the profits btw renter and prop owner. A lot of liability is being placed on owners and its all risk and no reward. That should change.

    You know, if we just kept this away from Presidio Hgts, then there’ be a lot less protesting!

  27. I was REALLY disturbed by their feel-good take on the AirBnB blog:

    (Not that I have anything against wholesome volunteer days such as this, but they are not a viable substitute for fair taxation…my comment on that blog never seemed to appear.)

    Since I was still signed up for an account from long ago, I thought I’d take this chance to send them some feedback:

    “[Dear Customer Service Staff: Please forward this on to management as far as you are able.]

    I am a long-time San Francisco resident, and am saddened to see a company such as AirBnB contribute to the drastic housing shortage in this city, which has become unlivable not just for lower-income, but also middle-income people like myself and my community.

    For context, see: https://48hills.org/2014/11/24/ballot-measure-targeting-airbnb-headed-november-2015-election/

    As an AirBnB customer, I am begging you to look past the positives your service provides, and also begin to consider the impact and harm you might have on the communities you are embedded in.

    Please work with our community activists leaders to forge fair legislation that helps both YOU operate, and US stay in our homes.

    But PLEASE, above all, pay your back taxes to the city of San Francisco. This helps fund the very public systems that keep visitors to our fair city safe and served efficiently, and contributes to making San Francisco a city worth visiting in the first place!

    If you ignore the needs of this community, I will be deleting my AirBnB account, and I will be encouraging all those I know to do the same. You might be able to dismiss one of us easily, but together, we form your profit base, and we are asking that you operate with ethical considerations for the world around you.

    Thank you for reading!”

    I just received this reply:

    “Hi Jessica,

    My name is Stevie and I’m on the Customer Experience team with Airbnb. I read your e-mail (and the entire article attached) and I am really moved by you and your passion on this topic. In many ways, I agree with you! We are still, in all respects, a very new company and we are trying to do incredible things at a very rapid pace. My point for saying this is I want you to know that your voice is being heard, and that we want to do what’s right for the communities we are involved with. There is no easy fix.

    I will pass your feedback along to our feedback team, who I assure you will read this letter with the same attention and care that I have. The only thing I can promise is that we care (from the CEO down to the newest hire on our team) and we are constantly working to scale our product and respect our communities.

    Take Good Care,


    Any [productive] thoughts?

  28. Mark Leno’s team can brand him whatever they want, but most of us know that Mark Leno is not considered a long-time progressive. He never once got the Tenant’s Union endorsement when he ran for supervisor or in his first Assembly and Senate races.

    Mark Leno was a leading Democrat in Sacramento during the past 10 years when the Democrats essentially controlled the legislature. This is the period when the middle class was blown to hell, partly based on state laws. Mark Leno was in charge – he chairs the Senate Fiance Committee, one of the most powerful political bodies in the world – when speculators came in and bought up single family homes after 2008 to re-rent them back to the middle class who lost them. Mark Leno has been in charge while SF built multi-million dollar condos that are sold as 2nd and 3rd homes to the world’s economic elites, and has done nothing about it. Ammiano has been right there too in Sacramento while the state’s real estate – our familys’ homes – have been sold off to foreign capital.

    It’s impossible to distinguish the difference in the subtle shades of blue separating Leno, Ammiano and Lee. But I’m sure the political campaign teams are salivating over a very expensive fight trying to convince voters otherwise.

  29. The Prop G people got 46% of the vote for a tax that was basically confiscatory. My guess is the local and national real estate interests are sweating bullets these days knowing that such a draconian tax was favored by more than 45% of voters, many of whom were conservative voters. Can you imagine if every tenant voted in the last election? If the law had passed, the world’s real estate interests would be talking about nothing else in their exclusive clubs. Replicate a similar tax in all of the major cities in the world, applicable to both residential and commercial property, and watch Wall Street and billionaires worldwide crumble into ashes. They know that and you do too.

    One other note, most voters view Lee and Chiu as joined at the hip. After all, it was David Chiu who made Ed Lee mayor. Ron Conway and Ed “Sharing Economy” Lee are the poster boys for the high rents and displacement of SF tenants caused by exploitive companies such as Airbnb. Most voters know this, even if they like other qualities of Ed Lee. One problem for Ed is that a strong reaction to economic policies that have destroyed the middle and lower classes over the past 8 years seems to be sweeping the world: Hong Kong, London, SF. Even Ferguson is as much about lack of economic opportunities as it is about race relations and police forces trained to keep the black, white, brown and yellow riff-raff in check across the nation. Incumbents may not get the advantage they’ve enjoyed in the past.

  30. Hello, Mayor Lees administration is all about privatizing profits and socializing debt.

    Why aren’t developers paying impact fees to cover the costs to upgrade police , fire, transit and emergency services? Its because YOU CHUMPS keeps voting to raise your own rents and taxes.

    Influenced by a massive pro-Prop A spending campaign, the San Francisco voters approved Prop A on November 4, 2014. Prop A authorizes San Francisco’s government to sell $500 million in transportation General Obligation bonds. Including interest on the bonds, Prop A will cost the tax payers of San Francisco over a billion dollars.

    In the same month Lees administration signs legislation that allows AIR BNB to operate in the city and wipes the slate clean on 25 Million dollars in unpaid taxes. Ridesharing, bike sharing, car sharing and room sharing were put in place to generate new streams of revenue for the city. The poor and middle class still haven’t figured out that they have been thrown under the bus.

  31. When was the last time that SF progs did any outreach to anyone outside of their own echo chamber? they seem to alienate everyone and anyone who does not toe their line 100%. And despite what Tim and Peskin think, A LOT of people in SF like AirBnB, and like the extra income that comes their way. For all of the “uniting” that this ballot measure might create, it is also going to turn a lot of people off

    my 2 cents

  32. “Where did the $25mil come from? Who pulled this number out of who’s ass?”

    There was a writer for the Chronicle who suggested that the tax amount was $11 million a year GOING FORWARD. So Campos and Redmond and the others took that and applied to to the past two years. This assumed that there has been no growth in Airbnb, Which is the opposite of what they say everywhere else. Then they multiplied by two and rounded up a few million for good measure.

    In other words, Redmond and the rest are not concerned with having one foot in reality.

  33. Adding to your list… a) change the current $50 yearly mini-landlord fee to $250 yearly fee at 30 days of rentals and $500 yearly fee from 31-90 days of rentals. The Rent Board hires a Deputy AirBnB person and 5-10 staffers to enforce.

  34. Does an AirBnB initiative have enough oomph for Leno to run on and for the SF Progs to fight and win on? Probably not if Lee does what Randy Shaw suggests. http://www.beyondchron.org/airbnb-initiative-headed-sfs-mayoral-ballot/

    Shaw seems to be operating as Lee’s unofficial adviser. Were there a substantial, silent advisory capacity I don’t think Shaw would telegraph his advice to the Mayor and the City at large by writing columns.

    The most salient point Shaw makes is that Lee can push trailing legislation through the BOS to clean up the Chiu AirBnB legislation, making it more palatable to the SF Progs. Though messing with the package would probably not be to Chiu’s liking, and he seems to have left retaining some sway in SF, at least for the time being.

    Would the SF Progs get behind a Lee cleanup of the bill? If Lee went after the “$25 million in unpaid taxes” they might be forced to. That’s the hot button issue. But there doesn’t seem to be any hard data on that number. Where did the $25mil come from? Who pulled this number out of who’s ass?

    Only AirBnB and the tax collector knows what they owe for sure.

    Does Leno have a chance? Who knows? We’re weighting many factors here. Chinese political ascendancy against SF (white) Progressive fear/anger. The general uneasiness about rapid changes in SF vs the broad base of rising incomes and net worth.

    I think Leno and a new AirBnB initiative have legs only if the SF Progs come out of their ideological boxes and embrace the larger context, creating a broad based coalition that includes landlords, labor, ethnics and the real middle class.

    We’ll see if they have it in them. We’ll see if Ron Conway et al are smart enough to diffuse this and keep Mayor Mustache around for another term.

  35. Yeah, Regressives banking on this as a strategy assume that most voters care abut this issue and I don’t think they do.

    Moreover Prog G showed that we don’t want the taxman taxing our homes, just like we don’t want him taxing our beverages.

    Moreover Lee didn’t take an active role in the airbnb bill, so cannot legitimately be tainted by that.

    I don’t think this dog has legs

  36. Well, you are shown the face of someone, who may or may not be the host, But then what? You haggle only with the non-whites?

    If true, it might prove that blacks are worse at negotiating. or that the black-owned places aren’t as nice, or that black hosts over-price more, or that the taste and style of black homes don’t jive as well with the mostly white guests, or that their homes are in worse locations, or

    You get the idea. It’s a curse of modern America that people always look at outcomes by races and then infer racism from any disparity.

  37. We just had an election, in the more Progressive half of the city, between the guy who wrote the Airbnb legislation against its biggest opponent; the champion of the nonsensical $25 million tax break.

  38. why don’t you just get on the tax collector’s ass to get the hosts to pay the taxes they owe, if it means so much to you? too much work?

  39. This (AirBnb) being the centerpiece of Leno’s run at the Mayor’s job will be interesting. Is he serious (since Ed can make amendments to the recent legislation), or is he just bluffing the Mayor (so he will make popular amendments)? Also, this will be an interesting test for the prog’s; their attempt to unify and get into City Hall’s top office. If they put all their eggs in Leno and he loses to Ed & uncle Ron, the ship will have sailed. And, if Katy (who never won an election of any kind) keeps her “temp” job as BOS Prez, double-trouble for the progs. She’ll put Campos, Avalos and that other guy on the outhouse committee. Before you know it, any and all relevancy is lost.

  40. Good list. I would add that the neighbors, especially those in the same building, be given a cellphone number of the AirBnB host, that they be allowed to rate the host and when the neighbor’s ranking is low, AirBnB must drop the host.

    Also, the AirBnB hosts need to comply with State and Federal regulations regarding ADA, ‘public accommodation’ and other laws as well.

    Finally, AirBnB records for rentals in SF need to be 100% ‘open’ to city officials.

  41. Yes, that is easily the most bizarre claim made. When you book a home-share you do not know the race of the Host. In most cases, you don’t even meet the Host. So how does a Guest know their race and, regardless, why would the Guest pay less or more even if they did know?

    I think the statistic is probably a mis-interpretation of the fact that blacks generally are poorer than whites, so have less grand homes, and therefore have to charge less. That may be true but it’s hardly the kind of alleged racism that regressives never fail to snidely raise.

    Newsflash – playing a race card doesn’t win you the debate.

  42. “…black hosts have to charge 12% less than white hosts for rental spaces of the same general quality and in the same general area.” How does this have anything to do with AirBnB itself? Hosts set a price they think they can get and guest agree or don’t agree to pay it. Way to race-bait, Tim.

  43. The initiative drive raises the interesting prospect of uniting homeowners, worried about property values due to the loss of zoning protections, with tenants worried about evictions by AirBnB entrepreneurs. Other possible allies in this effort include city hotels and those angered by the legislation’s failure to force AirBnB to collect back taxes. Ed Lee has probably done the political calculus and figures it won’t hurt him, but I’m guessing that supporting the legislation in 2015 will be tougher than opposing it.

  44. So glad this ballot measure is taking shape. Let’s hope this is the issue – along with skyrocketing rents and tenants’ generalized fear over their eminent eviction from SF – that finally kicks Mayor Lee to the curb next November. Is Gonzalez still around? The left could use a “big-tent” candidate who knows how to rally disparate groups. Every SF tenant needs to be reminded each week that another four years of Mayor Lee will ensure their eviction. If that doesn’t motivate them to get involved working on next year’s mayoral campaign to kick Ed Lee out of office, nothing will.

    If DiFi, Mike Casey, Aaron Peskin, Calvin Welch, Sara Short and other activists can agree on a comprehensive reform package, with DiFI leading the charge, the measure can’t lose. Hopefully Mayor Lee goes down with its passage too. For me, a few provisions are most important:

    1) A limit of 30 days of tourist rental per housing unit each year;

    2) Short-term rentals allowed only for homeowners/tenants who live in the units permanently;

    3) Notification of neighbors within 200′ feet that the unit is being used as a short-term hotel;

    4) Mandatory health and safety inspections before any unit is rented out, with annual re-inspections;

    5) Specific liability insurance increased from $500K to $1 million;

    6) A limit on the number of units in each census tract that can be registered as temporary rental units at any one time. If there are more units than authorized, then they are rotated each year;

    7) Substantial civil penalties for failure to comply with the city regulations, with criminal penalties kicking in after one or two infractions, including forfeiture of the property itself. And the Public Defender is prohibited from defending the hosts who refuse to follow the rules.

    And thanks for continuing to expose this myth about “sharing.” Airbnb and other companies of their ilk are facilitating the most basic human economic relationship: landlording. Sharing is when my neighbor borrows my truck a few times a year – WITHOUT PAY – and when I borrow his chain saw a couple of times a year – WITHOUT PAY. He usually leaves the gas tank full and a case of my favorite beer on the front seat when he returns the truck, and I often give him a couple bottles of his favorite red wine when I return the saw. That’s sharing. Charging $250 a night to rent my back laundry room for a few weeks is not sharing – it’s landlording.

  45. Tim, you write: “the Sharing Economy (although it’s not sharing; it’s commerce)”

    What do you think the word “economy” means, if not commerce?

    The sharing economy is simply a business activity conducted on a peer-to-peer basis by consenting individuals where neither party is a corporation, and where any corporation, if involved at all, is merely a facilitator and not an agent,

    The “sharing” simply means that I give up my exclusive use of an asset or resource, in return for compensation.

    You could argue that prostitution is part of the sharing economy as long as it’s not a Nevada brothel. The fact that the parties met through the SFBG hooker ads doesn’t change that nor make SFBG evil or bad.

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