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Monday, October 27, 2014

Protesters Accuse Airbnb of Desecrating San Francisco's Neighborhoods

Posted By on Mon, Oct 27, 2014 at 11:25 AM

Community activists are scattering flowers and planting votive candles outside the mayor's office this morning as a symbolic memorial to San Francisco's neighborhoods, which, they say, will deteriorate as more and more people convert their homes and apartments into Airbnb vacation squats. 

Protesters convened on the Polk Street steps at 10:30 a.m. and marched to the mayor's office to protest his signing of David Chiu's controversial Airbnb legislation. The new law would allow tenants and homeowners to rent out units to tourists, so long as they register with the city and live on the property for 9 months out of the year. *It does not touch upon the estimated $25 million in back taxes that Airbnb owes San Francisco.

Critics, including U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, call this measure a blind capitulation to the $13 billion company. Protesters say the $25 million could be used to purchase new ambulances, fund public transit, or pay the annual salaries of 250 teachers or nurses — some of whom have joined today's protest.

That may sound like a compelling argument, but it's unlikely to sway the mayor, who has already cast himself as a fervent Airbnb supporter. And indeed, the mayor's team sent out a press release confirming that he signed the legislation before the candle wax had even begun dripping on his stoop.

It's well known that one of Airbnb's major investors, Ron Conway, is a friend and backer of Lee. Conway has also dumped some $75K into a committee that would boost David Chiu in the state assembly race by attacking his opponent, David Campos. Another early Airbnb investor, Reid Hoffman, contributed $600,000 of his own.

Clearly, the self-proclaimed "sharing economy" service has become a major political player in this town. The question, then, is whether we've completely perverted the term "sharing." After all, only a handful of politicos are benefiting from Airbnb's largesse.

*This story originally suggested that David Chiu's legislation forgave Airbnb's estimated $25 million in owed back taxes. In fact, it makes no mention of the outstanding debt.

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About The Author

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan was a staff writer at SF Weekly from 2013 to 2015. In previous lives she was a music editor, IP hack, and tutor of Cal athletes.

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