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Home News + Politics The absurdity of the Airbnb supporters

The absurdity of the Airbnb supporters

Why are homesharers helping a giant corporation break the law?

 The San Francisco Tenants Union fully supports and helped craft the long-needed fix to our short-term rental regulations that Supervisors David Campos and Aaron Peskin have sponsored. This legislation creates a very simple mechanism for ensuring that either only registered units are listed or the hosting platforms themselves face penalties. It adds no additional penalties for hosts who violate the rules.

In fact, the only new penalties are for the hosting platforms.

Airbnb wants to avoid responsibility for the problems it has created in SF
Airbnb wants to avoid responsibility for the problems it has created in SF

In order for “homesharers” to object to this legislation, they must twist themselves into illogical knots as they argue that corporations should neither be held accountable nor follow the same rules that apply to everyday citizens. Absurdity is their strong suit, however, and the silly tweets have already begun:


In essence, they argue that taxpayers should pay for the Planning Department to investigate, notify, and penalize violators — as opposed to implementing a far more efficient policy of prohibiting unregistered listings from appearing on the platforms in the first place. Last year, when the Tenants Union contacted Airbnb asking the company to de-list a city-managed Below Market Rate unit, Airbnb’s top staff refused our request. Instead, the Mayor’s Office of Housing had to spend its own staff time investigating and contacting the host to argue with her to stop listing as it violated terms of the housing program. This email exchange shows she did not take the threat very seriously either:



Companies like Airbnb flout the requirements that honest hosts are encouraged to adhere to. A large percentage of the company’s profits come from units that will never qualify for registration requirements because they are not the owner’s primary residences, which is why they want to protect these illegal rentals.

Airbnb has revealed its true colors and betrayed tenants by donating to Mary Jung, the head of the San Francisco Association of Realtors and other sympathizers in the DCCC. SFAR beat back Ellis Act reform in Sacramento and helped defeat legislation aimed to help underwater homeowners and expand rent control for tenants statewide. The donations come from the absurdly named “Committee to Expand the Middle Class, Supported by Airbnb, Inc,” which should be include the addendum: Tenants, you are not the middle class we aim to help.

Airbnb has funded someone who would like nothing more than to make it easier to remove tenants from rent-controlled homes and turn them into condos.

Now is the time for elected officials to stop listening to the lies about helping the undefined “middle class” and to stand up to the forces that have caused tenant displacement by passing this common sense legislation. Airbnb became a multi-billion-dollar corporation by flouting local law, ignoring community complaints, and funneling profits into international; there is little to commend. Our legislation asks the platforms for nothing more than to follow the same rules that hosts must.

Jennifer Fieber works for the San Francisco Tenants Union.


  1. Short term hosts in SF had to complete personal business property tax forms. This isn’t parroted from Airbnb; I’m a registered part-time host. Talk to any host — forms were due on April 2; the city gave us a whole four days to comply.

    Your personal accusations are tiresome. See ya.

  2. You wrote: To be compliant, a STR host has to get a business license (correct, and available online) register with the city (a majority have not), remit taxes (Airbnb says it is doing this), complete business property tax forms (Do you expect to get a different property tax form than the one you’re using now? We don’t have a split property tax roll in California), and report all activity quarterly to the City (This is correct). What this new law proposes is that Airbnb be responsible to know if a listing has done all those things to maintain their registration (I don’t think it does; approval by the STR office should cover all of these items).

    What you’ve written sounds like it came directly from Airbnb. You should do your own research rather than reiterating their talking points, which makes it look worse than it is. The Planning Department has a summary. http://sf-planning.org/office-short-term-rental-registry-faqs

    Here’s what has Airbnb and some on this thread worked up: by requiring registration those with multiple properties used as hotels won’t qualify and will be out of business. I know honest players who work with Airbnb and I don’t think they have anything to fear from this. Those of you who think they do are being played by Airbnb.

  3. As clearly as my examples poke holes in your thinking.

    There is no arguing with people that aren’t logical. It’s why you lost prop F and I. See you at the ballot box. 48 hills is nothing more than some peoples rants about the hatred of tech and Airbnb. It’s gross

  4. Probably just as well that you are bowing out. I have learned, and your position proves the point, that there is no sense arguing facts and logic with someone who is personally invested in the outcome.

  5. That’s not what’s in the law that’s being proposed. The law doesn’t just require a STR number. It fines Airbnb $1,000/day for listing anything that’s not in compliance with city laws. So requiring an STR# isn’t enough — anyone can just type in a random # or someone else’s #. Instead it makes Airbnb *legally liable* for the total compliance of everything listed.

    To be compliant, a STR host has to get a business license, register with the city, remit taxes, complete business property tax forms, and report all activity quarterly to the City. What this new law proposes is that Airbnb be responsible to know if a listing has done all those things to maintain their registration.

    Gun registries have been around for decades. There’s a global infrastructure for checking a serial number, which is physical and fixed to the item. No such thing exists for STRs in this one city.

    By facing this liability, Airbnb’s economic model is shot to hell. One slip-up (an expired STR) can wipe out much of their revenue. $1,000 is their take on approximately 200 units/night. So they will shut down their service in SF, just like Uber and Lyft did in Austin this week. Then all the illegal STRs will scatter to other platforms.

    By the way, Airbnb is the only platform currently remitting TOT (hotel taxes), even for unregistered listings, so goodbye to that.

  6. As inane as you’d suggestion platforms are responsible. We can give many examples like street light cameras bring responsible for j walkers – those lawbreakers.

    Let’s face it it’s through the STR office and let them do their job. The people are bring caught and the fines are well over 700K.

    And now I have guests to attend to.

  7. The STR platforms have a responsibility to help enforce the STR law, just as retail establishments enforce the sales tax law. It’s part of the price of doing business (note that Amazon fought this idea for years before giving in),

    I’m fine with City Hall deciding how to enforce the STR law and that’s what it is in the process of doing. Your assertion that Google and Apple are the same as Airbnb is inane. Google and Apple aren’t even the same.

  8. Your argument is the platform is responsible. The platform is not your neighbor.

    And based on your logic Google and Apple are responsible for enforcement.

  9. No, you are wrong Bruce, You don’t need an iPhone to drive and when you do drive, Apple doesn’t charge you for every mile you cover. Apple’s relationship with drivers is unlike an STR platform’s relationship with its client hosts.

    If you don’t like the rational solution for enforcing the STR law here’s another that you’ll like even less: Increase the TOT charges to a point where the STR office has the resources to get the job done and is demonstrably doing so through periodic audits.

  10. Thanks for reporting those cheaters, flight505! And thanks for fighting the good fight. I know some may disagree, but you have my 100% support.

  11. So I assume you don’t call the police when someone is stabbing your neighbor. It’s the cops’ job to stop crime … don’t snitch.

  12. Wrong!!! Ever looked at google map traffic on freeways? Know why they know it’s red and super slow? They are mining data on your GPS phone to know how fast you are going hence the green or yellow or red on the freeways.

    Your phone knows if you are speeding. B O O M.

    Platforms are not responsible (nor tech companies) for enforcement. That is up yo the city. You may not like the speed of progress but the STR office has s job and let them do it. It’s no one else’s responsibility.

  13. Such is the wacky logic of Airbnb advocates. There is no link between driving, at whatever speed, and an Apple iPhone. There are all kinds of links between Airbnb, STR hosts, city laws, city business, and city residents. Get with it Bruce. You live in a community, it has laws, you can’t do whatever you always want.

  14. I appreciate that you have tried to advance the argument, but I stiill don’t buy it. It’s hard for me to imagine how requiring a registration number on an STR ad is going to destroy the marketplace.

    Consider that firearms makers include serial numbers on their products, and that auto makers have VIN numbers on their vehicles. Both of the numbers are very much part of U.S. commerce today. Airbnb and its cohorts argue that they should be exempt from these sorts of standards, The penalties for selling a pistol without a serial number are pretty severe, I hear.

    Consider also that there is a privilege that goes with running a business in SF. Small businesses are acutely aware of the benefit they derive from this. Should a big business, like Airbnb, be exempt from similar obligations?

    I don’t think so. I think Airbnb’s opposition to the proposed legislation is purely a matter of self interest. Will they pull out of SF if the legislation passes? I doubt it, the market is too big here.

  15. Not if you think about it. When platforms become liable for the legal compliance of every room listed on them, it ceases to become economically viable for them to list anything in those cities.

    Uber and Lyft just pulled out of Austin because voters passed a “reasonable” regulation that essentially made ride-hailing uneconomic there.

    Something like this would force Airbnb to shut down services in SF. Then if you want to list a STR, you’d have to find another platform willing to take the economic risk. Probably the legally compliant hosts won’t choose to take on the liability themselves, and they’ll go back to leaving their rooms empty. But the big landlords who are breaking the law will use their own services or Craigslist to get their STRs listed.

    People who are advocating for policies like the one above aren’t thinking through how the market will adapt, and how that could make the problem worse. None of this would be necessary if SF law enforcement would enforce the law.

  16. You cell phone knows your speeding on the freeway. So is the cell phone provider like Apple responsible for enforcement of driving laws?

  17. “Just like Prop F, this law would make legal hosting almost impossible.”

    This statement makes absolutely no sense.

  18. No it won’t get dealt with. City government lacks the resources (and maybe the will) to enforce the STR law on the books. The only way it’s going to work is if the city requires the hosting platforms to list permit numbers for all those who are hosting. Simple solution.

    Why is Airbnb opposing it? They don’t want the STR law to work and are enlisting their hosts in a hypocritical effort to defeat it.

    The tweet above is priceless. In it’s $8 million plus campaign to defeat Prop F, Airbnb said the measure would turn neighbors into spies. Now it’s telling us that neighbors, not corporations, should be the ones to help police unlawful STRs.

    The article is right. The STR platforms and hosts are twisting themselves into knots trying to stop the eminently reasonable Peskin/Campos legislation. Sort of like the GOP trying to come to terms with Donald Trump.

  19. The author of this “story” is the one who needs to be regulated. Yes, more homesharers in SF with active listings should be registered with both the treasurer & planning departments. Us compliant hosts are actively volunteering our personal time to promote & facilitate registration workshops yet registration numbers are not increasing. Fining the platforms is an outrageous concept purely meant to further vilify them. If the city makes registration less complicated, and funds the planning department with more enforcement staffing perhaps the situation will improve. Enforcement is complaint driven but if existing resources are stretched of course it’s bound to not meet expectations. Enforcement is a city responsibility, not a platform responsibility.

  20. Bruce didn’t buy that BMR condo, I his husband did before I met him. That unit is rented to a BMR qualified person. So sigmarlin instead of looking shit up on public tax rolls you should engage in meaningful dialogue with the correct party who happens to be me.

  21. Why are we talking about AirBnb like they’re GE or Wal-Mart, first off?

    It’s just not that dire. We’re talking about a few thousand units, and some are legit and helping real middle class property owners.

    Pretending they’re the root of the housing crises or causing a rampant increase in Ellis Acts hasn’t proven true, and a lot of people benefit from using AirBnb when first moving here, or living here temporarily.

    What’s absurd is opposing the idea of short term rentals entirely, which is what critics are saying when no amount of regulations is enough for them.

  22. Correct, a liquor store would be fined for selling to a minor. And a short term rental host should be fined for renting illegally. But what Fieber is suggesting above is that every newspaper or website that accepted an ad from that liquor store should also be fined, and that legally compliant liquor stores should get on board with this. (Even though it’s obvious how this would be negative for every place that sells liquor legally too.)

    Just like Prop F, this law would make legal hosting almost impossible. The proponents either can’t see this (because they don’t get how economics work on the web) or won’t admit to this (because they want to eliminate the ability of everyone to rent out even a room).

  23. you obviously did not read the post 4 above this. I am not defending airbnb….there are OTHER platforms that people will go to and zero tax dollars collected and thus is your problem.

    PS – I called 48 hills as NON reporting but opinion. It is twisted as ever like Fox News. It is not based on anything other than someone’s opinion. Take for example the story on the huge donation by airbnb. But if you are smart and dig a bit deeper you get to read about how 100K went to the prop that ALL supervisors support yet 48 hills lumps it all together to make them look worse. But good luck again with 48 hills spewing out the anti tech message etc. You just come across as angry people. IMHO.

    Good bye and good luck at the polls.

  24. Which arguments would that be? You called everything in this article fake; its not. And you defended airbnb’s right to break the law. That’s some pretty airtight b.s.

  25. I continue to be amazed at folks who can not get over you lost on Prop I and Prop F. You lost by double digits. That is not close. You will continue to lose due to the lack of fighting the above argument of Property rights over Renters rights. IMHO. Good luck see you at the polls. Not being nasty you just can’t refute any of my arguments.

  26. I continue to be amazed by the nastiness of the true believers of hosting. I feel sorry for the unsuspecting guests who book these and then have to deal with psychopaths like Bruce for a week. xo!

  27. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is Dale Carlson….by seeing how long you have been commenting for over 3 years…..now. I am sure I am not suffering, and no its not a condo. I really do not care what you think because I believe in property rights over renters rights. Its my house and I should be able to do STR, LTR or not at all.

    And I would say that if Calvin Welch or Dale Carlson alone shared their MANSIONS, people i mean need your spare rooms. At least we are sharing with people who are interns, students, people relocating for jobs, people relocating with pets etc. and people who can not afford to come to sf. THOSE are the people I care about vs the supposed hotel shill you are.

  28. You do realize there is due process of law, which is probably why they are not removed immediately. Every go through the legal system, starts with complaint and then back and forth until resolved. It can take a long time. But it will get dealt with.

  29. Meet Bruce Bennett. Superhost of his condo which he bought many years ago and enjoys low Prop 13 taxes–but boy does he suffer. Be careful how you engage with him though, because his favorite online ploy is to release personal info of Prop F supporters and cyberbully anyone who disagrees with him.

  30. They are profitting off of illegal, unregistered units. Prop F aside…short-term rentals were 100% illegal before airbnb had its way with David Chiu. Most are still illegal if you are not registered with the city. Do you really think a business doesn’t need to follow local laws? A liquor store would get huge fines for seling to a minor; same should apply to Airbnb.

  31. That was my point: two places got busted and then they said fuck you. I included the enforcement letter for 817 Oak below.

  32. 817 Oak abatement was last year. The address is under enforcement again as of 4/20/16, pending review. 1651 Page was abated 2014. It likewise is under enforcement again, also pending review. See http://propertymap.sfplanning.org/

    Inside Airbnb data suggest at most 1,500 units have been converted.

    Meanwhile, over the last twenty years San Francisco added around 30,000 units too few for city dwelling unit growth rate to keep up with growth of state population.

  33. Yes, I reported those and have reported fifteen or so others in the past six months. 817 Oak Street had a recent notice of enforcement posted on the door, but someone (let me try to guess who …) removed it.

  34. None of them is has a permit from the planning department to have short term rentals. I looked each of them up. That’s how I found out the two got caught last year and then said Fuck you to the city. I mean, even David Chiu should be mad since he let Airbnb write the legislation for him.

  35. Why? Airbnb and others are enabling thousands of units to be removed from long-term residential use.

  36. ok, so what parts of this article are “fake” and could you be specific? that’s all I’m asking as I’m genuinely curious which parts are fake. Go on:

  37. How can anyone “help Airbnb break the law” when Airbnb isn’t breaking the law? Or are you saying that participating in the democratic process, to prevent a bad law from passing, is itself a form of accessory to breaking the future law that does not yet exist?

  38. Ever watch Fox News? That is my point. They are far right. This is far left. There are half truths in what Tim Redmond writes or his staff. IMHO.

  39. In the past couple of weeks, I have reported multiple illegal hotel units (see partial list below).

    Both 817 Oak and 1651 Page “abated” a previous violation and almost immediately returned to illegal hotel use. Obviously, Airbnb likes the cash flow, and the owners who illegally converted these units like the high profits they get from illegal conversion.

    1314 Eddy is a three bedroom, 2 bath house that has had hundreds of people staying in it since it became a hotel last fall. The new owners don’t live there – they bought the house so they could keep buying crap for themselves like the Range Rover that’s too big to fit in the garage of their hotel.

    1400 Webster St #6 is part of the St. Francis Square Cooperative. Rentals there must be approved by the board, and short-term rentals will never be approved there.

    There are also place like 1600 Baker St ( https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/4033038?s=3Gbhl2qW ) and 1262 Fulton St ( https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/9462355?s=wKdL_kZP – also on Craigslist http://sfbay.craigslist.org/sfc/sub/5572006632.html ) that have permits for short-term rentals, despite the fact that they are NOT owner occupied so are not eligible to for the short-term rental program under Ordinance Number 218-14.

    In the meantime, the real estate lobby/SuperPAC will blame Prop I supporters for the housing crisis that is certainly exacerbated by the illegal conversion of thousands of apartments to hotels, rather than themselves for opposing Prop G (Ellis Act speculator tax) and Prop F (meaningful controls for short-term rentals). Of course, it needs to be pointed out that the crisis is lopsided: after two years, the NEMA at 10th and Market still has available apartments. So too does the newer Civic at Polk and Hayes. That is, if you can pay “market rate.” Several weeks ago, the line for affordable units at the Civic was out the door and extended down the sidewalk.

    Just a few of the thousands of illegal short-term rentals on Airbnb

    1314 Eddy St https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/11338538?s=Xoqkxa9G

    817 Oak St https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/10945285?s=MCH6zTtx

    1651 Page St https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/455074?s=4E2H8CTJ

    653 Fell St https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/756670?s=rlnBzEV-

    225 Sanchez St https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/8237460?guests=1&s=-QZvPoWa

    861 Hayes St https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/26408?s=Y05ZHPna

    711 Page St https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/845132?s=Y05ZHPna

    850 Steiner St https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/201579?s=RcIIbaNi

    3524 19th St https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/4571468?s=I247oos9

    3632 18th St https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/10767017?s=xt_tg8qt

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