By Michael R. Shannon
Leftists have been so successful at turning San Francisco into a "social justice" paradise that it's getting harder for the rank–and–file cultural socialist to afford to live there. Statists who are already residents are being squeezed by higher property taxes and rising rent, while lefties who make their own Hajj to Bagdad–on–the–Bay and want to remain in the city can't afford to buy or rent.
What's a libertine to do?
In San Francisco they try to take out their frustration on someone else's success. It's the "social justice" way. In this instance the housing covetous tried to pass a referendum that would limit the number of days a resident could rent his house or apartment to tourists. This makes perfect sense in San Francisco the city that wants to register your guns and your spare bedroom.
The ballot initiative was called Proposition F officially and the Airbnb referendum colloquially. For those unfamiliar with the company, Airbnb is Uber for houses. Uber participants loan their car and their driving skill to the company in return for access to its app. The app then matches drivers with hot single women who get in your car all alone and pay for the privilege.
Something seems wrong about that last paragraph. I know! Sexual assault is a bug, not a feature. Uber just wants to match drivers who have a car and time on their hands with men and women who have a destination in mind and are willing to pay strangers to get there. As a result a company whose entire inventory consists of a list of drivers and a second list of passengers is worth billions of dollars.
Naturally Airbnb wants to get in on that action — not the assaults – just the valuation. Airbnb matches San Francisco residents with a spare bedroom, basement or hidden dominance room with other people who need a place to stay or be spanked while in town.
Do–it–yourself Hilton has always seemed to be a risky way to make money. Giving the keys to your home or apartment to a bunch of strangers while you leave town is the equivalent of Uber having you toss the car keys to someone you just met at WaWa. Some homeowners return to a dumpster fire and at least one renter has been held as a sex slave — evidently the Uber driver didn't show up — but on the whole there are enough naive part-time landlords to make the system work.
So Airbnb is another company with two lists and a heap of enemies.
Market ignoramuses behind the referendum blame Airbnb for the high price of housing mostly because they are capitalists and deserve to be hated. Evidently they convinced themselves that if it weren't for Airbnb, and that devious profit motive, they would be invited to stay in those spare bedrooms for free. As one spokesperson told CBS, "These units should be used to provide much-needed housing for local residents instead of being rented to short-term tourists."
It's too much to expect residents to blame the real causes: Rent control, NIMBY fanatics, red tape–manufacturing city bureaucrats and confiscatory "historical designations." That would be calling into question the ideology they support lock, stock and no vacancy sign.
It's easier to build a new house in East Jerusalem than it is in San Francisco. As a result a 765 sq. ft. shack — built as relief housing after the 1906 earthquake — sells for $408,000 after a bidding frenzy. Now, after paying almost half a million for a glorified storage shed, the new owners will be able to do almost nothing to improve the building because it has a "historic" designation that imposes heavy fines if you remove the derelicts from the backyard.
Supply and demand dictates what when you have a very limited supply of housing and an ever–increasing demand prices are going to go up. But SF residents only understand the demand part of the equation, so they make demands using ignorance and a ballot box as weapons.
Proposition F would have limited nights a home or bedroom could be rented to 75 per year. Pocket Marriotts would have to file quarterly reports with the city and even worse neighbors could've formed an impromptu STASI and sued if their infrared cameras detected new heat signatures on the 76th day.
Airbnb pumped approximately $8 million into the "anti" campaign, while supporters could only raise $800,000 from unions and hotel owners who didn't want more competition. It was a good investment; Proposition F was defeated 55 to 45 percent, meaning locals can still have strangers and the strange in their domiciles for almost as long as they want.
Michael R. Shannon is a public relations and advertising consultant with corporate, government and political experience around the globe. He is a dynamic and entertaining keynote speaker. He can be reached at mandate.mmpr (at) gmail.com. He is also the author of Conservative Christian's Guidebook for Living in Secular Times (Now with added humor!).