The hype, reality, and accountability of collaborative consumption

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky (right) didn't get any tough questions from moderator David Jones of USF.
Steven T. Jones

Collaborative consumption, aka the shareable economy – the labels given to a new generation of Internet-based companies that facilitate peer-to-peer exchanges of goods and services – certainly has some positive attributes. But does it really live up to the overhyped claims of its biggest boosters, who evangelize it as a “revolution” that forever alters the economy in only positive ways? Have they really figured out a way to create something from nothing, or are there hidden costs, impacts, and complications?

I was hoping to hear that kind of balanced discussion today at a symposium hosted by the University of San Francisco's Department of Hospitality Management, featuring What's Mine is Yours author Rachel Botsman and Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky giving the keynote luncheon address: “The Rising of the Sharing Economy: How is it expanding the Global Hospitality Industry.”

Moderated by the department's administrative director, Dr. David Jones, I thought I'd hear a little academic skepticism, particularly given the hotel industry's concerns about unfair competition from Airbnb. And I wanted to ask Chesky directly why his company isn't paying the $1.8 million per year in Transient Occupancy Taxes that it owes to the city, as well as how his business model relies on hosts who are violating their leases and tenant protection laws here, in New York City, and other cities.

Instead, all I heard was uncritical boosterism, grandiose claims, creepy futurism, and the unfettered hubris of a 31-year-old CEO who claims to be altruistically saving the world while getting filthy rich in the process and refusing to even pay the local taxes that a fair public process concluded that Airbnb and its hosts owe. And after Dr. Jones failed to ask the questions I had submitted and cut off the Q&A early, Chesky turned and darted out a back door before I could ask him myself (his company's spokespeople also still haven't responded to my inquiries from last month).

Everyone just seems so enamored of what Botsman called “the wonderful world of collaborative consumption,” with its focus on economic “disruption,” that tech-lovers label she used over and over, without really stopping to think about the impacts of disrupting established economic and regulatory systems.

“This isn't a threat to the hospitality industry, it's a massive opportunity to innovate,” she enthused, claiming it would only make the economic pie bigger, with no downsides.

Chesky then told the story about how he and a buddy slapped together the Airbnb website in three days to advertise the flophouse they turned their San Francisco apartment into using air mattresses in advance of a design conference, an idea that has now blossomed into a multi-million-dollar business that places about 100,000 guests each night around the world.

“It's like the United Nations at every kitchen table. It's very powerful,” Chesky said of the social benefits of his company. “I think we're in the midst of a revolution and not a lot of people are talking about it.”

Actually, it seems that everyone is talking about collaborative consumption these days, which is why Chesky was recently on the cover of Forbes and The Economist. But not a lot of people seem to be asking tough questions or challenging assertions that Chesky and his young bretheren are making, such as, “For us to win, no one has to lose.”

That would have been a good time for Dr. Jones to ask, “If that's true, why are you refusing to pay the $2 million in TOT you owe the city, money that helps pay for Muni, street maintenance, the police, and other city services that visitors use?” Because the more Airbnb wins business from traditional hotels that do pay the TOT, the more the rest of us lose.

Similarly, in big, expensive cities that have developed complex systems regulating landlord-tenant relations – an essential system that determines who gets to live in these cities and how diverse and inclusive they remain – Airbnb offers a mechanism for circumventing those rules, a system it barely even acknowledges.

I've used Airbnb, and I understand that it can be a cool way to avoid expensive hotels and meet locals while traveling. That's great. But it's just not that simple, and it's simplistic to focus simply on its benefits, divorced from the larger economic and environmental systems in which is operates.

“This is not a niche phenomenon. This could have enormous historic precedence,” Chesky said, later adding, “This is like a Golden Age we're going to be entering.”

It is an age when anyone can become an entrepreneur and get rich, when the system of mass production itself will be replaced by the myriad ideas of people like Chesky in unforeseeable ways. “I think it will change dramatically the hotel and restaurant industry,” Chesky said. “Hotels themselves are going to be much more local and personal.”

He envisions the next generation of hotels creating rooms that cater to the individual tastes and preferences, from the music piped into the room to what's in the mini-bar, all discerned from Facebook and other online mechanisms that create what Bostman called our “digital exhaust.”

“Consumers aren't strangers, they all have profiles and you can know everything about a person,” Chesky said, sending the chill of dystopian futurism down my spine.

And we're all going to travel freely around the world, owning little, sharing everything, and elevating Airbnb and its allies into the “trillion-dollar-industry” he's pushing toward.

“We're wired to be nomads,” Chesky said. “We're going to be moving all over the world much more.”

So says the young, entitled CEO who doesn't even have a home, flitting around the world to stay with various Airbnb hosts. But for most of us, air travel is still expensive and our vacation time is limited. And from the perspective of climate change, nothing could be worse for the environment than substantially increasing air travel to facilitate this expanded globe-trotting lifestyle that Chesky envisions.

The environmental claims of collaborative consumption companies have always struck me as the most overblown. That's why I also cornered Adam Werbach – who went from heading Sierra Club to working for WalMart on its sustainability programs to launching Yertle, a stuff-sharing website – at an event promoting the new company on Monday, aka Earth Day.

“There's nothing that's green,” Werbach said when I asked whether Yertle was. “I've never used the term green.”

But he does make the argument that facilitating sharing allows less stuff to be produced overall, which is good for the planet.

“Is sharing a greener alternative than buying new?” he asked, citing examples such as pasta- or bread-makers as products that people may want to try without buying. “Can you find a way to sample or test those things without buying a new one?”

That's true, but as I perused the pages and pages of stuff available on Yertle – which is sort of a high-tech version of a garage sale or thrift store, except that everything is free – I couldn't help but be struck by its promotion of materialism and accumulation. Can we really tackle big environmental challenges and still keep all our toys?

Werbach, who graciously indulged my questions, admits that the shareable economy can't adequately address big problems like climate change, which will require a major cultural and economic shift. It's more like tinkering on the margins, and making some positive incremental changes, as he felt he was able to do at WalMart. “I do think we made them somewhat better. But, has it been adequate? No,” he said.

His Yertle co-founder Andy Reuben was someone Werbach met and worked with at WalMart. Reuben seemed even more hopefully that the younger generation will use collaborative consumption to create a lighter footprint on the planet.

“One thing we're seeing is it will be an asset-light generation that can just get it and pass it on,” Reuben said, describing Yertle as “based on better utilizing the stuff what we have.”

That's a goal that most of us probably share, and one that the shareable economy can certainly help us address. But its big boosters – from venture capitalist Ron Conway down to the random techie true believer – have to be willing to engage in an honest discussion with the rest of us, rather than just bulling their way forward, heedless of their impacts and dismissive of our concerns.

Maybe Lyft and Uber have a role to play in augmenting San Francisco's taxi system, but we shouldn't destroy that taxi system in the progress. Yes, City Care Share and Zipcar enable people to sell their cars, but how do they actually impact the number of cars on the roads? Airbnb is certainly a popular site with both hosts and guests, but that doesn't mean it should be exempt from taxes and regulations.

After today's event, I spoke with Dr. Jones – a longtime Bay Area tourism booster with a fairly libertarian outlook – about why he didn't ask tough questions or express more skepticism. “I'm really not [skeptical]” he said, although he did note the dearth of academic research on collaborative consumption and the validity of some of my questions.

“There's a massive value shift and there's no way we're going back,” Botsman said of the rapid rise of the shareable economy and its disruption of traditional economic models. That may be true, or that may be self-serving hype, but either way, it's worth talking about in an open and collaborative way that involves more than just the insular tech world.

Last year, Mayor Ed Lee and Board President David Chiu announced the creation of a shareable economy task force, which was supposed to be reporting back some recommendations about now. I asked the Mayor's Office of Communications for an update on its status three days ago, and I'm still waiting to hear back.

Meanwhile, Chiu's office is still negotiating complicated legislation that would govern Airbnb's operations in San Francisco, so there will likely be hearings on that company and the issues it raises this summer. That's important for a city like San Francisco that is so diverse and engaged.

If San Francisco wants to help lead this collaborative consumption revolution that we keep hearing about from Lee and other boosters, hopefully we'll also take a clear-eyed and precautionary view of what this brave new world looks like, how it's regulated, what its byproducts may be, and whose interests it serves.


I agree with you about the taxes, Steve.

It shouldn't be too hard to collect them. People renting their homes on Airbnb pay a fixed rate to the company. All the city has to do is look at the sales receipts.

And yes, it's all overhyped. But you have to admit, Airbnb, Couch Surfing, and the faux tax services have a strong hippie aura about them. The People share with The People. The Middle Man (meaning The Man, the one who gets in our way) is cut out of the loop. Viva la revolucion.

Posted by Troll The XIV on Apr. 24, 2013 @ 6:11 pm

AirBnB is the middleman, that's why Conway is investing and clearing the way politically for them to avoid taxes, because he wants the biggest piece of the action possible.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 24, 2013 @ 6:57 pm

Ron Conway is clearing the way politically for AirBNB to avoid taxes? Then how could he possibly have time for anything else?

San Francisco is a major tourist center but it's a big world out there.

Is Ron Conway really clearing the way in London, Tokyo, New York, Istanbul, Moscow, Rio and all the other cities that AirBNB depends on?

Wow. I didn't know that. Quite a guy!

Posted by Troll on Apr. 24, 2013 @ 7:38 pm
Posted by marcos on Apr. 24, 2013 @ 8:04 pm

Great answer, Marcos. Somebody points out that you are saying something that makes no sense whatsoever. In a very authoritative manner of course. But it was actually complete nonsense. Great response.

Do you want to tell us more about how Ron Conway is relying on his relationship with Ed Lee to avoid paying taxes everywhere on the planet?

Posted by Troll on Apr. 24, 2013 @ 8:23 pm

When you've got those kinds of resources and want more, you leverage them shrewdly to get what you want wherever and however you can. This is no hippy dippy sharing economy, its about taking a little off the top of a lot.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 24, 2013 @ 8:38 pm

Yeah well, my point is that this whole Steven Jones AirBNB campaign is embarrassing. Well it would be embarrassing if anybody knew about it except for a small handful of people who post on this site.

AirBNB has a global footprint and a current valuation of $2.5 billion. The concept that it relies on Ron Conway to influence the Mayor of San Francisco is a sophomoric joke. The mayors of Prague, Bangkok and Barcelona aren't going to look the other way because of Ron Conway.

And Ron Conway isn't in a position to tell AirBNB what to do anyway. Not without the support of fellow investors Jeff Bezos, Ashton Kutcher and Peter Thiel (at least). And none of them are willing to establish a precedent saying that AirBNB is responsible for taxes that Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline and the rest aren't. Steven is approaching this from a 7th grade perspective. Which would be embarrassing for San Francisco if someone somehow hears about it.

Posted by Troll on Apr. 24, 2013 @ 9:06 pm

keeps bobbing up saying the same thing over and over thinking that, if he repeats it enough times, we will believe it.

Yes, a distributed economy makes it harder for the "command and control" bureaucrats to interfere with and over-regulate everything. Which is exactly why it is a good thing. Just like the internet allowed us to bypass mainstream media. Very 1960's.

And taxes are still due on short-term stays. They are owed by the person who rents out the room or flat. Simple and fair.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 24, 2013 @ 11:15 pm

IF San Francisco was able to tax AirBnB RIGHT IN ITS OWN HOME, THEN it would set a precedent that other municipalities to do the same and that is what Conway fears. Conway expects for the serfs to pay for the infrastructure that allows him to reap massive profits without having to be bothered with that himself.

Taxes are for the little people to pay, right?

Posted by marcos on Apr. 25, 2013 @ 6:35 am

tax that is due from renters and homeowners who choose to rent out their homes short-term.

Rather, the city is hoping that AirBnB will save them a lot of time and hassle by collecting the tax on their behalf, effectively acting as a free tax collection service.

It's hardly surprising that they're not interested in doing that. SF should be chasing down the people doing this, and not just one of many intermediaries they may be using.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 25, 2013 @ 7:16 am

If you'd read my Airbnb stories instead of just blithely dismissing them, you'd know that Airbnb does indeed share this tax liability with its local hosts, aka a "joint and several liability" in the city's tax code. Ideally the tax would have been charged to the guests, but that's really up to Airbnb, which is the entity that is facilitating this economic transaction. This a really pretty simply, people, and cities have been collecting TOT and other taxes from multi-national companies for a long time now.

Now, as far as the supposed power of Conway and Airbnb, the only power they have is money and public perception. Our mayor kowtows to them, but I don't know why we should. I suppose you could call Airbnb a $2.5 billion company, wherever you got that number, but that's all based on financial speculation. It has no assets other than the people who use it, who could easily just move on to the next big thing at some point. Airbnb was a kid with a good idea, an enormous sense of entitlement, and a bunch of venture capitalists who pumped it up for their self-interest. Corporate valuation is fungible and can disappear in an instant (such as, for example, when more people realize its a business model is based on illegal behavior and cities assert their laws, as New York City has already started to do with Airbnb). Americans have such short memories, as if you've all forgotten the hype and pop just over a decade ago. Remember, the last time that everything was changed and economic rules no longer applied? Yeah, me too. 

Posted by steven on Apr. 25, 2013 @ 9:58 am

Give it up Marcos. Your theory is ridiculous.

So if Mayor Han Zheng of Shanghai feels that AirBNB owes Shanghai some money he is going to back off because San Francisco, California doesn't collect the same fees? Do you apply any type of absurdity test to your theories before you post them?

Or do you want to punish AirBNB for being based and creating jobs here? Would Brisbane feel the same way?

Taxes are for the little people, yes. But property use taxes are for property owners, not for the web sites that they use.

Posted by Troll on Apr. 25, 2013 @ 7:22 am

ever more whacky theories that have no basis in reality. No wonder he gave up on all his political ambitions and now merely rants and raves on an online forum 24/7.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 25, 2013 @ 7:42 am

If SF getting AirBnB to pay its taxes, was no big deal, then you all would not be flailing on a progressive website comment section about it.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 25, 2013 @ 8:16 am

It is taxes on the landlords, which you want to be able to collect from some third party for convenience.

Taxes follow revenues.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 25, 2013 @ 8:48 am

Airbnb shares this tax liability, as city codes and officials have made clear.

Posted by steven on Apr. 25, 2013 @ 10:11 am

"Yes, City Car Share and Zipcar enable people to sell their cars, but how do they actually impact the number of cars on the roads?"

I think I speak for a lot of people: Those of us who use these services have definitely cut down on driving. We use MUNI more than ever, and only rent a car when we really need one.

Anybody living north of Market St. and east of Van Ness Ave. has no reason to own a car. I probably save $5,000 a year because I pay no car/maintenance/garage fees. When I take a trip, I rent a care on line. I envision a day, when cars will be nothing but metal boxes you use only as a last resort. Car use (and miles driven) are declining among people under 40.

Posted by Troll The XIV on Apr. 24, 2013 @ 6:22 pm

@Troll The XIV - I'll be sure to give the anecdotal non-data of an anoymous Internet commenter the due consideration it deserves. Now, will you stop parking your "shared" car on the sidewalk, in crosswalks, and in bike lanes?

Posted by Jym Dyer on Apr. 25, 2013 @ 8:52 am

Dear Jim,

We are the future So live free and Dyer.

Posted by Troll The XIV on Apr. 26, 2013 @ 11:56 am

Ellis Act evictions last year numbered less than 200, less than 5% of total evictions, yet Steven and Tim never stop shrieking about how this is a "major crisis" which must be dealt with NOW! Rent control has been proven to depress the number of rental units yet its a sacred cow to the bourgeois whiteys in the SFBG newsroom.

Spare everyone your concern trolling over giving people the ability to summon a town car by iPhone or rent out an extra bedroom for a little extra cash.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 24, 2013 @ 7:42 pm

and the tenants in your building were making a profit from your property and not giving you a cut?

And btw: how exactly do editors or writers of a publication troll their own publication?! Isn't the Guardian a private company and therefore should be able to print what ever they please? I believe you, anon and "Guest" are always making that argument.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 24, 2013 @ 8:59 pm

contravenes one's lease and is illegal, so if my tenant were doing so I would evict them. Are you making an argument against AirBnB on the basis of landlord's rights? It seems so. Therefore you don't have a problem with property owners temporarily letting rooms in property they own now do you?

No - I don't make the argument you're claiming I make.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 24, 2013 @ 9:19 pm

Airbnb is often facilitating and profiting from illegal behavior, which is really the basis of its popularity, and also a good reason why San Francisco and other cities have an interest in taxing and regulating this business. But, honestly, I think most people would let that go if the company would at least pay the taxes it owes instead of acting like some new category of business that is exempt from taxation and regulation.

Posted by steven on Apr. 25, 2013 @ 10:17 am

records with those of the rent board and allow landlords to evict any tenant found to be violating their lease? If you're arguing for a strict interpretation of the law then this seems to be a case where that should be applied.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 25, 2013 @ 11:00 am

Of course not, nor do I think it's appropriate for the city to crack down on the hosts for their tax obligations. The money flows through Airbnb, and collecting it from it is the most obvious, simplest, and least invasive way for the city to collect what it is owed. I've rarely argued for "a strict interpretation of the law," any law (it is conservatives who see the world in black-and-white terms, not me). But I do think that promotion of fair competition, consumer protection, and efficient collection of taxes to fund city services are some of the most basic functions of government.

Posted by steven on Apr. 25, 2013 @ 2:27 pm

in one post you say that the liability is joint-and-several, (meaning that each party is independently liable for the full share) and that the City should go after AirBnB, but then in another post you say that the City shouldn't pursue the hosts for their obligations? So in effect, what you are saying is that you don't give a crap about the money, unless it is AirBnB who isn't paying it.

seems to me that you're just pissed because you had to pay your taxes on this out of pocket (and violated your lease in the process), while other people have been dodging them.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 25, 2013 @ 3:03 pm

In what way, shape or form would it be 'simple' for AirBNB to collect and pay the taxes?

In every municipality on the planet that charges a TOT? Filing in every currency? On behalf of thousands of hosts? You call that simple?

Thank you for feeling that it is not "appropriate for the city to crack down on the hosts for their tax obligations". Thank you for absolving them of their obligation, since they are the ones that initiate aand control the transaction, they get the bulk of the revenue and they own or lease the property involved.

There is some working group going on in City Hall to working resolve the issue; Cisneros (or a representative) is on it. As he said, he was just stating what the current law is and looks forward to working out an agreement that is fair to all. Chiu is working on tennancy issues.

Luckily not everybody is motivated solely by a rabid hatred of Mayor Lee and is willing to find a way to accommodate a new part of our economy.

Posted by Troll on Apr. 25, 2013 @ 3:18 pm

Yes, it is that simple. If Airbnb can do graphics and descriptions of every major San Francisco neighborhood, then it can figure out how to add 14 percent onto each San Francisco transaction. It has the technology. I'm not sure whether y'all are paid shills or just being deliberately dense, probably some combination thereof. It is not simple or desireable for the city to go after every Airbnb host to collect the taxes, it is simple for city officials to go after Airbnb, which is conducting the goddamned transactions. Get it? I don't hate this company or Mayor Lee, although I'm admittedly not fond of selfish rich people or their lying paid flaks. Yet this is about fairness, honesty, and the $2 million per year that this city needs and is entitled to. Period.

Posted by steven on Apr. 25, 2013 @ 4:11 pm

Steven says:

"Yes, it is that simple. If Airbnb can do graphics and descriptions of every major San Francisco neighborhood, then it can figure out how to add 14 percent onto each San Francisco transaction."

Talk about being dense...AirBNB doesn't just operate in San Francisco, Steven.

They operate around the world. So are you saying that they will only be responsible for paying taxes in San Francisco and not in Los Angeles, Shanghai and Istanbul? Are you saying that only San Francisco will put this burden on them to thank them for locating here? Nice message.

And BTW, San Francisco is the only place that would even consider allowing AirBNB to take responsibility for the taxes. Do you think that the tax collector in Memphis wants to be told by a local boarding house that he needs to contact a business in San Francisco for his money?

What I think will eventually happen is that AirBNB will build in a provision into their system to collect a tax estimate and pass it on to the host. But you are dreaming if you think that they will ever be crippled by taking responsibility for actually paying the taxes and taking responsibility for them. No rationale person is even considering that. Sorry!!!!

Posted by Troll on Apr. 25, 2013 @ 5:04 pm

Software handles all sorts of tax regimes and product regulations in all manner of jurisdictions, ain't no rocket science involved here, just laziness, contempt and greed.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 25, 2013 @ 6:02 pm

Dude, if you're a systems guy then you know that it isn't the calculations, it's the data. There is no ADP to supply the rates.

Just what is the TOT in Des Moines? Is it going to change between booking and time of occupancy? Is it per room or per person? In San Francisco you don't pay TOT if the room is under $30. Is there a similar rule in Portsmouth, NH?

What documentation do you need to file in Honolulu?

How many people will AirBNB have to hire to manage the currency risk?

But it is a moot issue because no municipality would allow Steven's silly fantasy.

Imagine the tax collector going to a property in Key West and saying that they've had 10 guests but only paid TOT on 8. Well, Mr Tax Collector, that is because 2 people booked through AirBNB. Here is their phone number in San Francisco. Call them and ask where your money is.

There is a reason why Expedia, Travelocty, Orbitz, Priceline and the rest are so adamant in saying that they aren't responsible for TOT.

What Steven is asking for makes no sense in the real world. Doesn't mean that he will stop having his tantrum.

Posted by Troll on Apr. 25, 2013 @ 6:34 pm

Looks like someone has found a defect in the business model that might inhibit growth. The investors would not like that, would they?

But nobody forced them to get into this business, now they've gotta deal with the implications of a poorly thought out business model.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 25, 2013 @ 6:51 pm

It's not a defect. They will never be asked to pay taxes on properties that they don't own, lease or control.

Jose Cisneros came up with a (questionable) policy saying that AirBNB and the host shared responsibility for the taxes. But when questioned, his department said that they were just stating the current law while, at the same time, working as part of a task force to come up with a long term solution.

The part about AirBNB openly dodging taxes isn't true, it is a complete Steven Jones fabrication.

It also is hilarious that, to Steven, shared means that AirBNB is 100% on the hook and it isn't fair to burden the hosts at all.

Its taken years and we still haven't figured out internet sales tax. This will take awhile too. But Steven will have to get over the fact that his fantasy of San Francisco cripppling AirBNB was always just that.

Posted by Troll on Apr. 25, 2013 @ 7:20 pm

If AirBnB ends up encouraging widespread tax evasion as a business model, that takes it to a whole 'nuther level.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 25, 2013 @ 7:30 pm

"I'm not sure whether y'all are paid shills or just being deliberately dense, probably some combination thereof."

LOL. Steven, you actually think people are paid to post on the SFBG website? Because of the enormous influence the SFBG website has on San Francisco politics?


Bye, I'm off to Aruba with my ill-gotten gains!

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on Apr. 25, 2013 @ 5:14 pm

claiming San Francisco sets tax policy for cities like Istanbul and throwing around wild accusations that those who oppose his meandering hit pieces are "paid trolls." Not to mention his boast that adding bike lanes to three blocks on the Wiggle will solve global warming.

Troll writers gotta troll.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 25, 2013 @ 5:21 pm

that we'd forgive illegal behavior as long as someone benefiting from it paid the taxes?

and what kind of brain-dead person would rent out their apartment without first checking the see if that was ok to do under their lease? oh, wait...

Posted by Guest on Apr. 25, 2013 @ 1:28 pm

On another article, either Tim or Steve admitted that he posted mostly as troll bait. I'd say that comes pretty close.

Posted by Hortencia on Apr. 25, 2013 @ 1:50 pm

. . . but of course we will recall that the Romulans used those against the Federation.

Ooh. . . imagine that sharp green beam playing over and disapating the "matter" of economic activity. . . meaning people's livelihood.

Posted by lillipublicans on Apr. 24, 2013 @ 8:48 pm

It reminds of the kind of language Occupiers and their ilk use. It's interesting to see who wants what disrupted and in what context.

Posted by Hortencia on Apr. 25, 2013 @ 2:02 pm

What sort would lump them together with a handle like "ilk"? I think that word goes together with Hortencia.

Posted by lillipublicans on Apr. 26, 2013 @ 2:53 pm

OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Three Occupy Oakland protesters have been charged with robbery and hate crimes for an incident at a bank action on Feb. 22, police said.

In a written statement released Friday, police said that one had been arrested that day and two others were arrested at an Occupy Oakland protest on Wednesday.

The three protesters allegedly encountered a woman walking in the 4000 block of Piedmont Avenue while protesting at the Wells Fargo bank at 151 40th St.

The woman told police that the protesters were calling for a riot and she told the protesters not to riot in her neighborhood.

Posted by Matlock on Apr. 26, 2013 @ 6:32 pm

All of those charges were dropped. The defense had evidence that the accuser had used racial epithets against the acused.

And on top of all that... was Matlock actually trying to show that the occupy protestors weren't diverse by citing three of them?

Posted by lillipublicans on Apr. 26, 2013 @ 7:51 pm
Posted by Guest on Apr. 25, 2013 @ 11:50 am

The business model for collaborative consumption is not new. It is actually really quite old. Just like in the past when the economy goes bust assets that were highly valued get depreciated, or more precisely devalued, until such point that they can be consumed by as large a market as possible.

Think back to the Internet bubble. The Internet was awash in bandwidth bringing the cost of streaming video way, way, down. It was this devaluation that enable businesses like YouTube to flourish and services like Hulu, Aero, and so on to develop over time.

In the more recent past, we have seen the cost of data storage come way down leading to the growth in cloud computing. But here, the growth is more controlled because the price came down as a result of technical innovation and not a bust.

Services like AirBnB and such are simply applying this same model to consumer goods. After the real estate bubble burst, prices came down, and many baby-boomers found themselves with empty nests, so all this excess capacity people found themselves with extra space and capitalized on it. Other services like relayrides for cars and still others for household goods fit the same model because many individuals used their homes as ATMs buying more goods than they needed. Now they are monetizing this excess as well.

In support of my argument you just have to look at where, in what countries, collaborative consumption is the strongest. Even if you don't look it up, I'm sure you can imagine and you'd be right.

The challenge going forward will certainly be legislative. Most laws, rules and regulations are the result of lobbying by the status quo. Charging a hotel tax to paying guests staying in hotels is certainly a source of income for a city but more importantly it increases the cost of doing business for new entrants into the hotel business. After all, an individual homeowner doesn't want to have collect, manage, declare and pay a hotel tax because it would be a huge headache and probably wipe-out most of their gains. So, as much as I empathize with the needs of a city to have a balanced budget the real "enemy" are entrenched business interests. Remember Napster?!

Posted by Guest on Apr. 26, 2013 @ 6:23 am

taking out the middle man but also disempowering the rigid power structures that have gripped the US for decades.

Now, that might include old-school businesses, but it also disempowers unions and local governments. I am fine with that but SFBG clearly struggles with it. Bruce and Tim may have been hip in 1970 but now they look strangely dated opposing this grass roots movement.

And that's the thing. The progressive movement likes to talk about empowering the people but, when the people actually take some power, the Progs strangely do not like it at all!

Posted by Guest on Apr. 26, 2013 @ 6:47 am

Airbnb is a middleman. That's all it is, and all we're suggesting is this huge corporate middleman pay its taxes just like other corporate middlemen.

Posted by steven t. on Apr. 26, 2013 @ 8:41 am

we do not tax that broker when he sells a home for someone.

The seller still pays the transfer tax and any capital gains tax. The buyer takes over the property tax. The middleman only pay tax on his profit from the deal.

So your analogy breaks down before it is even out of the starting gate. With transient stays, the "landlord: owes the tax, and not AirBnB, Craigslist, the Chronicle, the SFBG or whoever lese placed the ad or otherwise put the two parties in touch.

Posted by anon on Apr. 26, 2013 @ 9:05 am

pay all your FICA and income tax?


Posted by Guest on Apr. 26, 2013 @ 9:23 am

Nobody is asking the middleman to pay transient tax for properties that they don't control. Of course it is ridiculous.

Steven is confused because the city's tax department said that the TOT was a shared responsibility between AirBNB and the host (so he of course interprets 'shared' as meaning that it is 100% on AirBNB). But they also acknowledge that the 50 year old law could use an update:

"The mayor's office, though, had urged the treasurer to hold off issuing the regulation while Lee and other lawmakers work with tech industry representatives to craft plans to foster economic growth, including updated laws.

Cisneros' office is part of that working group, and Kato said the new regulation would help, not hinder, those efforts.

"We think what will be helpful ... is to have a clear understanding of what the existing law says," Kato said.

So in other words the tax department is actively involved in reviewing the law and just put forward a (rather harsh) interpretation of what they see as a starting point.

What will probably happen is that AirBNB will help to collect the money and then pass it on to the host, who hopefully will pay it.

Meanwhile, David Chiu is working on the property rights issues but has said that he is not interested in the tax issue.

Yes, what Steven has been saying makes no sense whatsoever; but this will all work out for the betterment of the city

Posted by Troll on Apr. 26, 2013 @ 9:48 am