Politics

San Francisco rejects anti-Airbnb measure, re-elects mayor

Demonstrators in San Francisco have been protesting outside apartment buildings that have units rented through online brokers.
Demonstrators in San Francisco have been protesting outside apartment buildings that have units rented through online brokers.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

San Francisco voters re-elected Mayor Ed Lee while rejecting two measures out of tune with his pro-development agenda, indicating they're not ready to dismiss a booming economy that has also exacerbated the city's housing crisis.

At the same time, they acknowledged the city's extreme unaffordability by appearing to give a $310 million affordable housing bond the steep two-thirds majority it needed to win.

San Francisco has become a national symbol of income inequality as newcomers shell out more than $3,000 for modest one-bedroom apartments while long-time tenants battle eviction.

Lee was heavily favored to win re-election even as the San Francisco ballot reflected deep concern over the tech-driven development he's championed in his five years in office.

He faced five little-known candidates who had not raised much money and had no expectation of winning.

Critics said Lee catered too much to Silicon Valley, citing his brokering a tax break in 2011 to benefit Twitter as part of a remake of the city's downtown. His campaign argued that the city struggled with housing long before he became mayor.

With no real opposition, Lee spent much of his re-election campaign touting Proposition A, a $310 million bond for affordable housing he said is badly needed to address the city's lack of housing.

San Francisco voters last approved a housing bond in 1996, rejecting two others in 2002 and in 2004.

Lee told reporters Tuesday night that the focus of his second term would be on housing and homelessness, with a strong focus on public safety.

Perhaps the most divisive measure on the ballot was Proposition F, which would have limited home-shares to a strict 75 nights and required Airbnb and other hosting platforms to pull listings that exceed the limit.

San Francisco-based Airbnb spent more than $8 million to defeat the measure, drawing national attention to an issue that's hitting cities large and small.

Ballot proponents in San Francisco said the proliferation of short-term rentals is squeezing the city's already tight housing market.

Airbnb issued a statement Tuesday saying the measure's loss was a win for residents who rely on the extra income from vacation stays to make ends meet.

Proposition I, which would have frozen luxury housing construction in the city's popular Mission District, also went down.

The mayor opposed both measures as not doing anything to make housing more affordable.

Separately, voters booted San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi from office.

Challenger Vicki Hennessy won decisively over Mirkarimi, who set off a national firestorm this summer when his office released a Mexican national despite a federal immigration request to keep him in custody. The man later shot and killed a woman on a San Francisco pier, claiming it was accidental.

He has also endured a series of personal and official embarrassments, including an arrest on domestic violence charges in 2012 that his wife says was politically motivated.

Hennessy joined the sheriff's department in 1975 and rose to chief deputy, the third-highest ranking position in the office. The San Francisco native retired five years ago after directing the city's emergency services agency.

There are thousands more ballots to be counted.

This story has been updated.