By Debra J. Saunders
San Francisco Chronicle.
Both proponents and opponents of San Francisco’s “Airbnb measure” — Proposition F — see the November ballot initiative as a David-versus-Goliath contest. Both sides also see themselves as David. And both sides have a point.
The measure would impose additional restrictions on short-term rentals. Supporters can claim to be the little guys because the deep-pockets opposition — headlined by the home-sharing technology platform Airbnb — has $8 million to bury the less than $400,000 raised by the “yes” campaign, according to proponent Dale Carlson.
Prop. F does have high-profile supporters, notably Sen. Dianne Feinstein, but when the other side outspends you 20-1, you can call yourself the underdog.
The No on F folks also stand for the little guy (or gal) who rents out a guest room to make ends meet.
San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener opposes the measure because “more and more of my constituents” rely on Airbnb.
Many are women, often older women, who are “house poor” and could not afford to buy the homes they bought years ago. They don’t want to take on a full-time roommate; they also enjoy the energy young travelers bring with them. “The one thing they have is that spare bedroom,” Wiener told The Chronicle Editorial Board last month. If Prop. F passes, “they are going to get thrown under the bus.”
The Yes on F folks have a populist message. As former San Francisco City Attorney Louise Renne put it, “The short-term rentals, in my view, are reducing the housing stock.” Tourists don’t belong in residential neighborhoods, the Yes side adds.
Speculators are buying properties so that they can cash in by setting up pseudo hotels that aren’t up to code. Something must be done.
Their remedy, however, threatens to cut into the income of middle-class residents — people like architect Kepa Askenasy, who told me last year she was “just trying to survive in this beautiful city and do it in a way that’s positive for everybody.”