Airbnb opponents and backers held a pair of rallies at San Francisco’s City Hall on Tuesday as city officials continue to consider regulating short-term rentals and the increasingly popular practice of home-sharing. Airbnb, currently valued at $10 billion based on a recent round of venture financing, has operated in a legal gray area until now.
In the morning, a coalition of landlords and housing advocates condemned home-sharing, arguing that vacation and short-term rentals are squeezing affordable housing out of the city. Supervisor David Chiu has proposed legislation that would require Airbnb hosts to pay San Francisco‘s hotel tax and create a public registry of hosts.
But opponents says Chiu’s proposal doesn’t go far enough. A group that includes housing activist Calvin Welch, former planning commissioner Doug Engmann and PR executive Dale Carlson is calling for placing much tougher restrictions on short-term rentals. Their proposal would restrict Airbnb rentals to neighborhoods with commercial zoning, and it would require hosts to show proof of insurance.
On Tuesday afternoon, Airbnb backers held a rally of their own in response to the proposed rule changes.
Victoria Schaller came to the rally with her dog, Princess. Schaller has done some cleaning for Airbnb hosts. “I support it because it helps people make a little extra money,” she said.
She was joined by Tish Kronen, who rents out her home through Airbnb. “I’m going through a divorce, and if I didn’t have this, I don’t know if I’d make it through.”
Ken Goff has been an Airbnb host in the past, but he doesn’t currently have a spare bedroom. Still, he attended Tuesday’s rally at Civic Center Plaza. “I believe really strongly in letting small businesses use technology to make money,” he said.
The Airbnb debate has some similarities to the controversy over ride services such as Lyft and Uber. Frank Fahy drives a taxi in San Francisco, and he has watched a lot of business go to ride services recently. “Everyone who has a car is getting into the taxi business,” he said.
To supplement is income, he started renting out his house as a short-term rental a couple months ago. But he’s worried that new restrictions will prevent him from continuing.
Kathryn Blum rents a spare guest room in her Potrero Hill home, which brings business to the neighborhood, she argued. “It’s my property — I want to be able to do with it as I choose. But I don’t think the harsh regulations will let me keep my home.”