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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

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UncategorizedAt the Conference of Mayors, gun control and Airbnb

At the Conference of Mayors, gun control and Airbnb

The people who run our cities are awfully cautious about calling for controls on handguns. But oh, some of them love Aibnb

Kevin Johnson, mayor of Sacramento, opens the press conference at the Conference of Mayors
Kevin Johnson, mayor of Sacramento, opens the press conference at the Conference of Mayors

By Tim Redmond

JUNE 19, 2015 – I wasn’t expecting to be too excited by the US Conference of Mayors when I saw the list of the major sponsors: JP Morgan, Walmart, Uber, the American Beverage Association, AT&T, Well Fargo, Google, Salesforce … you get the idea.

But I go to these things anyway, because there’s usually a chance to ask a couple of questions. So there I was at the opening press conference, after walking through the metal detectors and getting searched and wanded (Obama was coming later in the day), and passing by the massive Salesforce booth, and about 20 mayors who make up the executive committee and leadership were lined up in front of the cameras.

Kevin Johnson, the mayor of Sacramento, is the president, and he made some opening remarks about how important cities are to the future of America. There’s a report on this, which I actually read, and which pretty much confirms what Jane Jacobs has been saying for half a century or so: Cities are the nation’s economic heart, and its economic future.

The San Francisco-Oakland metro area, for example, has more gross economic product than 36 entire states.

Ok then, on to business.

After the introductions of the incoming president, Stephanie Rawlings Black of Baltimore, and the jokes about why Ed Lee wasn’t around (he was at the Warrior’s parade), Johnson asked for questions.

I was up first.

Given the recent tragic shooting in Charleston, I asked, will the conference be taking any sort of stand or doing anything around the issue of gun control?

Mayor Michael Nutter of Philly: "I have a First Amendment right not to get shot."
Mayor Michael Nutter of Philly: “I have a First Amendment right not to get shot.”

Well, first I heard a lot about “gun safety.” That’s a very different question than the one I asked. A gun is a lot safer if it’s locked in a gun safe or has a trigger lock, and it’s less likely that some toddler will find it and kill himself or some teenager will accidentally shoot a friend.

But gun control is about saying that too many people have too many handguns – and gun-safety laws would do nothing about a man buying his deeply racist and deeply disturbed 21-year-old son a .45 pistol that he could take into a church and kill eight people.

I really thought this group would be more vocal; it’s a nonpartisan organization with Republican and Democratic mayors, but mayors (and police chiefs) don’t tend to like having nutcases with .45s running around town. But nobody stood up and spoke forcefully about taking guns off the streets.

Eventually Michael Nutter, the mayor of Philadelphia, said something useful. “We respect the Second Amendment,” he said. “But I also have a First Amendment right not to get shot.”

He pointed out that, for all the publicity that mass killings get, there are about 30 people murdered every day with guns in the US. “I would expect that there would be a significant amount of conversation,” he said.

The mayor of Columbia, South Carolina, Steven Benjamin, said he knew some of the people killed in the town not far from his, and referred to the shootings as “an act of racial terrorism.” Which is absolutely accurate. He talked about the need to “elevate the debate.”

All of which is fine, but it’s a strange time in America when nothing, no amount of horror and killing – of kids, or churchgoers – is enough to convince the country’s leaders that we need to have fewer handguns.

So after the gun discussion, and a couple of follow-up questions, they ended the press conference, and I tracked down Johnson in the crowd. I reminded him that one of the honored guests and speakers was the head of Airbnb – a company whose entire business model involves violating the laws of most of the cities represented in the room.

He doesn’t care. “As a 3.0 mayor, I believe in innovation and entrepreneurship, and what Airbnb is doing has been exceptional.”

Turning residential neighborhoods into hotels, causing massive displacement, making the housing crisis worse …. Exceptional.

I can’t wait for the tour of Uber.

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. She moderated a panel Sunday on Vergara v California right after Johnson had a conversation with the CEO of Airbnb and his economic consultant at a lunch paid for by lyft

  2. “It’s also astounding that people can make a living with short term lets.”

    Wow. You’ll be really floored when you learn about this centuries-old concept of “hotels”.

  3. Thanks for discussing guns, Tim. After another mass killing last week, we had to hear the usual garbage about needs for video-game control and mental health. Gun hardware was the elephant in the room, as usual.

  4. Can you explain what is “unproductive” about providing housing when, according to Redmond’s endless whining, housing in SF is a very precious and critical thing that is in short supply?

    NB: Folks I know in London doing Airbnb are aware of no such limit. Cite?

  5. Tim didn’t mention it, but Johnson is married to Michelle Rhee, the controversial neoliberal education reformer. She and her anti-union, anti-tenure positions have received favorable coverage in the SF Chronicle. If only half of the above is true it’s astounding that Johnson is still in office.

  6. >”0.8% of the housing stock or 40% of the rental market in popular neighborhoods? So … where is YOUR number from. It sounds like the airbnb analysis which is impossible to vet and of course has an inherent bias to downplay any impact on housing. ”

    Actually, Backtotheburbs , my number is from the San Francisco Budget Analyst report:

    “At 0.3 percent, the estimated 1,251 entire units being rented out by commercial
    Airbnb hosts is relatively small compared to the entire 376,083 units of housing in
    San Francisco”

    Source: http://www.sfbos.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=52601 , page 11.

    Their best estimate is 1,251 units lost to Airbnb, which is indeed 0.3% of the housing stock. Tim and Campos and the other progressives automatically use the worst case estimate which is 0.8% which is what I was referring to.

    Now, about your claim that 40% of the rental market being lost to Airbnb in popular neighborhoods? Any chance of a source on that one or did you just make it up?

    You asked me where my number is from and I provided the source. Your turn.

  7. Why don’t we get those stamenenta from those residents in writing. A quick search shows that London has a 90 day limit. I’ll let you report back on the others with the facts …

    It’s also astounding that people can make a living with short term lets. What happened to being a productive member of society? I guess plenty of time for the message boards …

  8. 0.8% of the housing stock or 40% of the rental market in popular neighborhoods? So … where is YOUR number from. It sounds like the airbnb analysis which is impossible to vet and of course has an inherent bias to downplay any impact on housing. It’s like Raytheon telling you that the world is a dangerous place and we need to be protected. Or pharmaceutical companies freely advertising poorly working prescription drugs and doing back door deals with doctors.

    And that’s just the tip of the problem. SF has a housing crisis. So should any properties at all be made available full time for tourists? What about the using the scarce new constitution for out of town, potentially corporate owners, who simply run a sham hotel business?

    See, either you care about the City or you don’t …

  9. >”They discuss multiple subjects.”

    True. But they didn’t discuss Airbnb.

    What happened is that Tim went up to Kevin Johnson and said “Airbnb is doing terrible things, right?” and Johnson said “No, Airbnb rocks and I fully embrace it”.

    I wish I coulda been there.

    Massive displacements? Yup! Might be as much as 0.8% of the housing stock (before ANY law was passed), and not all of that involves a displacement. Definition of the word massive, I tell ya.

    Its an important matter that should be openly discussed. Tim and other progressives don’t help by massively distorting the facts on the ground.

  10. Among the cities that are self-confident enough to not worry about Airbnb are London, Tokyo, Sydney, Hong Kong, Rio, Cairo, Istanbul, Toronto, LA and almost every other city in the US. I like my odds better than I like your odds.

  11. A handful, maybe, but it seems to be the handful that really matters, such as NYC, San Francisco, New Orleans, Berlin, Barcelona, Madrid, and many other cities.

    I don’t care what Topeka Kansas allows unfettered AirBnB. Feel free to open your business there.

  12. Illegal rentals are illegal rentals, regardless of the demand. There is a demand for illegal drugs too.

    Everyone is harmed by illegal rentals.

  13. No, it will be filed in Barcelona, where AirBnB was fined 30,000€ last year by the city government. And they just elected a mayor who was an anti-foreclosure activist and who is very much against AirBnB rentals when they displace citizens or create a nuisance for neighbors, and against AirBnB in general, because they are assholes. This article discusses the macro-level tourism issues, but not the details about AirBnB:


  14. It’s a small number.

    Like many progressives, I believe in this city’s long and proud tradition of civil disobedience against unjust laws and excessive government powers.

  15. Come clean here Sam. How many short term rentals do you have and why do you refuse to register them?

  16. Gary, Was lawsuit filed in SF? If so, a case number would be useful. If not that, then the name of the plaintiff’s attorney. This sounds like one that would be interesting to follow.

  17. One city out of 4,000.

    There is demand both for long-term stays and short-term stays. It is both natural and desirable that there should be supply for both.

    Nobody is harmed by this.

  18. During the summer of 1995, a sixteen-year-old girl living in his home alleged that Johnson had molested her. Johnson apologized to the girl when he was confronted by her with the accusation during a phone conversation recorded by Phoenix police. However, he also stated that “what you’re saying happened, I’m not entirely agreeing happened.”[63] TheSacramento Bee stated that they had received a copy of a proposed settlement agreement, under which Johnson would have paid the girl’s family $230,000.[64] After conducting an investigation, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute, on the grounds that there was not a reasonable likelihood of conviction.[65]

    High School investigation[edit]

    On April 16, 2008, rival mayoral candidate Leonard Padilla distributed a 2007 report of similar allegations made against Johnson at St. HOPE Sacramento High School. The allegations were investigated by local police, but no charges were filed. On April 29, 2008, a group of female civic leaders including former Sacramento Mayor Ann Rudin, Sacramento Municipal Utility District board member Genevieve Shiroma, and former State Senator Deborah Ortiz demanded the release of the police report on the matter.[66] The teacher to whom the student initially brought the complaint subsequently resigned over the incident, claiming, “St. HOPE sought to intimidate the student through an illegal interrogation and even had the audacity to ask me to change my story.”[67] Sacramento Police Chief Rick Braziel responded, saying, “I think the allegations at the school were handled in the way that you would want them handled. Immediately they followed all the normal protocols that they were supposed to follow. I think it was pretty clear there was nothing there… We did ask the young lady whether anyone had influenced her – her answer was no.”[68] The Sacramento County Sheriff John McGinness said on May 30, 2008, that Johnson’s actions, though ill-advised, were not illegal.[69]

    St. HOPE Academy’s alleged misuse of AmeriCorps funds[edit]

    On April 9, 2009, Acting U.S. Attorney Lawrence G. Brown announced that St. HOPE Academy had agreed to pay $423,836.50 over ten years in settlement of allegations that it did not appropriately spend AmeriCorps grants and education awards and did not adequately document spending of grants.[70] The settlement amount represented one-half of the $847,673 in AmeriCorps funds received by St. HOPE Academy over three years from 2004 to 2007.[70] Johnson, St. HOPE Academy’s founder and former CEO, agreed to pay $72,836.50 of St. HOPE Academy’s $73,836.50 initial payment.[70] In settlement, St. HOPE Academy acknowledged not adequately documenting a portion of its AmeriCorps grant expenditures, and the Corporation for National and Community Service terminated its September 24, 2008 suspension of St. HOPE Academy and Johnson from receiving federal funds, ending questions about Sacramento’s eligibility to receive federalstimulus funds.[70]


    In 2007, the Sacramento Bee investigated Johnson’s real estate holdings in the Oak Park neighborhood of Sacramento, and found that more than half the properties owned by Johnson and his various entities had been cited for various code violations, including for fire risk from overgrown vegetation, dead animals, junk and debris on the properties, and decaying and fire-damaged buildings. A local group, OPUS (Oak Park United against Slumlords) complained that Johnson was “stopping progress” in Oak Park by refusing to develop key properties in the community.[71][72]

  19. Rubbish. “The top five New York Airbnb hosts by number of listings rented out 80, 35, 31, 29 and 28, units on Airbnb, the attorney general’s office found. Almost half of Airbnb’s $1.45 million in 2010 revenue in New York City came not from grandmas renting out spare rooms, but Airbnb entrepreneurs who had more than three listings on the site.”


  20. A building’s HOA just voted to sue the owner of an AirBnB rental for the nuisance created. The unit is corporate owned and used exclusively as a vacation rental. This will be interesting.

  21. I don’t know – maybe it’s a bit late in the evening for me – but a seamless segue from a horrible racist massacre to Airbnb seems a little, well, appalling..?

  22. “…residents might make some money on the side by sharing their home with a visitor.”

    Quaint cover story, Spam.

  23. With so many guns in the hands of people, a lot of these folks are addicted to pharmaceutical or street drugs and a percentage are psychotic, unfortunately more mass murders will occur. Solution, politicians grow balls and do something for the people via gun control.

  24. Yes, in fact Airbnb operates in 4,000 cities in 200 countries and only a handful of those cities seem to think it’s a problem that some of their residents might make some money on the side by sharing their home with a visitor

  25. Well, obviously there are a lot of other places where Airbnb isn’t seen as nearly as big a deal, at least when it comes to housing supply. Do you really think that the most pressing concern in a place like Memphis – with one of the highest rental vacancy rates in the nation – is people occasionally renting a spare room out?

    Is it not yet clear that SF’s biggest problems just aren’t aligned with those of the rest of the nation, or even perhaps the rest of the state? That’s why the Fed isn’t hitting the brakes on the economy, much as many here would like it to.

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