This weekend Airbnb held its first-ever conference for hosts in San Francisco. Inside, executives restated the company's goal to win a Nobel Peace Prize. Outside, local cops allegedly shoved housing activists who were protesting Airbnb's role in the eviction crisis, confining demonstrators into a "free speech" pen.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee announced Thursday that he's running for re-election. Four days later, his campaign already hit its first setback. Sen. Dianne Feinstein told the Chronicle that she's not ready to endorse him for a second term, citing concerns with local Airbnb laws. Maybe she's looking at the alternatives?
San Francisco got little right with their Airbnb-legalizing legislation. The home-renting startup has been accused of illegally lobbying to get the bill passed. Airbnb also helped regulators write portions of the law. Now HomeAway, the Airbnb competitor that runs VRBO, is suing to get the law overturned because it was designed with only one company in mind.
For much of Ed Lee's first term as Mayor of San Francisco, he enjoyed both the popular support of the public and the financial backing of tech tycoons. Last March, a stunning 65 percent of local voters approved of Lee's handling of the job. Then the Google Bus protests happened, the cost of living kept rising, and evictions hit crisis levels. Within 13 months, Lee's approval rating sunk by 20 points.
While San Francisco is rolling over for Airbnb, New York's attorney general is going after the so-called "home sharing" startup. After subpoenaing records from thousands of Airbnb's New York users, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has issued a report on the $10 billion rental site's impact on the city. What he found isn't pretty.
When San Francisco began considering legalizing Airbnb, the flourishing startup was quick to ingrain itself in the political process. Airbnb's lobbyists secretly helped author favorable legislation, then created an astroturfing organization to strike down the sections they didn't like. And now that the legislation has passed, Airbnb's investors are rewarding their City Hall stooge with a smear campaign against his electoral opponent.
Airbnb just got its very own law! San Francisco Board of Supervisors agreed to "legalize but rein in short-term residential rentals by passing the so-called 'Airbnb law.'" Hopefully that marks the end of "almost cult-like" Airbnb proselytizers who followed Supervisor Eric Mar around a farmer's market.
San Francisco's District Attorney has already charged the UberX driver who allegedly used a hammer to beat passenger with two felony counts for assault and battery. But the victim, Robert Chicas, will have a harder time suing Uber directly for an attack that left him hospitalized for three days with a fractured skull, reports Forbes.
In recent months, Airbnb has come to resemble a political operator that happens to run a hotel network. As politicians and governments on both coasts turn the screws on the $10 billion startup, the startup continued its astroturfing campaign against San Francisco's so-called "home sharing" legislation and blanketed New York's subway system with ads. But their latest political promo is their most cynical yet.
San Francisco's politicians have been working hard to make nice with Airbnb. They even let Airbnb's lobbyists make the city's "home sharing" regulations more liberal, allowing homeowners to host with Airbnb without obtaining an expensive bed and breakfast permit. But now that the proposed rules have been amended by the city's Planning Department, the company is staging protests against them.
Airbnb has been losing control of its brand in recent weeks, with headlines dominated by squatters and their new boob-butt-balls brand. But the sharing economy startup is trying to shift the story back to their favor, and they're employing corporate America's favor PR trick to get there: greenwashing.