SAN FRANCISCO – An expensive fight over Airbnb here ended with voters opposing a measure that would have restricted short-term rentals.
Proposition F would have limited users of Airbnb and other short-term rental sites to renting out rooms, houses or apartments short-term for no more than 75 days a year, down from the current 90 allowable.
Airbnb spent more than $8 million to oppose the measure. Supporters, who included hotels, hotel unions and housing advocates, spent closer to $800,000, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Fifty-five percent of voters opposed Proposition F and 45% were in favor, with 100% of precincts reporting late Tuesday, the San Francisco Department of Elections said.
“Tonight, in a decisive victory for the middle class, voters stood up for working families’ right to share their homes and opposed an extreme, hotel industry-backed measure,” Airbnb spokesman Christopher Nulty said in a statement.
ShareBetter SF, the coalition that backed Prop. F, said it was prepared to go back to the ballot to ensure residents and neighborhoods are protected from what it called “abusive” short-term rentals that take housing off the market and harm neighborhoods.
“Airbnb could choose tomorrow to help rid the city of the abuses of short-term rentals by allowing only legally registered listings on its platform. It refuses to do so. Until that attitude changes we will keep pushing for stronger, enforceable regulations,” said spokesman Dale Carlson.
In a city grappling with a housing shortage and much angst over a flood of tech wealth that is changing the character of some neighborhoods, San Franciscans had been bombarded with ads, fliers and signs about the proposed measure over the past month.
Prop F would have required Airbnb hosts to submit quarterly reports to the city detailing how often they rented to travelers and how many days they themselves lived in their home. Short-term rental of in-law units would have been illegal.
Building owners would have been notified by the city if their renters were renting out their units short-term, as would everyone who lived within 100 feet of the unit being rented.
Under current San Francisco rules, enacted earlier this year, only permanent residents may rent out rooms or their entire house or apartment for fewer than 30 days. They must register with the city and pay a 14% hotel tax on what they earn from those rentals.
Proponents of the measure say Airbnb rentals are driving up prices and taking much-needed rental units off the market when San Francisco is in the midst of a severe housing shortage.
Opponents say short-term rentals allow middle-class residents to make money from unused rooms, allowing them to stay in an increasingly expensive city.
Proposition F was brought to ballot as an initiative by a petition drive. It required majority voter approval to pass.
The battle was not just over housing, but in many ways a referendum on the changes tech money has brought to famously tolerant San Francisco in the past years, raising prices and turning a more working- and middle-class city into one with prices closing in on New York.
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