Airbnb signs new lease in SF; Lee fights tax hiccup

(KGO)
May 2, 2012 5:20:00 PM PDT
San Francisco is celebrating the expansion of another high-tech company. On Wednesday, Airbnb signed a 10-year lease so it can move into a much larger space and go on a hiring spree.

The quick growth of the company might be surprising to many people who have never even heard of Airbnb. The company launched in San Francisco nearly four years ago. It's currently located at 99 Rhode Island Street in Potrero Hill. It's going to move about 10 blocks away to Showplace Square on Brannan Street where the gift center is located, south of Market. "What started as us renting airbeds in the living room has literally spread to 20,000 cities around the world," Brian Chesky explained.

Chesky is the co-founder and CEO of Airbnb, as in air mattress bed and breakfast. It's a company that through its website, allows people like Kepa Askenasy to rent rooms in her Potrero Hill home to globetrotters. "Right now I have a gal who arrived from Shanghai. Yesterday, I hosted a fellow who started the Food Network in Singapore. He was my guest for a couple of nights," she told ABC7. She's part of a movement known as "the sharing economy," people sharing homes, cars, and other assets.

In Airbnb's case, the movement is spreading so rapidly the company has risen from 12 employees in a 3-bedroom apartment two years ago, to 125 in the current spot on Potrero Hill, to an expected growth of more than 1,000. This, after the company announced Wednesday that it's signed a 10-year lease on 169,000 square feet in Showplace Square, south of Market. "It's, we think, fundamentally a great thing for the city, for local communities around the world," Chesky said.

There is one potential hiccup. The city's tax collector held a hearing in March informing Airbnb participants that they will need to start collecting the 14 percent hotel tax from their guests. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee has created a task force and indicated Wednesday he is working to change that. "The policymakers in the city, which is our board of supervisors, the mayor, along with businesses that are engaged in this new economy, should continue very rapidly our dialogue around what the challenges the shared economy has, and then adjust accordingly," he said.

Airbnb is expected to begin relocating to its new space in February.


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