Airbnb wages $8 million campaign to defeat San Francisco measure

Sun Nov 1, 2015 1:54pm EST
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By Heather Somerville

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Airbnb has spent more than $8 million and hired a top political operative to defeat a San Francisco initiative on the ballot Tuesday that could threaten the growth of one of the most valuable global technology companies.

Proposition F, which would limit short-term rentals, was brought by affordable housing advocates fed up with the city's housing stock being used as rentals for tourists while residents face skyrocketing rents and evictions.

For Airbnb, a defeat in its hometown of San Francisco would be mostly a symbolic blow. Should similar measures be introduced elsewhere, however, the company could face serious financial consequences.

At stake is its ability to continue adding rentals at the same speed, increase revenue and maintain its $25.5 billion valuation, all of which fall under greater scrutiny as it moves closer to an initial public offering.

Airbnb appears to be winning. A poll conducted Oct. 25-27 found 55 percent of respondents planning to vote against the measure, which would restrict short-term rentals to 75 nights per year and give neighbors greater power to sue rental property owners.

The poll was done by David Binder Research for the No on F campaign, funded by Airbnb.

The campaign Airbnb orchestrated against Prop. F, outspending supporters by nearly 30 times, suggests how fearful the company is.

"It doesn't want to give (regulators), or community activists, ideas that they can take on Airbnb," said Henry Harteveldt, founder of travel research firm Atmosphere Research Group.   Continued...

Cars wait for traffic near a residential construction project in downtown San Francisco, California April 16, 2015. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith