"Sharing economy" should share its wealth



The valuation of San Francisco-based technology companies has been skyrocketing, with Airbnb reaching a reported $10 billion last week, Uber at about $3.5 billion, and Twitter's market capitalization just shy of $30 billion.

But in each of these cases, the companies and their wealthy investors are profiting from exploiting their communities and refusing to play by the rules. That's a point of pride among the tech titans, who speak proudly of the "disruption" that they create and adopt vaguely libertarian anti-government postures when it suits their interests.

Yet there's mounting real world damage being done by scofflaw companies that refuse to take responsibility for their actions or to use some of their growing resources to help clean up the messes they create. The companies deceptively call themselves the "sharing economy," even though renting isn't sharing, and they're utterly unwilling to share their wealth.

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones held a March 21 hearing that included representatives of Uber and other so-called rideshare companies, and representatives from the insurance industry, trying to create a regulatory framework that would protect drivers and the general public.

As we've reported, Uber and similar "transportation network companies" undercut San Francisco's taxi industry without providing commercial insurance for their drivers, leaving both its drivers and those they injure on their own in many cases.

Insurers and regulators dismissed Uber's claim that it's "only an app," an argument used to justify not fully insuring drivers or taking on others responsibilities shouldered by taxi companies, with one insurance industry spokesperson calling on the TNCs to "step up, and be the insurers of their drivers."

Airbnb has a similar business model as what ValleyWag last week called an "outlaw middleman," creating a simple online system for connecting tourists with cheap rooms in San Francisco and other cities, heedless of the fact that such short-term rentals often violate local zoning, housing, and tenant laws, as well as the leases of many tenant hosts.

And when San Francisco ruled two years ago that the 15 percent Transient Occupancy Tax applies to Airbnb stays, the company simply refused to comply and tack on the tax. It recently added insult to injury by saying it would support requiring hosts to pay the tax — an unworkable solution to a problem that this company got rich creating.

With the power to disrupt comes the responsibility for that disruption, something these companies refuse to accept. Twitter extorted more than $50 million from San Francisco taxpayers by threatening to leave town, and now it refuses to even provide meaningful benefits to this community, a condition of that subsidy.

Just because they've found ways to make money, and/or a bunch of rich investors who are willing to lend them the power that comes with their wealth, that doesn't validate their business models or excuse bad corporate behavior. Bullies riding bubbles are still bullies, even if they have cool apps.



What's mine is mine, and what's yours is mine.

Anyone who succeeds must give it all away as if they had failed.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 5:15 pm

one short step away from being Randists.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 26, 2014 @ 10:36 am

Yes, there is certainly more nonsense here than can be sorted out under any reasonable time frame.

But at least Steven labels it as 'Editorial', as opposed to other times when he attempts to peddle misleading falsehoods as 'news' or 'journalism'.

So, for that baby step I think that Steven should be encouraged.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 26, 2014 @ 11:14 am

Please Tech companies! We beg you! Step up to the plate and make a positive difference in San Francisco with your billions! Buy up the buildings and Ellis act out of the city Tommi Avicolli Meca. Sara Shortt, Erin McEloy and any other malcontent-ed wanna be "activists" who are greedily trying to weasel their way into your pockets. It's the best and only way to help the city and yourselves while you are at it. A WIN-WIN for us all !

Posted by Guest on Mar. 26, 2014 @ 4:26 pm

driving out the old school of losers and activists.

The future looks bright.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 26, 2014 @ 4:42 pm

As Margaret Thatcher would have said: the problem with Steven Jones' version of Socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money to spend.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 26, 2014 @ 4:56 pm

and tax it punitively.

He should have learned that from TwitterGate

Posted by Guest on Mar. 26, 2014 @ 6:57 pm

The editorial is not only well reasoned, but it's solidly fact based.

By definition "sharing economy" and "ride sharing" raise consumer disclosure and fact and law questions.

Ride sharing has been traditionally sort of a voluntary hitch-hike like going across the Bay Bridge. But once you start commercially charging that becomes a motor vehicle for hire, the classic definition of a taxicab.

And cab drivers, by the numbers, do real work, often driving 36,000 miles per year, carrying between 6 and 9K passengers including seniors and disabled to and from the General Hospital, the Safeway and the poorer communities. That's not just pink fluff and creme de la creme!

That's real work. A long time ago Abraham Lincoln said labor was superior to capital because it came first. Now we have the comfortable deep pocketed gentry that can call the shots without lifting a finger dividing and demoralizing working labor.

FYI years ago, in a slight, but only slight tip to the record in this sordid mess and TNC's, Willie Brown and Gavin Newsom committed to centralized taxi dispatch as did the SFMTA but none of them did, didley, nada and zilch.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 26, 2014 @ 7:10 pm

Sharing means you give me money for a good or service?

Posted by marcos on Mar. 26, 2014 @ 7:26 pm

When my friends want to borrow my car, I tell them it'll be $50 an hour. Cash only, please. But I do it with a smile and a high five, cause that's what sharing is all about.

Doesn't everybody do that?

Posted by Greg on Mar. 26, 2014 @ 8:16 pm

One of my neighbor's kids babysits for us from time to time and we give him gift cards and vouchers.

Informal car pooling and ride shares have for decades been traded for "gas money".

Quid pro quo is how the world goes round.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2014 @ 5:44 am

Sometimes someone in our group chooses to be the designated driver for the night. We usually end up buying him dinner or getting him gas. He flies/we buy. Same thing.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 29, 2014 @ 4:11 pm

and arrangements between consenting adults behaving rationally.

They want everything to be controlled by a vast bureaucracy.

Old school socialists just cannot get their hands around the sharing economy, and it scares the "centralized command and control" types.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 29, 2014 @ 4:26 pm

This is all about cheating the government by not paying sales taxes.

Posted by Richmondman on Mar. 31, 2014 @ 10:16 am
Posted by Guest on Mar. 31, 2014 @ 12:00 pm

I'll have the driver take me to the airport and then I'll offer him gas money.

What? You want HOW much? Dude, that's a lot more than gas money, dude. That's like cab fare, dude! I thought this was the "sharing economy," not like a business or something. If I wanted to pay real money, I would've called a licensed taxi! I'll tell you what... 8 bucks is all I have, but I'll babysit your kids for free anytime, 'cause it's the sharing economy and all, and I'm that kind of person.

What? No high five, dude? I thought we were best friends just a minute ago!

Posted by Greg on Mar. 30, 2014 @ 11:11 pm

The real cost of running a car is more than just gas. The IRS allows you a per diem for using a car for business and I'd guess that runs about what a car service charges.

So yes, we've had the sharing economy since forever. The only real difference now is that we have the internet used as an intermediary.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 31, 2014 @ 5:49 am

There is a big difference between ride-sharing and running a business where you sell rides for cash. The latter is called a taxi.

Only a capitalist would define selling something for cash as "sharing." That's not the way I was taught to "share."

Posted by Greg on Mar. 31, 2014 @ 2:03 pm

I have a product and i let you use it in return for some consideration.

That's equally true whether it is a ride share, a car service, a car rental or a cab.

You WANT there to be a distinction but there really isn't. People have been engaged in the sharing economy since forever.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 31, 2014 @ 2:52 pm

It's an informal consensual exchange of value by two individuals. It specifically flourishes because it frees people from vast corporations like car rental companies and hotel chains, and allows people the flexibility of dealing with other people like themselves for some basic transactions.

There are savings and a freedom from red tape, which most of us value as well. But more than that it is a removal of power from large centralized bureaucracies - private and public - and is an empowerment of the people.

If he really thought about it, he would see it as a populist grass roots movement. But he is so wed to the idea of big government, big business and a vast bureaucracy controlling everything, that he has a mindless, kneejerk opposition to it.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 31, 2014 @ 3:33 pm

sharing the something you own or can do.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2014 @ 5:45 am

Does seem silly that this Peer group in SF has the nerve to call selling goods and services sharing. Are people that stupid to not see this? Now they're having some conference in SF for their "community of sharers" to meet and feel good about being duped by Uber and Airbnb, etc.

Posted by Guest in lb on May. 12, 2014 @ 8:18 pm

I take issue to the first paragraph where the author says that these companies "exploit" their communities. They do no such thing, in fact, they bring value to these communities - users simply wouldn't use a service which didn't deliver value.
Furthermore, most of the companies mentioned bring this value at low or no cost to the users of their systems; to call this exploitation is not just wrong, it destroys the very meaning of the term.
The fact that these entrepreneurs who risked their own livelihoods to bring value to others free of charge are able to make money for themselves is a testament to their ingenuity. It's the spirit of service an innovation which made this country great, and if let loose in other sectors, will keep this country great for some time to come.

Posted by Baxter Ross on Mar. 27, 2014 @ 11:35 am

It's pretty ironic that the nerds are getting worked up by this article while there's the whole Google/Apple wage fixing thing going on and they all feel they're being underpaid because of the disparity between their wages and the company's profits. Or should I say the... inequality. haha

Posted by Jeff on Mar. 27, 2014 @ 4:50 pm

This article is misguided. Those folks who are working for Uber or Lyft, or who rent out places on Airbnb (either as owners of the properties, or with permission from their landlords -- I don't condone tenants violating their rental agreement to rent out their unit) are NOT wealthy folks. Airbnb may be "wealthy", but Airbnb is actually only one way of doing short-term rentals, and in the future there may be other websites, other companies, other popular ways of doing this, and what these forms of "sharing economy" allow is that the "little people" have more opportunities.

I agree that the term "sharing economy" is a misnomer, since sharing implies free of charge. However, the term is meant to describe the various opportunities that can arise for "little people" when they can rent out things that they own (as opposed to renting out what is NOT theirs, which many tenants do illegally and disrespectfully when violating no-subletting terms of their lease).

If anyone is wrong in this scenario, I would say the party in the wrong is any local government that tries to step in and dictate what people are allowed to do with their OWN property. There should be no laws against short-term renting, particularly when people are only renting out a room in their own home where they themselves live, rather than a whole apartment, or getting paid to drive someone somewhere.

I disagree that Airbnb should collect hotel tax from its hosts. Again, this is an area where the city is wrong. Private homes are not hotels and should not pay hotel tax, and if the city asks them to, it is right for Airbnb to refuse to collect the tax from the host. I support hosts refusing to pay the hotel tax, as a message to any local government trying to collect, that hotel tax is inappropriate to private homes.

Posted by Liberty and Freedom on Mar. 29, 2014 @ 8:11 am

the bay gaurdian states "Twitter extorted more than $50 million from San Francisco taxpayers by threatening to leave town"

did not the Bay Guardian endorse the politicians who gave up the $50 million?

Stop waisting your votes voting for corrupt republican and democratic candidates. There are other candidate choices from other partys on your ballot. vote for them!!

Posted by SFTparty on Mar. 29, 2014 @ 12:47 pm

It got a windfall amount of tax paid by Twitter when it decided not to leave the city

Posted by Guest on Mar. 29, 2014 @ 1:00 pm

It blows my mind these people going on and on about "tax breaks" and how unfair they think it is….when their whole existence in this city is based on cheap rent that they steal from their landlords as an organized criminal organization of cheapskate voters. HYPOCRISY to the 9th degree!

Posted by Guest on Mar. 29, 2014 @ 2:13 pm

Hypocrisy? Nuh-uh. You just have to understand progressive thinking. When in doubt refer to the following list.

Renter=good, landlord=evil.
Activist=good, corporation=bad.
Bicyclist=good, car driver=vile cager.
Christianity bashing=good, Islam bashing=vile, hateful bigotry, and judging an entire religion by the acts of a "few" fringe elements.
Poor people=interesting and noble, wealthy people=boring.
Lying in furtherance of progressive cause=acceptable because ends justify the means, lying in furtherance of conservative cause=evil and proof of how vile conservative ideas need lying to shore up their arguments.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 31, 2014 @ 1:50 pm

You can't be extorted for $50 million you don't have.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 29, 2014 @ 2:18 pm

Many condos in Naples are located in resort-type developments with outdoor pools,
tennis courts, fitness rooms, hot tubs, and sometimes golf courses adjacent or very close by.
Recumbent bike is the type that has bucket seat or chair-like.

They might not know there may be an issue or forget about it.

Posted by old naples rental on Jul. 16, 2014 @ 9:11 pm

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Also from this author

  • Arguments against minimum wage increase are out of touch

  • Housing ballot measures would weaken city policy

    With market-rate housing construction booming, Kim abandons effort to balance it with more affordability 

  • Appealing to San Francisco values