Before Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado heads out of office, he has a parting gift for some of his constituents: whacking them with code compliance violations for voicing their opinions at a City Commission meeting.
On Thursday, a group of Miami property owners renting their homes out on Airbnb showed up at Miami City Hall, begging Mayor Regalado to reject a measure declaring their businesses an illegal nuisance.
According to the Miami Herald, they pleaded with Regalado and city commissioners, imploring him to end the war with Airbnb and give them a fair chance.
Regalado had a message for them: No way, no how.
Instead of reasoning with them, the Miami City Commission voted 3-2 to declare Airbnb an “illegal nuisance.”
To make matters worse for residents, the commission then told the hosts who gave their names and addresses on the record they had outed themselves to code compliance, which could mean the city coming after them to hit them with a bevy of fines, all for renting out their homes on Airbnb.
Tom Martinelli, head of public policy for Airbnb, called the outing of residents “deeply disturbing.”
"The 3-2 vote is one thing given the symbolic nature of the resolution, but what I have a fundamental problem with is the government going after their people for exercising their democratic right [to free speech,]” he told Sunshine State News. “That right is sacred.”
It’s the latest chapter in an ongoing saga between the greater Miami area and Airbnb -- and it’s a war which has only intensified in recent months and shows no signs of losing momentum any time soon.
Both Miami and Miami Beach have become notorious for their unfriendly approaches to short term rental properties.
In Miami, Regalado has pushed to ban short-term rentals in suburban areas and to create a set of hoops to jump through for renters who want to list their homes on Airbnb legally, equipped with rules, fines and compliance codes for residents.
In Miami Beach, Mayor Philip Levine has jacked up fines for illegal renters from $500 all the way to $20,000 -- and if he can swing it, he’s aiming to make that figure even higher.
Last week, the two mayors teamed up for an anti-Airbnb press conference where they doubled down on their intentions to take a no holds barred approach towards dealing with the homesharing company, whose users pumped $253 million into the city last year alone.
In the days leading up to the City Commission meeting, Airbnb and Levine threw down the gauntlet and sparred in brutal ad campaigns.
The homesharing site accused both Levine and Regalado in a television commercial of being “against middle class families” for their opposition to short term rentals.
“Despite the high cost of living in Miami, the mayors want to stop families from sharing their homes to pay their bills and mortgages,” the ad said, providing viewers with both Levine and Regalado’s phone numbers so constituents can call and ask why they’re against middle class families.
In retort, Levine personally paid for a banner plane to trash Airbnb. He also floated a water billboard in Miami Beach accusing Airbnb of “hosting Tallahassee politicians.”
Moving forward, Airbnb told SSN it’s taking a “wait and see” approach with the cities.
“We will see where the chips lie,” Martinelli said. “The positions taken on Thursday were more political than policy-focused.”
With both mayors on their way out, though, Martinelli and Airbnb see a glimmer a hope.
“The reality here is that in a few months this all changes,” “This issue is not so cut and dry."
Looking back, Martinelli said he couldn’t help that feel a lot of the pushback -- especially on residents of Miami and Miami Beach -- has been unnecessarily cruel.
“I understand if [the local governments] had a complaint against them, but for them to be hunted down and punished because they have a different opinion than the mayors, it makes me concerned,” he said.
Airbnb says it will defend its hosts all the way to the end.
“We’re telling them to hang in there,” he said. “We aren’t going to leave them out to dry.”