In addition to the counter-protest at Planned Parenthood, there was another demonstration event in Bernal Heights yesterday, but this second action was taken by neighbors who generate income by renting out space in their homes for vacation rentals. They call themselves Fair to Share San Francisco, and the Examiner tells the story:
It helped Marcia Weisbrut get on her feet after cancer. It paid for Rodolfo Cancino’s dental bills. It has allowed [Bernal resident] Greg De Meza to start paying off debts incurred during the recession.
The common thread in all their stories was the short term rental service provided by Airbnb, which is illegal in San Francisco.
The testimonials — some voiced over a P.A. system — were on display in a Bernal Heights backyard Thursday by groups launching the Fair to Share San Francisco campaign. The campaign’s aim is simple: Legalize the money-making short term rentals that Airbnb’s business model is built upon.
On hand to make their case were a collection of short-term rental hosts, representatives of Airbnb and Peers, a “sharing economy” advocate.
The push comes amidst efforts by local leaders to solve or at least ameliorate a severe housing shortage combined with steep rents, which some Airbnb opponents have linked to the company, among others.
Into that fray, the campaign aims to back legislation like Board of Supervisors President David’s Chiu’s proposal to regulate and legalize short term rentals.
The Examiner explains that Fair to Share has received substantial support from Airbnb — including the group’s basic organizational push, recruitment, brochures, and even the PA system used at the Bernal event. That’s not a bad thing — Airbnb and its hosts are a legitimate interest group with an interest in the City’s political process — but it is important to note.
In the article, Neighbor Emily, who launched the rather clever Airbnb concierge service we’ve told you about before, argued for the stabilizing effect that vacation rentals can have on San Francisco neighborhoods:
Emily Benkert, a 17-year city resident who rents out rooms in her Bernal Heights home and has started a business that helps people run their Airbnb rentals, said the service is not a detriment to The City. “This isn’t hurting anybody,” she said. “We’re not kicking people into the street.”
Instead, she argues, Airbnb’s absence would force people to leave San Francisco since the extra income they make is what allows them to stay.
PHOTO: Bernal neighbor Greg De Meza, by Mike Koozmin, SF Examiner