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Airbnb plays San Francisco for a chump

January 21, 2016

By : sfexaminer – excerpt


Planning Commissioner Christine Johnson received a text message from Nicole Wheaton, the Mayor’s Office appointments secretary, on the day of the Planning Commission’s Airbnb vote. (Courtesy S.F. Planning Department)

Hell’s bells, I’m not too proud to say it: We told you so, Mayor Ed Lee.

Well, more accurately, Planning Department Staff, Supervisor David Campos and a number of other parties (including On Guard) told Lee so. Lee defended Airbnb’s ability to make money, and he crippled his own Office of Short-Term Rentals to do it.

Let’s review.

Last year, the hot, in­-the­-weeds, so-obscure-it’ll-make-you-snooze debate of the year was a provision to require hosts on Airbnb and other sharing platforms to display their city­-provided registration numbers online.

It would aid government­-paid short-­term hotel hound dogs (regulators) to easily look up “home share” listings to quickly track lawbreakers.

This would save regulators hours, days, maybe weeks of sleuthing and work. The targets? Mostly Airbnb (or other home­-sharing platform) renters, who convert apartments into full-­time hotels.

Airbnb’s representatives fought the measure. Perhaps, some speculated, because it’d lose its most lucrative super­sharers — who are only lucrative because they skirt the law.

Mayor Lee tried hard to kibosh the measure, too. When the Planning Commission tried to pass a non-­binding resolution recommending The City require registration numbers be displayed online in April last year, seemingly everyone raised arms against it in an eight­-hour meeting: High­paid lobbyists, corporate shills and astroturf (fake) activists alike.

A staffer in Lee’s office, Nicole Wheaton Elliot, text-messaged a commissioner during the meeting to express the mayor’s displeasure with the commissioner’s vote to approve it.

That commissioner, Christine Johnson, then promised (via text) to change her vote.

Change it she did, and the provision vanished into the ether. Now, it’s back…

On Monday, the head of the Office of Short-Term Rentals, Kevin Guy, explained to a Board of Supervisors committee that he needs exactly that provision in order to catch illegal rentals quickly…(more)


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