Airbnb’s $8M Political Campaign vs. Proposition F

Airbnb ad in San Francisco

Airbnb has made headlines for reportedly spending a whopping $8,000,000 to defeat a San Francisco proposition to restrict short-term rentals. That translates into roughly $40 per voter of advertising from Airbnb alone, not including supporting tech lobbies.

I live in the heart of the city’s technology gentrification battle, the Mission District, where much of the animosity toward Airbnb began.

My experience seemed like a delightful way to give readers a sense of what an $8M campaign feels like in a small city. 

For a bit of background, critics, notably Mission District Supervisor David Campos, argue that professional Airbnb hosts have exacerbated the housing crisis by taking as many as 1,900 units off the housing market. Proposition F would restrict short-term rentals on Airbnb to just 75 days a year and give neighbors expanded powers to sue their neighbors. (Airbnb has released a series of reports refuting the study and arguing that it has a positive economic impact on the city.)

Though Airbnb has only around 5,000 rentals (compared to roughly 27,000 units in New York), the sharing economy giant is evidently worried that San Francisco could spark a viral backlash. In response, the company has literally blanketed the floors of my house with ads.


If that wasn’t enough, Airbnb is paying canvassing startups, such as Organizer, to send paid volunteers with scripted talking points to homes around the Mission.

Of course, they’re fighting against a considerable neighborhood backlash. Signs and even sidewalks are being co-opted by anti-Airbnb signs.

There is serious anti-tech blowback happening in San Francisco, and Airbnb wants to ensure that it doesn’t spread around the country.

The fight could be a sign of things to come all around the country.

For Airbnb, the future will be decided tomorrow (Nov. 3), as voters go to the polls.

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