Airbnb Sponsors SF Pride
Airbnb, the Internet-based lodging sharing company whose name is often associated with San Francisco’s eviction controversy, has joined the city’s LGBT Pride parade and celebration as a major sponsor.
George Ridgely, executive director of the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee, the group that organizes the event, said Airbnb has contributed $100,000.
So far, response from the LGBT community has been muted.
"Honestly, we haven’t gotten much feedback here in the office, but when the announcement was made, there were a lot of people who were excited about it," said Ridgely.
One of this year’s grand marshals has criticized the move, though.
"Airbnb is problematic," said longtime housing advocate and queer activist Tommi Avicolli Mecca. "I think the biggest problem with [Airbnb] is landlords are using it in order to make a lot of money. They’re emptying a lot of apartments" and instead of renting to regular tenants, "they’re renting by night or by week" and "taking apartments off the market" that are "desperately" needed.
"I understand that Pride needs money," said Avicolli Mecca, but "I think they need to restructure and find a way to not be dependent on all this corporate money."
He added, "With the housing crisis being what it is, I don’t understand. I think it’s a bad move" and "sends the wrong message."
Asked how much Airbnb could be faulted for the evictions, Avicolli Mecca said, "The company has to be living in a cave somewhere not to know what’s going on in San Francisco."
Criticism of Pride sponsors has become routine over the years. The organization’s teaming with alcohol and technology companies regularly draws at least some community protest, but heightened concern over evictions across the city make the Airbnb announcement stand out this year.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera in April filed two lawsuits against what his office called "short-term rental scofflaws" for illegally converting apartments into tourist lodging, which at least one of the property owners marketed through online platforms that included Airbnb.
Also in April, Board of Supervisors President David Chiu introduced legislation that would require residents to register with the city’s Department of Building Inspection for permission to rent short-term. It would also require companies like Airbnb to collect and remit hotel or transient occupancy taxes, among other provisions.
Chip Conley, Airbnb’s head of global hospitality and strategy, wasn’t immediately available for an interview, but in a statement to the Bay Area Reporter, he said he’s participated in Pride "for many years, and I’m proud that Airbnb is sponsoring the work of this organization."