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What Does Proposition F Mean for Airbnb in San Francisco?

Founded in 2008 by Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, Airbnb has grown into an international success as a short-term rental service provider. The company has an estimated value of 25.5 billion and has hosts in 34 000 cities in 190 countries. It predicts making 900 million in revenue in 2015. This is compared to established hotel chain Hilton, for instance, which made 10.5 billion in 2014. It won’t be long, however, before Airbnb reaches the billion dollar mark in yearly profits too.

Beside its success, Airbnb controversies are all over the news. The city of Santa Monica recently banned “vacation rentals” that are under thirty days. Many neighbors expressed a loss of community as residents leave homes to make room for temporary guests.

Here in San Francisco, Proposition F on November’s ballot will create restrictions on who can be a host and limits length of stays to 90 days. It would require housing platforms and hosts to release quarterly reports on how many nights properties had been rented. Needless to say, Airbnb is not pleased with this proposition, spending 8 million dollars to fight with its campaign “No on F: It’s Just Too Extreme.” As San Francisco is Airbnb’s flagship city, the decision could have detrimental effects to the company everywhere.

Prop. F follows up on an ordinance that was put into effect February 1st to regulate and legalize short-term rentals in San Francisco, but city planners think it needs more work. Reporter for the San Francisco Examiner, Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez, had the opportunity to ask planning commissioner Dennis Richards what that would mean.

“When you put that [registration] number in the field, it goes to a database and comes back and says ‘good,’ just like a credit card,”

The ordinance was a step in the right direction, but the problem is that hardly anyone followed it -- most people renting out rooms or houses did not register in the database. Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia are not CEO’s in the traditional sense. As their bank accounts grow, laws are being broken in every state. As of February 2015, only 282 appointments were made to legalize residences for April 1st. That’s roughly four percent of existing Airbnb units. At this rate, it would take six years to register all the estimated 6200 units in the city. This also means that 96 percent of all short-term rentals operating in San Francisco are illegal.

So given all the talk about proposition F in the media lately, does it protect the rights of our citizens or does it go too far? I think it does protect the rights of San Francisco residents against a powerful company that has grown a lot in the past years without taking responsibility for its business tactics. Proposition F is not “too extreme” as Airbnb says, but is a justified attempt to regulate a very unstable marketplace right now. If I rented a place through Airbnb, I would want the assurance that my host was registered and playing by the rules. If not, I just won’t stay there.

These are my personal thoughts and not necessarily those of Near Me. What do you think of Proposition F? Leave your comments below or join the conversation @NearMeCo.

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