A proposition that would have limited short-term residential rentals in San Francisco has failed, meaning the giant of them all Airbnb won its fight against Prop F, which received as much as 61 percent of votes against it. Had Proposition F passed, housing unit rentals similar to that of Airbnb's services would have been limited to just 75 days a year. According to vote by mail ballots, which make up nearly 15 percent of voters in the city by the bay, nearly 40,000 people voted against Prop F while just over 25,000 voted in favor of the measure.
In addition to limiting short-term rentals, Prop F would have also required Airbnb and similar services to provide owner authorization for units to be rented out in addition to submitting quarterly reports to the city for the sake of accountability. Units available for short-term rentals would not include in-law units, many of which already violate zoning codes to begin with. Units that are not authorized for short-term renting would have been subject to misdemeanor charges. Additionally, the passing of Prop F would have opened up the likes of Airbnb and VRBO to lawsuits, something both companies unsurprisingly wanted to avoid (and for good reason).
Airbnb certainly had numbers on its side, what with a boasted 138,000 San Franciscans having either stayed in an Airbnb unit or rented out one themselves. The company's sheer spending against Prop F is more than 16 times as much as funds raised by those in favor of the measure. The Internet Archive's measure of televised ad time from August to October shows that Airbnb's anti-Prop F spots ran for well over a day total compared to mere minutes from Prop F supporters. Tuesday's election results thus mark a major victory for the company.
The news comes as a less of a shock to Bay Area residents who have been inundated with snail mail advertisements and TV spots against Prop F that were sponsored by Airbnb, who poured well over $8 million into its campaign. This included a series of billboards and advertisements on bus shelters all over San Francisco with passive aggressive messages like: "Dear Public Works, Please use the $12 million in hotel taxes to build more bike lanes, like this one."
The ads were meant to highlight the fact that Airbnb had been paying steep hotel taxes in order to meet legal requirements to operate in the city. They were instead met with hostility from residents and swiftly removed. Airbnb issued an official apology and even reached out to the San Francisco Public Library, which they requested use the hotel taxes paid to the city to stay open later. SFPL has previously stated that they have a good relationship with Airbnb. Judging by the many votes against Prop F, it seems as if a majority of San Franciscans feel similarly positive about the company.