Airbnb has made headlines for reportedly spending a whopping $8 million to defeat a San Francisco proposition to restrict short-term rentals.
This translates into roughly $40 per voter of advertising from Airbnb alone, not including supporting tech lobbies.
Much of the animosity toward Airbnb began in San Francisco’s Mission District, where I happen to live. My experience living in the Mission District shows what an $8-million campaign feels like.
For a bit of background, critics, notably Mission District Supervisor (San Francisco’s combined city-county council) David Campos, argue that professional Airbnb hosts have exacerbated the housing crisis by taking as many as 1,900 units off the housing market.
Proposition F would restrict short-term rentals on Airbnb to just 75 days a year and give neighbors expanded powers to sue their neighbors. (Airbnb has released a series of reports refuting the study and arguing that they have a positive economic impact on the city.)
Though Airbnb has only around 5,000 rentals (compared to roughly 27,000 units in New York), the sharing economy giant is evidently worried that San Francisco could spark a viral backlash. In response, the company has literally blanketed the floors of my house with ads.
If that wasn’t enough, they’re paying canvassing startups, such as Organizer, to send paid volunteers with scripted talking points to homes around the Mission.
Of course, they’re fighting a considerable neighborhood backlash. Signs and even sidewalks are being co-opted by anti-Airbnb signs.
There’s serious anti-tech blowback happening in San Francisco, and Airbnb wants to ensure that it doesn’t spread around the country. This could be a sign of things to come across the U.S., as both sides battle increasing scrutiny.
For Airbnb, their future will be decided tomorrow as voters go to the polls.
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