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Monday, March 25, 2013

Will Airbnb Stiff San Francisco During America's Cup?

Posted By on Mon, Mar 25, 2013 at 12:55 PM

click to enlarge Nice boats! Where are you staying? - VANCE CARDELL
  • Vance Cardell
  • Nice boats! Where are you staying?

Our across-the-hall colleagues at the Guardian have written a bit about how there seems to be a great degree of ambiguity regarding whether Airbnb is forking over the hotel taxes the city claims it owes.

It's always a pressing question whether a politically connected company is paying its fair share. But it becomes more so when a flurry of hotel taxes is now being relied upon to make up for anemic America's Cup fund-raising.

We've written a lot about this, so forgive us for being a broken record (and forgive us for using an analogy younger readers don't understand). But it's a risky proposal to assume that hotel and other revenues will be so much greater than usual during the America's Cup -- held in peak tourist season -- that the city will make up the money it spent to hold the event (which private fund-raisers have failed to amass).

It'll be even riskier if swaths of San Francisco visitors are using a service that doesn't contribute its fair share of hotel taxes.

See Also: Dueling Takes on Sinking America's Cup Report

Super Bowl, Other Mega-Events Don't Deliver Guaranteed Boons

Of course, hoping and praying that hotel and other taxes make the city whole wasn't part of the original arrangement. Private fund-raisers were tasked to "endeavor" to compensate the city, and additional tax revenues would be just that -- additional.

Relying on tax manna "is a change in the value proposition from where we were to where we are today," controller Ben Rosenfield told SF Weekly earlier this month. "The financial model was that the city would incur expenses, and fund-raising would offset the costs, and any economic benefit the city saw would accrue to the benefit of the overall economy and the city's general fund. But now we're in a different place. We're incurring expenses and we're hoping, when we've gone through and seen what actually occurred with the hotel, business, and sales taxes, there'll be enough to cover the delta.

"But we won't know that until long after we incur those expenses," he continued. This is a different deal entirely. "And one with more risk to the city."

And, with questions swirling regarding just who's paying hotel taxes and who isn't, those risks keep piling up.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.

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