If Miami area Mayors Tomás Regalado and Philip Levine made anything clear Monday, it’s that they have no plans to back down on their ongoing war against homesharing company Airbnb anytime soon.
The two stood at a podium in front of Miami City Hall Monday morning for a press conference with reporters, vowing to limit Airbnb properties to commercial zones only -- and nowhere else.
The City Hall backdrop was water, boats and sunshine -- all part of the environment which beckons millions of visitors to vacation in the Sunshine State.
Outside, a group of Airbnb hosts gathered, protesting mass restrictions and fines as high as $20,000 on their properties -- all for renting out their homes on Airbnb.
“These mayors are inn-sane,” read one sign.
“Lame duck Levine,” read another.
Another accused Levine and Regalado of being motivated by special interests, placing the wants of the powerful over the needs of the people.
For Miami Airbnb hosts, renting out their houses is a way to make a little extra money while they're not occupying them and share the magic of the “Magic City” with tourists.
"Airbnb is a way to share our lifestyle with others,” said Miami Airbnb host Susana Medina. Medina uses her home for supplemental income and feels she can really give back to the community and share the Miami lifestyle with travelers through Airbnb.
Levine and Regalado don’t agree.
While the two believe tourism is good for the economy, they say Airbnb, a home sharing service which offers middle class tourists a less expensive alternative to hotel lodging, is bad for their cities.
The mayors trashed the company for bringing boozy parties and sketchy people to Miami, causing waves of complaints from citizens.
To fight back, Regalado has proposed cracking down on Airbnb regulations while Levine has skyrocketed fines for renters up to $20,000 a pop. Levine has repeatedly said those fines aren't high enough, vowing to tick the fees up even more.
At one point, Levine even implied the Airbnb hosts were paid protesters, sent to cause a commotion at the press conference.
“I wish all our Homeowners Association presidents could be here today,” Levine said sarcastically. “Unfortunately, they’re all working. They’re not being paid by anybody.”
The two, especially Levine, have been accused of putting the interests of the hotel industry over the interests of a free market. Levine disagreed, saying he wasn’t being influenced by anyone but his constituents, who hate Airbnb and everything it stands for.
Overhead, an airplane waving a banner flew by, its engine roaring over Regalado and Levine as they railed against Airbnb.
“Regalado and Levine, Have Suite Dreams! #HotelBuddies,” the banner read.
Negotiations, it seems, are a long way off. Airbnb told Sunshine State News last month that the mayors repeatedly refuse to meet with them to discuss some kind of agreement, making moving forward with sensible regulations a difficult prospect.
But Regalado stood firm that Airbnb brings nothing positive to the Miami area.
Talking with the company, he explained, would be pointless.
“There’s nothing to negotiate,” he told reporters.
Levine has taken a more aggressive approach against Airbnb, unleashing his fury on the company via social media, tweeting Miami Beach “doesn’t want” what Airbnb is selling.
When SSN asked whether he felt his Trump-style Twitter tirade would affect possible interactions and negotiations with the company, Levine turned vicious against the company.
“Airbnb goes out and attacks me because I’m going out there and protecting the residents,” Levine scoffed. “What Airbnb is not interested in is attacking somebody who actually has their own resources who can attack back or somebody that hasn’t taken any money from the hotel industry ... It’s one of those things, that, when you get punched, sometimes you get punched [back.]”
Levine remained unapologetic.
“I’m so sorry Airbnb feels so persecuted,” he said sarcastically. “I’m shedding crocodile tears.”
Meanwhile, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez struck a deal with the company, agreeing on a tentative 6 percent county bed tax for Airbnb, which would pump around $8 million into the county annually.
Hosts said they don’t mind being taxed as long as they can still offer their homes to visitors to make extra cash.
Without the supplemental income from Airbnb, some hosts fear they won’t be able to make ends meet -- and they’ll have to leave the place they call home.
“I’ve lived here all my life,” said Miami host Aida Ibanaz. “I can’t live here [with these regulations]. I’m going to have to put my house up for sale. I can’t keep taking hits [like this]. It’s impossible.”