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An online petition calling on San Francisco to overhaul laws that allow landlords to evict tenants for hosting on Airbnb has amassed more than 26,000 signatures, fueled by social media and a hand from the giant hospitality website.
“People should be made aware that current law is allowing this to happen,” said Peter K., a retired educator who started the petition a week ago. Peter asked to withhold his last name because he rents to Airbnb visitors in his San Francisco home and wants to avoid any trouble with city authorities until the law is clarified.
The petition was motivated by stories in The Chronicle about Airbnb hosts who received eviction notices from their landlords for “illegal use” — violating the city’s ban on rentals of less than 30 days, he said.
Peter launched his petition on Peers.org, a nonprofit that supports the “sharing economy” — marketplaces for renting, selling or bartering people’s unused assets, such as rooms, cars and skills.
Since the petition was started, Board of Supervisors President David Chiu introduced legislation that would legalize Airbnb hosting. Under the proposed law, hosts must reside in San Francisco, register with the city and cap rentals at three months a year, among other provisions.
Peter, who leads Home Sharers of San Francisco, an organization that represents more than 750 short-term rental hosts, said he applauds Chiu’s “bold step” and hopes the petition will allow the group to shape the legislation.
“This will help us in lobbying for improvements,” said Peter, who voiced concerns about the registry’s privacy implications and the lack of provisions for single-family homes.
Airbnb e-mailed the petition to “people who care about Airbnb in San Francisco,” according to spokesman Nick Papas. Peers.org, which has 250,000 members, shared it widely and promotes it on the group’s home page. A quarter of its signatories are from San Francisco-area residents, the group said.
Arun Sundararajan, a New York University business professor, said the petition underscores “how grounded sharing economy issues are in the lives of individuals.”
Unlike platforms like Facebook and Google, whose direct financial benefits are limited to venture capitalists and employees, Airbnb has “hundreds of thousands of hosts spread around the country and world who rely on it for income,” he said.
Airbnb just closed a $500 million round of funding led by private equity firm TPG that values the company at $10 billion, according to the website TechCrunch. Its total backing is $826 million.
Peers.org describes itself as a grassroots organization but some critics have assailed it as “Astroturf” because it was co-founded by Airbnb global head of community Douglas Atkin. A group of for-profit companies, including Airbnb, support Peers.org. Executive Director Natalie Foster said it has not received funding from Airbnb. The organization receives funding from foundations and individuals.
Peers.org provides technology to enable “age-old community organizing tactics,” she said. “I see the petition as a first step for people who are organizing themselves to update the law so it encourages home sharing.”
Peter’s petition is the second-biggest one Peers.org has hosted, Foster said. The biggest one also focuses on Airbnb’s legality. Started in October, it calls on the New York legislature to clarify the status of short-term rentals. The petition now boasts more than 234,000 signatories.
Peers.org ran a crowdfunded ad about the benefits of home sharing in New York, and organized hundreds of supporters to visit elected officials there “to tell their personal stories about the impact home sharing has made in their lives,” she said.
(c)2014 the San Francisco Chronicle. Distributed by MCT Information Services.