AirBnB, Expedia donate $300,000 to the group working to defeat Measure C in Palm Springs
Corinne S Kennedy, The Desert Sun on May 17, 2018
Three weeks before election day, the group fighting a Palm Springs ballot measure that would ban most of the city’s vacation rental properties has received an influx of cash from AirBnB and travel-booking site Expedia, which owns HomeAway.
We Love Palm Springs, a group of short-term rental owners, hotel owners, real estate agents and other supporters of the vacation rental industry, received $100,000 from vacation rental listing site AirBnB and $200,000 from Expedia last week, according to campaign finance documents posted to the city of Palm Springs’ website Tuesday.
The group has raked in more than $660,000 since the beginning of the year, a mix of large donations from local and national vacation rental companies and smaller donations from residents of Palm Springs and other cities.
Palm Springs Neighbors for Neighborhoods, the group that put Measure C on the ballot, has raised about $32,000 since the beginning of the year, according to campaign finance filings. Neighbors for Neighborhoods raised almost $50,000 in 2017, much of which was spent on the signature gathering efforts to put the measure to the voters.
Marla Malaspina, a member of Palm Springs Neighbors for Neighborhoods, said in an email that the group was “up against Goliath and fighting for our neighborhoods.”
In a news release, neighbors for neighborhoods campaign manager Rob Grimm said the donations were a sign that voters supported Measure C.
“From the amount of money being put into this by the opposition and the enormous contribution by Expedia Corp. so close to the election date, it appears that these large investors are afraid the Measure will indeed pass,” he said.
Bruce Hoban of We Love Palm Springs said that the more he and other vacation rental supporters talked to the voters, the more it seemed people were inclined to vote against Measure C.
“We believe that we are in very good shape and we continue to educate the voters,” he said.
Hoban added that the overall tourism industry brought in millions to Palm Springs.
“We’re protecting a big part of the economy, and whatever needs to be done to protect that economy, we’ll do,” he said.
Expedia spokesperson Philip Minardi said vacation rentals have long been part of the city's tourism landscape.
"If passed, Measure C would not only harm travelers looking to experience a whole-home vacation here in town, but local homeowners and small businesses that have come to rely upon the vacation rental ecosystem," he said in an email. "Our contribution represents a continued commitment to support local vacation rental owners, managers, and small businesses as we have done for two decades."
The battle over Measure C has been raging since the initiative, which would outlaw rentals of fewer than 28 days in the city’s residential neighborhoods, qualified for the ballot earlier this year. But the wider debate about short-term rentals has been playing out in Palm Springs for years.
Palm Springs overhauled its vacation rental regulations in 2016, but before the new ordinance took effect, a group of vacation rental supporters started a petition drive to block the ordinance. The group collected enough signatures to place an initiative on the 2017 ballot.
To stave off a vote, the city amended the regulations, addressing some of the concerns raised by members of the vacation rental industry. Those new rules were implemented in March of 2017 and immediately drew criticism from people who thought the city had made too many concessions to the rental industry.
Opponents of the current ordinance, who would coalesce into Palm Springs Neighbors for Neighborhoods, then started a new petition drive to put the question of whether or not short-term rentals belong in Palm Springs neighborhoods to the voters once and for all.
Palm Springs voters will decide the fate of the city's short-term rental industry June 5.
Corinne Kennedy covers the west valley for The Desert Sun. She can be reached at Corinne.Kennedy@DesertSun.com or on Twitter @CorinneSKennedy.