San Francisco has a love-hate relationship with Airbnb

Please make up your mind
Please make up your mind
Image: Jeff Chiu / AP
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San Francisco can’t make up its mind whether to move-in or evict its hometown startup. Eight years after it was founded on a couch in San Francisco, the city is Airbnb’s most avid user. A new Statista analysis found San Francisco has nearly double the listings per capita (9.8 per 1,000 inhabitants) versus any other city, based on InsideAirBnB data. (Airbnb cited its own similar statistics on San Francisco when we asked for confirmation.)

But the political war over Airbnb’s right to operate is pitting San Francisco’s progressive politics against the startup economy powering the city’s prosperity. Airbnb ran up major victories last year. The $30 billion company mobilized thousands of voters against an Airbnb-targeted ballot initiative, Prop F, to restrict rentals to 75 nights per year, force hosts to report rental income, and enable anyone living within 100 feet of a listing to file lawsuits against violators. It went down in defeat, with 56% against and 44% for it in the November ballot.

Airbnb now finds itself in a dog fight with the the city’s Board of Supervisors. The board voted 10-0 this month to require Airbnb and similar firms to register hosts with the city or face a $1,000 penalty per violation. It is now pushing for the company to remove unregistered hosts, which account for as much as 80% of total listings. The Los Angeles city planning commission just passed similar regulations and is awaiting approval from the LA city council.

The regulatory pressure seems to have ended any detente that existed between city officials and the company. Airbnb has argued that the registration rules are unfair, and filed suit in federal court. “For over five years, we have worked with City government to create fair rules for home sharing,” the company says in a statement. “Unfortunately, the rules do not work. There is broad agreement that the current registration process in the City is broken.”