A day before San Francisco decides on a measure that would limit residents' ability to list their homes for short-term rentals, housing activists flooded the Airbnb lobby in a protest that charged the company with increasing rental prices and evictions. A reporter for San Francisco Weekly documented the protest, which lasted for about 90 minutes in the lobby of the company's headquarters in the SoMa neighborhood.
Chanting "no more displacement," dozens of activists paraded around the large lobby on Brannan Street, accompanied by drummers and a group of musicians known as the Brass Liberation Orchestra. They also used helium balloons to float several parody signs above the lobby, bearing slogans such as "HOMELESSNESS" and "EVICTIONS" followed by the words "Love, Airbnb." The signs appeared to reference Airbnb's tone-deaf ad campaign against San Francisco's Proposition F, which the company scrambled to destroy a day after the ads appeared around the city.
"HOMELESSNESS: Love, Airbnb"
Airbnb has spent more than $8.3 million fighting Proposition F, which would make landlords limit short-term rentals to 75 nights a year. Polls have suggested the measure is likely to fail. The protest reflects residents' increasing angst about the soaring cost of housing the city, even as estimates of Airbnb's actual impact on housing costs vary widely depending on who is paying for the research. In any case, blaming Airbnb for evictions doesn't take into account the fact that San Francisco simply isn't building enough new housing for people who want to live here, regardless of the small-but-meaningful percentage of housing units that are short-term rentals for at least part of the year.
It's unclear how protesters were able to take over the lobby for such a lengthy period of time. Airbnb did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Housing and homelessness protest at Airbnb HQ continues pic.twitter.com/68cyzjxJYR— Julia Carrie Wong (@juliacarriew) November 2, 2015