San Francisco

Airbnb Apologizes Over San Francisco Hotel Taxes Ad Snafu

One poster called for the SF Public Library system to use “some of the $12 million in hotel taxes to keep the library open later.” Library officials say they recently boosted hours

Dear Airbnb, better luck with the next campaign.

The San Francisco-based rental company has yanked a bunch of snarky ads touting the amount of taxes it pays after the advertising campaign came under fire on social media.

One poster on city bus stops called for the San Francisco Public Library system to use “some of the $12 million in hotel taxes to keep the library open later.”

Martha Kenney, an assistant professor for women and gender studies at San Francisco State University, wrote in a Facebook post shared nearly 1,000 times that she doubted the money could make a difference in paying for workers.

“I’m happy to hear that you paid your taxes this year. I did too!” she wrote.[[335961871, C]]

Library spokesman Benjamin Ibarra told NBC Bay Area library system workers were “overwhelmed by the support from the community” over the issue.

“We’re happy that they did the right thing,” he said of Airbnb’s decision to pull the ad.

“The intent was to show the hotel tax contribution from our hosts and guests, which is roughly $1 million per month," Airbnb said in a statement. "It was the wrong tone and we apologize to anyone who was offended. These ads are being taken down immediately.”

Ibarra could not immediately confirm what percent of hotel tax revenue goes to fund the library system.

He said that libraries could ideally have longer hours, but noted that in May 2014 the system added 39 hours to the system, a 17.5 percent increase since 2005.

San Francisco's public libraries evaluates community needs every five years, he said.

Other ads in the campaign offered the City of San Francisco the following ideas to use the money Airbnb pays in hotel taxes:

• "We hope you use some of the $12 million in hotel taxes to put escalators on all the hills."

• "Please use $12 million in hotel taxes to feed all expired parking meters."

• "Please use some of the $12 million in hotel taxes to keep music in schools."

The timing of Airbnb's campaign coincides with an initiative on the November ballot that would restrict short-term rentals in San Francisco. Proposition F, also known as the “Airbnb measure,” would limit private rentals to 75 nights per year and would require hosts and “hosting platforms” to submit quarterly reports on how often they rented to travelers.

Airbnb has reportedly spent more than $8 million to defeat the initiative. But the firm told Business Insider that it had not used that money to fund its advertising campaign.

Some residents said the ads would make them pay more attention to Prop. F. Others said the message missed the mark. "It really attacks a lot of individuals who really try to keep the schools in place so I think it’s totally inappropriate," said San Francisco resident James Elerick.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein backs the measure while San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee opposes it,  According to Feinstein, Prop. F will close "loopholes and provide effective enforcement tools."[[335975021, C]]

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