Chris Lehane discusses Airbnb’s election victory and plans for expansion at Airbnb’s headquarters in San Francisco on Nov. 4, 2015. (Connor Hunt/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Airbnb policy head confident SF’s new ‘moderate’ tilt will favor tech giant

http://sfexaminer.com/category/the-city/sf-news-columns/on-guard/

Airbnb’s head of policy, Chris Lehane, is a maestro of timing.

Days before Mayor Ed Lee is expected to veto strict new rules for Airbnb in San Francisco that would place a hard cap of 60 days annually on all stays (hosted and unhosted), the former aide to Bill Clinton essentially declared long-term political victory in our foggy little town.

But so far, victory for Airbnb has meant strains to our housing stock, as reports abound of landlords evicting tenants to turn their apartments into full-time Airbnb rentals.

Pseudo-hotels for tourists are, of course, far more profitable than renting to long-term tenants.

In a conference call with reporters from across the U.S. on Wednesday morning, Lehane told On Guard the recent election cleared the way for a Board of Supervisors that is more friendly to Airbnb.

Lehane attributed Airbnb’s recent political losses — like Supervisor David Campos’
requirement that the platform only list users registered to home share in San Francisco — to the “decades-running battle between moderates and progressives over who controls The City.”

The tech giant is hopeful to “work with The City,” Lehane said. “Now, the Board of Supervisors will have a more moderate tilt, and we’ll be able to get there.”

On Guard heard ’round the bend that the moderate lock may not be as complete as Lehane thinks, thanks to the sway of some unions that recently elected moderate-allied Democrat supervisor, Ahsha Safai, may align with.

Dale Carlson of the organization Share Better SF has heard similar rumblings.

“As for Lelame [sic], he’s mistaken,” Carlson wrote in an email. “We have seven solid votes now and expect to have seven next year. Safai has made it clear to several people that he sides with us on Airbnb matters.”

I contacted Safai, but did not hear back by press time.

That brings the contingent of Airbnb critics potentially up to seven supervisors, one vote shy of a veto-proof majority.

Which brings us to the impending notch in the “win” column for Lehane this week.

The mayor has until Friday to issue his veto on a recently approved 60-day Airbnb hard cap, authored by Board of Supervisors President London Breed. There are only 1,700 short-term rentals registered with The City as required, but it’s estimated more than 7,000 hosts list properties to rent on Airbnb.

Progressives think it’s a near certainty the mayor will veto it, though his press office says he’ll simply consider what comes before his desk (which doesn’t tell us much).

But if Lee puts the kibosh on the 60-day cap, it’ll go back once more to the Board of Supervisors, where an approval vote of eight supervisors would block the veto.
Fat chance.

It’ll be among the last votes of the current board. With Scott Wiener off to Sacramento and Supervisor Mark Farrell recusing himself on home-sharing matters, only supervisors Katy Tang and Malia Cohen remain as swing votes to block it.

Tang has consistently voted against Airbnb regulations, and Cohen told On Guard earlier in the week that she doesn’t believe in the hard cap.

Even though it’s likely a done deal, you can still sound off to our mustachioed mayor at mayoredwinlee@sfgov.org.

On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at joe@sfexaminer.com, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter, and Facebook at Facebook.com/FitztheReporter.

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