Thursday, October 29, 2015

Proposition F isn't really about Proposition F at all

Proposition F - the anti-Airbnb ballot measure, for lack of a better pithy descriptor - has become the shitstorm of this election. It's turned comments sections from trash into Superfund-site-level toxic sludge, made Nextdoor even more hilariously unhinged, and filled everyone's mailboxes with the papertrash equivalent of 3 Examiners a day.  It hasn't helped that Airbnb is financing an anti-F campaign that makes the Willie Horton ad look like a Harvard debate club salon.

Forced to do what?  To report to the government when you're sleeping in your own bed, according to this not-at-all fearmongering and hilarious No on F ad.

The actual proposition tinkers with existing regulations in more or less minor ways - reducing the total number of nights you can rent out your place from 90 to 75, and allowing neighbors to sue you if they think you're violating the terms, along with some other stuff - but to hear the anti-Prop F people, you'd think it was the Apocalypse combined with the Cuban Revolution and now everyone will have to leave their houses and let a poor move in.  They also say the current system is working, which is patently bullshit, since we have a newly-operating full-time Airbnb hotel 2 doors down from our house and no one's doing shit about that.

As you can probably tell, I'm lowkey pro-Prop-F, but it doesn't make any difference because Airbnb's Gigantic Fun House of Money combined with a total voter turnout of about 48 people, most of whom work for Airbnb, pretty much ensures that they've got this one in the bag.

Still, it's become obvious to me this isn't actually about the proposition itself.  It's about two views of a changing San Francisco.  A lot of people (me, to some extent, included) see San Francisco changing quickly and, to their minds, unpleasantly, and Airbnb is a very visible, very loud manifestation of that.  Remember that nice family that lived down the street?  They had to move to Fairfield, and now their place has a kegerator instead of a playpen and it's like Phi Delt is recreating the Fall of the Roman Empire there every weekend.  To this group, Airbnb is a huge shining symbol of the New New San Francisco - Our Garbage City - where the tech companies shit all over it and do anything they want because there's a perfectly good city government that they paid good money for.  To them, Airbnb and Uber and all the rest are the New Boss, swaggering around town and telling them exactly how it's going to be now and why your way sucked and the new way is better and just shut up and look at your phone.  There's a velvet rope in front of Bi-Rite now, and it snakes through the Mission to the front doors of Vida.

The others side is a strange agglomeration of super-libertarians who are all IT'S MY PROPERTY I CAN DO WHATEVER I WANT and Tech Kids who think anything with a .com at the end shits out cotton candy and genuinely well-intentioned people who really do use Airbnb to rent out an extra room once in a while and don't understand why everyone is so pissed off about that.

So this isn't really a vote about whether or not you should be able to rent out your place for an extra 15 days or whether the busybody neighbor is actually going to get their shit together and calm the voices raging in their head enough to sue you, it's about fear of what this city's becoming or may have already become.  This observation probably isn't unique or even interesting, but maybe helps explain why everyone is so fucking worked up.  Maybe.

5 comments:

GG said...

Thank you, TK, you totally hit the nail on the head.

Oddly, I've noticed that there also seems to be a third group of people who have genuinely and significantly misunderstood the text of the proposition, and don't get that it's legal text and they may be misinterpreting it because they are not lawyers. I've heard so much about the "NEIGHBORS SUING EACH OTHER!" propaganda, but when I ask those people if they know that many laws of this type have a private right of action component because it's typically the best way to enforce them when local government is ineffectual (cough--every SF city agency--cough) -- in other words, this isn't anything new or surprising -- I mostly just get a blank stare. Anyway, I've given up any hope that this will pass, so I hope everyone enjoys having a vacation frat-house next door to them. Luckily, my neighborhood has CC&Rs, so I will be happy to offer pro bono legal help to my neighborhood association if and when they need to crack down on anybody in our 'hood who is doing this. :)

Rachel said...

This exactly, TK.

Thanks!

Michael Strickland said...

Good analysis of the many ambiguities.

But you also nailed it with this sentence, "It hasn't helped that Airbnb is financing an anti-F campaign that makes the Willie Horton ad look like a Harvard debate club salon." With every breath Ron Conway and his AirBnBers take, I become more fanatic about voting Yes on F.

TK said...

Thanks, everyone! I feel like together we can all stumble blindly into a New Age of Discontent.

Stoney said...

If I had been on the fence about voting yes for F, the No On F campaign would have swayed me to vote yes, anyhow. When you have a company spending that much money to resist regulation, you know there's a problem.