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San Francisco Shoots Down Proposal to Limit Airbnb Rentals

Fight's not over.


Proposition F, the San Francisco ballot initiative that would have more tightly regulated home rental services like Airbnb, is dead. But that doesn’t mean Airbnb’s fight is over.

The measure was defeated by a 55 percent to 45 percent margin, marking a resounding victory for companies like Airbnb and HomeAway. Airbnb spent more than $8 million to defeat Proposition F, which it claims would have cost the city of San Francisco $58 million in tax revenue over ten years. In the days leading up to the vote, Airbnb polling put its margin of victory at 19 points.

The months-long battle over Proposition F characterized a larger debate in San Francisco over widening economic inequality, a lack of affordable housing and the tech industry’s role in civic life. The ballot initiative’s proponents argue that the current laws on the books to regulate services like Airbnb aren’t enforced and that they have a negative effect on the already-limited housing supply in the city. Airbnb says it provides vital tax revenue for the cities in which it operates and that it helps keep people in their homes who would otherwise be forced out because of rising cost of living.

And while Airbnb has now successfully fended off what would have been a serious setback in one of its oldest (but not necessarily biggest) markets, the company now faces the possibility of activists across the globe launching similar efforts to rein in the fast-growing unicorn startup.

From Re/code’s earlier reporting on what comes next for Airbnb after Proposition F:

The risk for Airbnb is that winning in San Francisco is really a pyrrhic victory; if it demonstrates that it’s willing to pour millions of dollars into waging ugly political fights, activists elsewhere may try their luck on the ballot or in political arenas.

Dale Carlson, co-founder of the pro-Proposition F group ShareBetter, says that his team has “had conversations with both elected and community leaders all over the country.”

“They’re wrestling with the same phenomenon. It is conceivable there could be a number of ballot initiatives in a number of cities around the U.S. next year,” Carlson said. “Instead of Airbnb spending $12 million, it could be $100 million.”

In addition to the fight over the ballot initiative, another significant political battle concluded tonight.

Proposition F supporter Aaron Peskin defeated rival Board of Supervisors candidate Julie Christensen, winning 53 percent of votes. Although Mayor Ed Lee was reelected with 57 percent of the votes, Peskin’s win is a defeat for Mayor Lee that could signal future challenges at City Hall for Airbnb and the tech industry.

After the results came in, Airbnb sent Re/code this statement:

“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. This victory was made possible by the 138,000 members of the Airbnb community who had conversations with over 105,000 voters and knocked on 285,000 doors. The effort showed that home sharing is both a community and a movement.”

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