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Airbnb’s Political Buyout

May 5, 2016

By Chris Roberts : sfweekly – excerpt

When two members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors — irked by the thousands of San Francisco housing units listed on Airbnb in violation of a 14-month-old local law “regulating” short-term rentals, yet still available to book — announced the possibility of holding “home-share” companies to account for their “hosts’ ” unlawful behavior, Airbnb was ready.

On April 22, a few days before Supervisors Aaron Peskin and David Campos floated the idea of charging Airbnb $1,000 per day per scofflaw listing — but the same day Airbnb learned of the potential problem via a press inquiry — Airbnb started writing checks, to other politicians…

In a boilerplate, one-line statement also offered to other media, an Airbnb spokeswoman said the cash shower “is one part of our growing effort to stand with those who fight for the middle class in San Francisco.” She did not respond to further inquiries. In a similarly brief email, Mary Jung, chairwoman of the DCCC and one of the recipients of a $5,000 check, said, “We appreciate all of the support we receive, from small donors to San Francisco-based innovators like Airbnb.” She also did not respond to other inquiries.

To Peskin, this is all about Airbnb investing in its own future. If he and Campos succeed in passing tougher rules for the company, Airbnb just happened to write checks to supervisors — Breed, Cohen, and Farrell (who was dinged by 48 Hills for possibly phoning Airbnb himself to ask for the check, something that may run afoul of local campaign finance law) — it wants to rely on to sustain a mayoral veto of those rules.

“They are supplicants, and they are doing everything in their power to have a Board of Supervisors that votes their way,” Peskin said. “Any way you look at it, this is political bullying.”… (more)

RELATED:

The lessons of last fall’s Airbnb campaign
By Calvin Welch : 48hills – excerpt

Last month, at its annual meeting in Puerto Rico, the American Association of Political Consultants gave the $10M Airbnb-financed No on F campaign its award for “Ballot Measure Campaign of the Year.”

One wonders if former Sup. Julie Christensen would be so fulsome in her praise of the No on F campaign, since she closely tied herself to Airbnb, introducing a series of amendments that greatly weakened an already weak ordinance purporting to regulate Airbnb just six months before the November, 2015 election — at which she decisively lost her campaign and her seat on the board, in large part due to the vote for Prop. F in District 3…

Yes on F got 1,100 more votes than Christensen (Yes on F, 8,352-Chrsitensen, 7,243) while No on F got only 26 more votes than did Peskin (No on F 8,726, Peskin 8,740).

Proposition F was sponsored by a very unusual coalition: the Labor Council and the Sierra Club, the Apartment Owners Association and the Tenants Union and the Housing Rights Committee, the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods and the Council of Community Hosing Organizations. These organizations had actual members and a track record over time in many communities that make up D3.

Indeed, on election day, yes on Yes on F actually won the district vote in D3 (as it did citywide). These organizations still exist and are still active in D3 long after the November, 2015 vote. And they are still together seeking amendments to the Airbnb legislation to protect neighborhoods and tenants from displacement.

Airbnb, on the other hand, had the best campaign money can buy, as attested by the AAPC award. It narrowly focused on defeating Prop F and prevailed. However, that campaign, no longer exists.  Neither does Supervisor Christensen.

There is a lesson for elected officials in this story: coat-tails come from coalitions… (more)

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