Sharing economy and the city's share

Remember when sharing was such a simple concept?

San Franciscans love to share: our homes and workspaces, our cars and bikes, our tools and the road, and sometimes even our lovers. But in these tight economic times, we often want a little something for our efforts – a bit of cash to use the guestroom or car – and that tradeoff has now ballooned into something its advocates grandly label the “shareable economy.”

But with everyone feeling the pinch, there's begun to be some push-back from those not getting in on the action, and that includes the Tax Collector's Office, which held a contentious hearing at City Hall this week on its proposal to start charging private residents who temporarily rent out a room the city's 14 percent hotel tax.

AirBnB, a website that facilitates these room rentals, seems to be the main target of the new rule, and the company turned out plenty of its customers to blast the proposal as something that would hurt low-income residents and travelers and hinder the connections they're making with each other. AirBnB acts as the financial middle man for the transactions and would be responsible for paying the tax.

“You are part of a movement about how resources are used, how hospitality is exchanged, how residents are empowered, and how economic opportunities are opened to diverse neighborhoods. These values are at the heart of who we are as San Franciscans,” the company wrote in a message to the customers it urged to turn out for the hearing.

The day before that hearing, there were a couple of related proposals launched at the Board of Supervisors meeting by Board President David Chiu and others. He introduced legislation banning the “hotelization” of apartments by corporations that let a rotating cast of employees use them, banning stays of less than 30 days in buildings with four or more units.

As an example of the problem, Chiu cited the Golden Gateway apartment complex in his district, where he estimated that 46 of the 341 units are rented by corporations, drawing the ire of other residents. “Hotelization reduces the already limited housing available to San Franciscans and creates quality of life issues for our residents,” Chiu said, touting support for the measure by the San Francisco Tenants Union. “We have to do more to protect rental housing in San Francisco.”

So, individuals renting out their apartments is good, corporations renting out their apartments is bad, right? Clearly, these are complicated issues with lots of competing constituencies at play. So Chiu also joined Mayor Ed Lee and Sups. Mark Farrell, Scott Wiener, and Jane Kim in creating a new Sharing Economy Working Group to examine the policy issues surrounding what they label “collaborative consumption.”

“The growing ‘sharing economy’ is leveraging technology and innovation to generate new jobs and income for San Franciscans in every neighborhood and at every income level,” Lee said in a press release. “As the birthplace of this new, more sustainable ‘sharing economy,’ San Francisco must be at the forefront of nurturing its growth, modernizing our laws, and confronting emerging policy issues and concerns.”

He also plugged a forum on The Sharing Economy that SPUR is hosting this Tuesday, featuring representatives from local companies involved in the economy: AirBnb, TaskRabbit, Getaround, Vayable, and Shareable. It's all very hip and new and tech-focused, well beyond the days I can still remember when “sharing” was a word not often connected to "economy." Sorry, that's just something I had to share.


Realistically, nobody in the city will ever know whether I occasionally let my spare room to a swedish tourist or not, so it makes little sense to pretend to think otherwise.

Also, visiting workers have to stay somewhere. Why outlaw their options?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 30, 2012 @ 5:38 pm

and those make word city jobs don't fund themselves.

The city makes money off tourists coming here already, it needs more ways to soak it out of them.

Posted by Steven Haaland Daly on Mar. 30, 2012 @ 9:59 pm

The Supreme Court may just do it soon anyway. It's hearing a case soon challenging rent control laws in NYC and this Supreme Court has shown that it respects private property rights above any type of supposed social benefit of restricting them.

Posted by Troll II on Mar. 30, 2012 @ 5:43 pm

Who mentioned rent control? You've got it all backwards, landlord or wanna be landlord.Those who need the money most are those in non-rent controlled apartments. Why not spend the weekend at your girlfriends while scamming some poor tourist into paying your outrageous rent. If you have rent control its not going to be worth the hassle...

btw, it is illegal to sublet your place for more rent than you pay. The rent board insures that rent controlled lease holders do not make a profit off of someone else's property.

If the city built more affordable housing as they are required to do under the City's Plan there might not be all this hating on each other.

Posted by Sigmarlin on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 11:43 am

more than you pay. That's not subletting because it is less than 30 days.

It is sublets for more than the rent you pay that isn't allowed.

A lot of people do overnight rentals.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 12:39 pm

what a concept :
unless it affects me
tax the other guy
too rich to pay
too poor to pay
who cares
no one know how to (read/count/work) in this country anyway...

Posted by Guest on Mar. 31, 2012 @ 3:03 pm

The "city family" pension is soooooo underfunded, that any or all steps must be taken..

Posted by Troll the IV on Mar. 31, 2012 @ 6:46 pm

a complete disaster - so keep raking it in and kicking the public employees to justify the big aversion to taxes...heaven forbid virtual real estate or on-line games or personal ads would be taxed-

Posted by Guest on Mar. 31, 2012 @ 8:29 pm

Their appetite is voracious.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 01, 2012 @ 12:31 pm

Either 50% of you lose your jobs, or 100% of you receive a 50% cut in pay and benefits.

Under that scenario, I'd be happy for them to choose which they want.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 01, 2012 @ 1:56 pm

Muni operators start at $26/hr. Do you think that is too much?

Posted by marcos on Apr. 01, 2012 @ 7:27 pm

...pensions. Do you think that is too little?

(At least they were not contributing one nickel as of one year ago- assume that has not changed.)

Muni's AWOL rate (not even bothering to call when not showing up for work) is 20% - do you think that is too low?

Muni operators get paid OT for sitting around doing nothing between, before and after shifts- do you think time and a half is too little?

Do I need to go on? If you don't think there is enormous waste in Muni's operation, you must be drunk.

City employees are stealing from residents.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 01, 2012 @ 8:08 pm

Do City employees most of whom don't live in SF, believe they own our streets and can charge us whatever exhorbitant fees they want for their exhorbitant compensation??

Sunday parking meters, soon to be evening meters, $75 parking meter tickets - anyone think it's ever going to stop? What's to stop the ongoing rape of SF's middle-class and poor by City employees?

We learned CLEARLY this week that Muni is ALSO funding the general fund and paying for routine SFPD duties. So instead of making SFPD pay its own $9 million bill, Muni elected to gouge the City's middle-class for $9 million more...Despicable.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 01, 2012 @ 2:46 pm

I absolutely agree that it is repugnant to demand people to pay on evenings and week-ends. This is particularly an issue because, increasingly, parking meters are in residential districts, meaning that people will have to run out in the evening and feed meters in their pyjama's. Or early on a Sunday morning. It's an outrage, especially if it is needed only so Muni workers can continue to get their outrageous pay and benefits.

But the payment from SFMTA to SFPD is reasonable if SFPD is providing public safety services to muni. If SFMTA want to hire their own cops instead, like BART does, they are free to do that. But either way, those police services have to be funded by SFMTA. It's not free.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 01, 2012 @ 3:24 pm Muni in certain cases and charging Muni big $ for it- things like funeral processions, issuing speeding tickets and managing traffic flow; i.e. routine police duties.

City employees are RIPPING US OFF plain and simple and it will continue if people don't wake up.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 01, 2012 @ 6:35 pm

Article on Ron Conway and the Mayor this morning.
So Air Bnb couldnt collect and distribite ant tax on these rooms? Why not?
Forget a sales tax increase from this voter.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 6:33 am

Bravo! Air bnb pays the hotel tax! It is only fair.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 04, 2012 @ 7:27 am