Renting isn't sharing

Share conference outlines the possibilities and pitfalls for a new economy at the crossroads

Green for All's Nikki Silvestri and venture capitalist Ron Conway

Last week's two-day Share conference in San Francisco came at an auspicious moment for companies that define themselves as part of the new "sharing economy," which ranges from peer-to-peer services and products brokered online to various cooperative ventures designed to minimize resource consumption.

Most of these growing companies are part of San Francisco's technology industry, using web-based interfaces to conduct their economic transactions. And some have been making local enemies and headlines recently by disrupting key aspects of urban life, from Airbnb impacting the housing and hotel markets to Lyft and Uber upending the taxi industry.

In fact, the biggest battle brewing at City Hall these days is over widely watched legislation by Board of Supervisors President David Chiu to regulate and legalize the short-term rentals facilitated by Airbnb and similar companies. And state agencies based in San Francisco are now working on regulations that would affect Lyft and its ilk.

So we decided to listen in as disciples of the sharing economy talked among themselves about the challenges and opportunities facing what they call the "new economy," one that is at an important crossroads that will determine whether the interests of communities or capital guide its evolution.



When Chiu took the stage at the Share conference, he was joining a sharing economy community that, he said he would probably be a part of today if he hadn't gone into public service, citing his own experience with tech startups before running for supervisor.

"I believe we are becoming the capital of the sharing economy," Chiu said, citing examples of San Francisco's "ethos of sharing" that include the Summer of Love, Burning Man, and the fact that "we are a community that wants to foster trust among strangers to build what I think is one of the most amazing cities in the entire world. But we're also a city that is expensive. The rent is too damn high."

Chiu spoke proudly of San Francisco's environmentalism and his own legislative contributions to that legacy. And he said "we are a city of innovation," lauding the technology industry. "We understand that keeping up with the Joneses may not be the way to go," he said. "In fact, sharing with the Joneses, I think, is the better path."

In Chiu's formulation, the sharing economy is the synthesis of all of these values and goals. By using computers and smartphones to facilitate the sharing of goods and services, we use less stuff and consume fewer resources, in the process opening up economic opportunities for more people.

He sounded like the most enthusiastic of sharing economy true believers, but with a couple of caveats, acknowledging how those "pesky taxes" on most of these economic transactions go unpaid, and how Airbnb and similar companies have removed apartments from the housing market for local residents.

"Shareable housing has both helped and exacerbated our housing crisis," Chiu said, describing how he spent more than a year working on legislation that would regulate and legalize short-term housing rentals in San Francisco, where they are now considered illegal "hotel conversions" (see "Into thin air," 8/6/13, and dozens of other Guardian stories and blog posts on the issue).

Chiu's legislation would require Airbnb hosts to register with the city, rent out only their primary residence, and occupy that space for at least 275 days per year (which Chiu has said limits Airbnb hosts to just 90 rental nights per year, although critics dispute that interpretation).


and it is sad that SFBG doesn't get behind what is essentially a grass roots movement to bypass the staid, self-serving monopolies and let people do things for themselves, cutting out the parasitic middle-men, and sharing their assets and resources directly through peer-to-peer transactions, much like when I babysit for my neighbor and he mows my lawn.

The fact that the internet help enable some of this is irrelevant. For instance, I was doing short-term lets long before AirBnb, using CraigsList to locate visitors. CL has a special category for that and I still see nobody complaining about that.

Likewise CraigsList has a rideshare section where I can ask for "gas money2 in return for a ride, pre-daytng Uber by 15 years.

What is the big fuss here?

Posted by Guest on May. 20, 2014 @ 3:56 pm

Somebody needs to take Steven aside and tell him that NOBODY is going to suffer through 7 pages when he makes it obvious in the opening paragraphs; or actually in the headline, that this will be nothing more than another tirade/tantrum about Ron Conway.

Ironically, if Steven wasn't poisoned by hatred of Ron Conway he would probably support much of the sharing economy. A retired empty nest couple can compete with Marriott and make some extra money. Likewise a family can visit San Francisco on a budget. A parent struggling to pay the bills can make some extra money picking up passengers.

Like most new things it rises questions of fairness and new regulations, but Steven is miles beyond caring about throwing out the baby along with anything that touches Conway.

Posted by Guest on May. 20, 2014 @ 6:00 pm

Right now, if you go to craigslist you can peruse the 'Vacation Rentals'. Pages of people renting out space to tourists. These tourists also use city services while here and the apartments are obviously taken out of the housing stock.

And nobody is saying a word about the hotel taxes that don't get paid. To say nothing of VRBO, Roomarama and the rest.

But we don't care!!! Because Ron Conway isn't connected to craigslist. It is only a problem if Ron Conway is involved.

Meanwhile, AirBnb is the only one that has stepped up and said that they will take responsibility for getting the taxes paid on behalf of the hosts. Nobody else has. Steven like to falsely imply that Roomarama does but if you go to their site you can see that they leave it up to the hosts.

There is a reason why nobody takes Steven Jones seriously. And you wonder about the long term effect on San Francisco Progressives if he stays in his job for an extended period.

Posted by Guest on May. 20, 2014 @ 8:15 pm

Somebody needs to tell you that you have attention deficit disorder.

Posted by Guest on May. 21, 2014 @ 4:16 pm

suffering from something a lot worse than that.

Posted by Guest on May. 21, 2014 @ 5:01 pm

It's actually closer to 4,000 words, and if you read it all then you might learn something. Personally, I was intrigued by how many people within the sharing economy are calling out the self-serving corporate spin we hear from Airbnb and Conway.

Posted by steven on May. 22, 2014 @ 9:10 am
Posted by Guest on May. 22, 2014 @ 9:56 am

Perhaps they believe that being the first to accuse the other side of such, they innoculate themselves from the guilt they themselves personify.

Posted by lillipublicans on May. 22, 2014 @ 10:14 am

economy. Is it really that surprising that he found some? He just kept looking until he did.

Posted by Guest on May. 22, 2014 @ 11:10 am

That is pretty funny. Steven spoke to some people and, guess what? They said what he wanted to hear.

He may not have even met people who did not like the sharing economy.

Like the woman he interviewed who quit her job to go into it full time. But all Steven heard is that she didn't like the pictures they used.

It is sort of sad that Steven actually seems to think that people take him seriously and could learn anything from his tirades.

Posted by Guest on May. 22, 2014 @ 11:43 am

It's insane - it's nearly all he ever talks about or writes about. As if this company, which simply made easier what everyone did on Craigslist anyway, were entirely responsible for SF's housing crisis and not the fact that we're a geographically small city everyone wants to live in.

As usual a very complex problem is boiled down to a soundbite solution.

Posted by Guest on May. 20, 2014 @ 6:53 pm

In SF, we are free (as we should be) to engage in gay sex, to have abortions, to smoke pot, etc. Why can't we also be free to use AirBnB, and rent a room if we want to. It's own own place. We're not interfering with anyone else. If a teacher or single mom, or Muni worker decides that they want to rent out a room through AirBnB to pick up a bit of extra money, they why should we not be able to? If someone doesn't like the service, the solution is simple: don't use it. But that should never give others the right to ban it ... no more than religious nuts can ban gay sex or abortion because they don't like it. Everyone should just mind their own business, and leave everyone else alone.

Posted by Guest on May. 20, 2014 @ 9:13 pm

Why should hotels pay tax if other people using land as hotel don't , and AirBnb takes helps landlords circumvent rent control.

Posted by Guest on May. 22, 2014 @ 4:48 am
Posted by Guest on May. 22, 2014 @ 7:07 am

If you are sharing your home with someone for money then it could be construed as a hotel, same as if you are sharing a room with the Hyatt for money..

Posted by sharing for money isn't sharing on May. 22, 2014 @ 5:36 pm

Note as well the boldly facetious concernery.

Posted by lillipublicans on May. 22, 2014 @ 7:05 am

arbitrary nature of SFBG opinions

Posted by Guest on May. 22, 2014 @ 7:47 am

Jason Grant Garza here ... techies are NOT part of the Status Quo Seeking Law Enforcement? Wouldn't they want the LAWS enforced that have NOT been over the last two years? What laws, what representation, what enforcement ? How does the old saying go ... first they came for ....

Shared economy ... is that like common good? Is it in the common good for LAWS to to be enforced? What about the distract of divide and conquer ??? Maybe look over here and NOT over here ? Isn't the oath to uphold the LAW? Common Good, Status Quo / Shared Economy ???? Would that be like big companies taking public research and making money? Or maybe "teaming" with city agencies to later charge or how about the favorite "too big to fail?" Am I the only one sharing the pain at the deception? Sorry, I guess that was MY status quo interest. Common good does not involve charging you for EVERYTHING .... didn't our forefathers pay anything ??? Oh that is SOCIAL CONTRACT and that involves again common good. Well I guess Snowden showed us how important social contracts. laws and enforcement were.

Then Chiu ramped up his rhetoric, equating progressive concerns about the tax breaks and special treatment that Chiu, Mayor Ed Lee, and others have extended to tech companies in San Francisco with a war on the sharing economy and the forced deportation of its workers.

"They are calling for war on you, even though they don't realize that what you are doing is helping to make sure we're addressing our income inequality, we're empowering everyday people by building community and using technology," Chiu said. "All of you need to get involved in the political debate. You're busy trying to change the world, but status quo interests are actively trying to ship you to Menlo Park, Oakland, and San Jose."

Posted by Jason Grant Garza on May. 20, 2014 @ 11:45 pm

To Chiu, public service means serving up the public to whomever is going to give him money to get over the next obstacle.

Posted by marcos on May. 21, 2014 @ 5:44 am

unless it is one of them. They block the trades unions, small businesses, rich people- unless it is a rich 'progressive' - nothing progressive about their economic or social policies- look at SF - we spend more and get less year after year- roads are a mess - water system is falling apart- the city is run by a bunch of poodles- (sorry poodles- you are smarter)

Posted by Guest on May. 21, 2014 @ 6:59 am

Professional progressives BART over from Oakland to cut deals with anyone making money and then screw "the people" living in "the community"

Posted by marcos on May. 21, 2014 @ 7:40 am

Sounds like it was a great conference. Wish I had been there in person, but just second-hand it sounds like Chiu gave a great address. He can definitely count on my vote. Thanks for the report!

Posted by Guest on May. 21, 2014 @ 7:30 am more thing, that was a great line: Instead of keeping up with the Joneses, we're sharing with the Joneses.

Unfortunately, Campos and his ilk live by the slogan of taking from the Joneses.

Posted by Guest on May. 21, 2014 @ 7:44 am

"Instead of keeping up with the Joneses, we're sharing with the Joneses." You think that's a great line? That's ad adman's wet dream for a naive little person, is what that is.

Posted by Guest on May. 22, 2014 @ 8:04 am

If tax fraud is the problem then go after the offenders- don't make a whole law about it. It's ALREADY against the law.

Don't add yet more bureaucracy to a city that's already a bureaucratic nightmare.

Here's an idea- how about they hire an intern to look up the listings on the websites and then look up the tax returns to see who paid taxes and who didn't. I bet that will cost less than adding another collection of functionaries.

Posted by Autumn on May. 21, 2014 @ 10:14 am



Posted by Charles Rathbone on May. 21, 2014 @ 12:19 pm

San Francisco Supervisor David Chiu is a Harvard graduate and lawyer who knows how to wield feign, fallacy and vagary of human expression as sophistry. That said, the sharing of goods and services does not increase resources, but instead, advances the depreciation of both via over-tasking and increased consumption. Had his Share Conference remarks been, “by using computers and smartphones to facilitate the trade of goods and services, we use more stuff and consume more resources, and will consequently, not manifest a benefit to most,” this would have been a valid argument. Chiu is addressing the worsening income inequality debacle by telling lies, and at best, he is a liar. At worst, he is a dangerous man. Is anyone listening?

Posted by Awayneramsey on May. 21, 2014 @ 1:08 pm

Some of you poor saps have been taken in by this Silicon Valley idealism bullshit. Changing the world! Sharing! Bunch of horseshit. All these people are doing is crowd-sourcing you and taking a little of the top. You can't share if you don't have anything to begin with. This sharing economy is just another aspect of the race to the bottom. You kiddies are naive.

Posted by Guest on May. 21, 2014 @ 4:16 pm

Without something to share, you would fare poorly anywhere, anytime in history. America is the land of opportunity. Go make something of yourself and stop whining.

Posted by Guest on May. 21, 2014 @ 5:53 pm

"Without something to share, you would fare poorly anywhere, anytime in history." A student of history then, you are? Then you should know about falling wages in the United States -- something of our labor history. You should know that the "sharing economy" is just a ruse to pay people less and skim more profits off the top. I ain't whining youg'un. I'm telling you to open your beady little eyes.

Posted by Guest on May. 22, 2014 @ 8:02 am

what they think they are worth or would like to be worth

Posted by Guest on May. 22, 2014 @ 8:53 am

Supply vs demand 101.

Exceptions include enlightened employers who realize that making *some* money off someone else's labor is good enough and for long-term success, often employee retention is a more important value than avarice; also minimum wage laws which protect the economy from negative feedback shocks.

Posted by lillipublicans on May. 22, 2014 @ 10:12 am

Without cheapskate leech employers you'd be unemployed. Oh wait, you are anyway.

Posted by Guest on May. 22, 2014 @ 10:32 am

You presume to know so much about me, yet you can't punctuate or write with the proper grammar. I've been around a long time. Got to SF when the getting was good and a hard-working fellow could own his home (and maybe other properties as well). I'm sitting pretty as a matter of fact. What worries me is you. I'm worried about the wet-behind-the-ears youngsters swallowing this libertarian claptrap. Is Uber also going to pave the roads its cars drive on tax-free? What we're talking about here is a race to the bottom. The unemployed? Why, they can put their cars to use driving sidecar taxis at minimum wage. Get a clue young'un. You're singing paeans to your enslavers as they turn your country into a third-world nation. Try to see the larger picture.

Posted by Guest on May. 22, 2014 @ 11:05 am

a few other guys is not going to bring down western civilization.

You protest too much.

Posted by Guest on May. 22, 2014 @ 11:24 am

As a sanctimonious Boomer who rode history's greatest wave of prosperity to easy wealth while shackling future generations with crippling debt and unfunded entitlements and allowing tens of millions of immigrants from third-world nations into your country, you are comfortable accusing airbnb of turning the country in a third-world nation?

Posted by Guest on May. 22, 2014 @ 11:44 am

".. allowing tens of millions of immigrants from third-world nations into your country...turning the country in a third-world nation?" Oh, looky here! Racism rears its ugly little head!

Posted by Guest on May. 22, 2014 @ 12:31 pm

Since some aliens are white and some citizens are non-white.

Posted by Guest on May. 22, 2014 @ 12:43 pm

My comment had nothing to do with race.

Posted by Guest on May. 22, 2014 @ 12:58 pm

"Sanctimonious boomer"? Hold your horses, young'un. I'm entitled to my social security. I've been paying into the system since I was eleven years old. I've worked hard all my life. We didn't have internet porn when I was a your age. We didn't waste our strength jerking off. That's what's wrong with you young'uns -- your jerk off all the time. Saps your strength. Makes you believe in internet "sharing" Shangri-las. You're the kind of guy who would invest in a 3D printer that makes women. Ha! It's your only hope.

Posted by Guest on May. 23, 2014 @ 9:00 am
Posted by Guest on May. 23, 2014 @ 9:48 am

Given that he is both unemployed and unemployable

Posted by Guest on May. 22, 2014 @ 11:09 am

This is by far the best journalism in the Bay Area. The inverse of the San Francisco Chronicle in speaking truth to power.
From what I have seen sharing economy is just cover story for groups to get around existing laws. Groups of people with lots of money, for lobbying and pr and very un-demoratic and dishonest at the heart of what they are doing.

Posted by The on May. 22, 2014 @ 4:32 am

This is by far the best journalism in the Bay Area. The inverse of the San Francisco Chronicle in speaking truth to power.
From what I have seen sharing economy is just cover story for groups to get around existing laws. Groups of people with lots of money, for lobbying and pr and very un-demoratic and dishonest at the heart of what they are doing.

Posted by The on May. 22, 2014 @ 4:34 am

You have a shallow view of the world. It allows anyone with a car -- which is most of us -- to work for themselves. It democratizes the means of production like we haven't seen since the days of family farms. The corporate layer is very thin, compared to traditional models, just take for exampel rental car businesses.

You'd think Marx fans would love it and be thinking up ways to expand the model. But at least here at the SFBG, they are so devoted to abject failure and living of the back of the have's and blinded by jealousy and fearful of change and what's new, of course they don't.

Posted by Guest on May. 22, 2014 @ 7:00 am

frees individuals from restrictive self-interested monopolies and allows the workers to have far more control over their work, their lives and their finances.

But of course SFBG likes monopolies, as long as they ideologically pure monopolies.

Posted by Guest on May. 22, 2014 @ 7:46 am

The advocates for the sharing economy can't be blind to the stories of, say, bakers refusing to serve gay customers because such service offends their Christian beliefs. So what definite protections do the likes of Lyft, Airbnb, and other companies have in place to prevent its providers from practicing one-on-one discrimination against people of different religions or sexual orientations? And, please, spare me the boosterism happy talk.

Posted by Peter on May. 22, 2014 @ 7:41 am

But you seem focused on only problems rather than positives.

Posted by Guest on May. 22, 2014 @ 8:52 am

Vendors don't have an absolute license to be selective. That's why there are laws against race and sex discrimination.

Given the ongoing attempts by a certain notorious rideshare company to dodge liability for a 6-year-old girl's death, it is fair to ask whether the sharing economy is promoting backdoor undermining of other important legal regulations.

And as said earlier, spare me the sharing economy happy b.s.

Posted by Peter on May. 22, 2014 @ 10:08 am

business with you, that I cannot find some way of not doing business with you, laws or no laws?

Posted by Guest on May. 22, 2014 @ 11:08 am

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