A day before San Franciscans are set to vote on regulations of short-term rentals in the city, dozens of housing and homelessness activists stormed the headquarters of Airbnb with megaphones and a brass band to protest home-sharing.
Social media video showed protesters shouting, “No more displacement in this city!” Monday afternoon from the atrium of the company’s offices at 888 Brannan St. The protesters released paper houses, lofted by balloons, with messages like: “Evictions. Love, AirBnB.” and “Homelessness. Love, AirBnB,” SF Weekly reported.
A spokesperson for Airbnb could not immediately be reached for comment.
On Tuesday, San Francisco residents will vote on Proposition F, casually known as the “Airbnb initiative.” The proposition would toughen the rules that hosts and platform providers must follow, such as limiting the number of nights a unit can be rented each year to 75, and would require quarterly reports to the San Francisco Planning Department on how a unit is used.
Proponents of the measure say companies like Airbnb are contributing to a lack of affordable housing in San Francisco because housing units are essentially being turned into hotel rooms and leading to more evictions.
On Monday, activists took over the Airbnb lobby for about 90 minutes as some of the company’s staff members watched from upper floors, SF Weekly reporter Julia Carrie Wong said on Twitter. Protesters, she said, yelled as a worker tried to remove the balloon-carried banners they had released.
The protesters brought pizza to the protest and gave it to homeless people afterward, Wong said.
Over the last few months, San Francisco residents have been bombarded with television commercials describing Proposition F as “unnecessary” and “extreme” while also receiving campaign literature that describes it as a “modest measure.”
Billboards sponsored by the No on Proposition F campaign, largely bankrolled by Airbnb, allege that Proposition F will lead neighbors to file frivolous lawsuits against one another, while proponents of the proposition have written op-eds in the San Francisco Chronicle saying that if it weren’t for neighbors complaining, the city wouldn’t do anything about rental violations.
Adding to the heat, many residents who previously didn’t have an opinion on Airbnb recently developed one, after the short-term rental company posted ads in the city’s Muni bus stops touting its tax coffers benefits. The ads took the form of letters to public agencies.
Among the messages on the ads:
“Dear Public Library System, We hope you use some of the $12 million in hotel taxes to keep the library open later. Love, Airbnb.”
Residents reacted negatively to the ads and Airbnb was quick to withdraw them.
The messages on the balloon banners at Airbnb headquarters on Monday were based on those ads.