With Proposition F—the San Francisco ballot measure to restrict Airbnb and other short-term rentals—failing after votes were tallied last night, the home-sharing company at the center of the controversy invited members of the press to a debriefing at its San Francisco headquarters this morning. Chris Lehane, Airbnb’s head of global public policy and a former aide to Bill Clinton, detailed what the company felt it learned from its successful campaign against Prop F. In particular, he said, the company realized it could organize and mobilize its enormous base of Airbnb users, both hosts and guests.
“We began to think about this election in a little bit of a different way,” Lehane said. “Was there something we could do? We had this big base of support, the light bulb went off in our heads. Could we actually organize and activize (sic) this community and change what the voter pool in San Francisco was going to look like?”
At one point, presenting the company’s prepared slides, Lehane compared the influence of the Airbnb community to the National Rifle Association. Airbnb now has over 4 million members, both hosts and guests, compared to the NRA’s 5.1 million members. “The [Airbnb] voting bloc that is growing is a formidable constituency,” Lehane said, comparing Airbnb’s numbers to the NRA, the Sierra Club, teachers in the National Education Association and pro-LGBT Human Rights Campaign members.