One of the key ways we try figure to out what’s going on with San Francisco is by following the money. And in the race for District 3 of the Board of Supervisors, the lobbyist money is going in one direction: for Julie Christensen. The Ethics Commission Campaign Finance Dashboard shows that lobbyists have contributed $32,350 for Christensen compared to only $2,000 for Peskin.
Most of that pro-Christensen money came from Alex Tourk and his firm, Ground Floor Consulting. They’ve contributed $21,500 to Julie Christensen and the independent Expenditures supporting her!
Tourk has become the go-to lobbyist for tech companies in the City. He represents Airbnb, Lyft, Square, Salesforce, sf.citi, and Ron Conway, an early angel investor in Airbnb and Square.
Conway (a Jeb Bush-loving, former Republican who lives most of the time in Atherton) helped bankroll Ed Lee’s first campaign. He’s pitched in $120,000 to support Christensen. Back in April, Conway threatened other big money types that they would face repercussions if they supported Peskin, and he reportedly offered to launder others’ donations to Christensen.
Why the hell are Tourk and Conway so interested in electing Christensen? Well, in July she was the swing vote against tightening the rules on short-term rentals like Airbnb. If she had supported David Campos’s proposal or worked out a compromise between it and the Mayor’s proposal, Prop F never would’ve been on the ballot!
Instead, Christensen actually made amendments that weakened the Mayor’s proposed regulations, shifting the burden for reporting from hosting platforms like Airbnb to individual hosts.
Airbnb is now valued at $28 billion, and Conway stands to make millions from its future expansion. As we’ve said before, we have no problem with people who use Airbnb responsibly. But the City’s current unenforceable regulations have led to hundreds or thousands* of rent-controlled units being taken off the market and converted into full-time hotels. That’s why we’re voting for Prop F, and that’s one of many reasons why we’re voting for Aaron Peskin for District 3 Supervisor. Read more at our voter guide:
* Sources for estimates of the number of housing units removed from the market by short-term rentals:
The Budget and Legislative Analyst estimates that between 925 and 1,960 units citywide have been removed from the housing market from just Airbnb listings, and between 631 and 963 private rooms that could be rented to roommates. The loss of roommate opportunities is particularly upsetting, because that's the most affordable non-subsidized type of housing in the City.
Another resource is Alex Marquese’s “Airbnb and San Francisco: Descriptive Statistics and Academic Research” (starting on page 30 of the Planning Department report). He estimates between 500 and 1000 units are listed full-time on Airbnb. He doesn't attempt to estimate the number of full-time rooms in units.
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