by Tom Nguyen
This morning, I noticed a musician friend announce on Facebook he would be performing on the same stage with bands like Maroon 5 at Airbnb Open 2016, a festival hosted by Airbnb in downtown Los Angeles November 17-19. It’s an annual community gathering and festival of hosting that brought together 5000 hosts from 110 countries at last year’s festival in Paris, France. This year, the festival offers music, art, food and talks by celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Ashton Kutcher, and according to their press release, will “highlight the thriving downtown area of LA, taking place across four historic theatres and involving many local restaurants, cafes and other small businesses.”
It sounds great doesn’t it? It’s just no one in our communities knows about it because there is a vacuum of press that this is happening this week. LA Times, LA Weekly and Curbed.com which regularly write about neighborhood complaints about Airbnb, the effects of these short term rentals on LA’s already insufficient supply of renta units, and the city’s efforts to regulate them, are curiously silent. The only news I found were on My News LA and Timeout back in July when the festival was first announced.
Curbed.LA wrote a great piece “Airbnb vs. the city: How short-term rentals are changing urban neighborhoods” just last week. The article gives a good summary of Airbnb’s history from its founding in San Francisco in 2007, it’s tremendous growth, estimated to grow 89% from $900 million in 2015 to an estimated $1.7 billion this year, and how cities across the country are increasingly cracking down and grappling with how to enforce and regulate what are essentially illegal hotels. Curbed.LA says “2016 has been a year of backlash against illegal short-term rentals.” It’s no wonder Airbnb and its high powered PR are staying mum on this week’s festival. If the festival flies under the radar the way their short term rentals do, away from too much scrutiny, Airbnb and their gathered hosts won’t have to answer difficult questions, like those posed by ShareBetter.org and a few other critics I found while searching under #AirbnbOpen hashtag on Twitter.