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Airbnb does victory lap after Proposition F defeat, but it's not over yet

Airbnb does victory lap after Proposition F defeat, but it's not over yet
A sign urging voters to defeat Proposition F hangs over a shop in San Francisco. (Josh Edelson / AFP/Getty Images)

Airbnb celebrated at its San Francisco headquarters Wednesday, with the company's head of global policy and public affairs Chris Lehane boasting about winning the vote in nine of the city's 11 supervisorial districts Tuesday to defeat the contentious ballot measure to restrict short-term rentals, Proposition F.

And while there were smiles all around at Airbnb HQ, there was also a sense that the battle isn't over. In fact, it's only beginning.

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Lehane signaled this by announcing that the $25-billion company would help launch 100 home-sharing clubs around the country by the end of 2016 to mobilize short-term rental hosts and guests -- the same kind who helped Airbnb vote down Proposition F -- and "bring together voices of middle-class families to talk about … their interests in sharing their homes."

Some cities already have such clubs, such as the Home Sharers Democratic Club of San Francisco and the Anaheim Rental Alliance, which regularly meet to discuss home-sharing best practices and short-term rental regulation.

The Home Sharers Democratic Club in San Francisco was a vocal opponent of Proposition F in Tuesday's city election and rallied members and other local residents to vote against it.

"San Francisco is where home-sharing grew, and because of this election, it's where our community grew into a movement," Lehane said. "It's where our hosts and guests organized themselves and became a political force."

This political force could prove valuable to Airbnb and other short-term rental platforms, especially as cities around the world consider tightening regulation on short-term rentals.

"The way we see it, this was just Round 1 of however many rounds in however many places this issue is going to be fought," said Rob Stephens, cofounder of Avalara MyLodgeTax, a service that helps short-term rental businesses be tax compliant.

According to Stephens, Airbnb may have won the election through the defeat of Proposition F, but it was far from a landslide victory, with 45% of votes supporting the proposition.

The measure would have imposed restrictions on short-term rentals, such as limiting the number of days a unit could be rented out and requiring more comprehensive data reporting of hosts and platforms.

Short-term rentals remain a contentious issue in the city, and it's "percolating behind the scenes" in places such as Los Angeles and San Diego.

"This is happening everywhere," Stephens said. "If anything, this election was a wakeup call for the industry. They have to focus on being complaint and they have to put more resources into that, otherwise they risk what we just experienced -- imagine if Prop F had gone the other way," he said. "So there's a long ways to go."

Twitter: @traceylien

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