Ocean Beach and Point Loma Residents Warned of Deceptive Pro-Airbnb Petition Gatherers

by on August 22, 2018 · 9 comments

in Ocean Beach

Airbnb hired firm under investigation for signature fraud to run its San Diego petition drive

A coalition of coastal town councils and community groups is warning residents of Ocean Beach, Point Loma and other neighborhoods to be leery of pro-Airbnb petition gatherers who are trying to overturn the recently-enacted ordinance on short term vacation rentals.

The aggressive signature-gatherers are using deception, outright misrepresentations and other tactics in order to woo people to sign their petition.

This is the warning from the San Diego Community Working Group, an umbrella organization that includes the San Diego Coalition of Town Councils (Clairemont, La Jolla, Mission Beach, Ocean Beach, among others), Neighborhoods for Residents, University City Community Association and Pacific Beach Planning Group.

The signature gatherers have been seen outside markets – but they are also canvassing the neighborhoods. One OB Reader reported this:

I was telling friends about the article about the paid signature gatherers for air b&b on Sunday that I read in the OB Rag. A couple hours later I was in front of my apartment with my friend when someone came up to have us sign the petition. I had had a few drinks, and this subject is a major pet peeve, so I let him have it.

He was in his early 20s, quite smart, claimed he wasn’t paid (millionaire parents?), and had just arrived from Florida. He took the debate to different places, but the main crux was that the govt. can’t tell home owners what they can do with their house. He was relentless. I was about to send him packing, as I wanted to watch the sunset, but my friend wanted to keep debating. I just left.

You are right, they are out there.

Plus, the Community Working Group has confirmed that Airbnb has hired PCI Consultants, a controversial petition firm based in Los Angeles, who has 130 paid and mostly out-of-town petition recruiters. They are working throughout the City of San Diego to recruit the 35,000 signatures required to put a repeal of the STR ordinance up for a referendum vote.

PCI is mixed up in a current criminal investigation in Newport Beach involving potential false or forged petition signatures and was forced to “produce documents related to a petition signature gathering as the city conducts a probe parallel with a criminal investigation by the Orange County district attorney’s office.”  In a 2011 petition drive in San Francisco, PCI’s signature gatherers were caught on tape lying to residents to get them to sign a petition.  In 2016, PCI made $9 million collecting signatures for petition efforts.

It has also been confirmed that these signature gathers are resorting to false marketing to convince San Diego residents to sign the petition.

Ann Kerr Bache, president of the La Jolla Town Council and Head of the San Diego Community Working Group, said petition signature gatherers are telling residents that the ordinance will take away their right to share their home, which is blatantly false. Since the signature gatherers are paid per signature, their incentives are to tell people whatever it takes to get them to sign the petition.

Bache stated:

“Out-of-town Airbnb investors have ruined many San Diego communities and now out-of-town Airbnb signature gathers are trying to repeal a common-sense ordinance to protect neighborhoods and housing.

Residents who want to support their neighborhood and reduce the cost of housing in the city should not sign the petition, and those who don’t should at least read the ordinance first before signing any petition.  Don’t be fooled into signing a petition based on falsehoods and misleading propaganda.”

Chris Brewster, who served as a San Diego lifeguard chief for 13 years and is a member of the San Diego Community Working Group, says he encourages city residents not to sign the petition drive because the rapid rise of commercial Airbnb investors gobbling up homes in San Diego is ruining the fabric of communities, as well as taking away housing options and raising housing costs for the city’s vital workforce, including emergency responders, teachers and healthcare workers.

Bache points out that any resident who was duped into signing the petition and wants their name removed can write a letter to the San Diego City Clerk  to have their signature revoked.



{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Eric August 22, 2018 at 2:36 pm

These cats are beyond a doubt paid per signature. They will lie straight to your face. They have no skin in the game and could give a rats butt about OB. For fun you can tie up their time with questions. Wordpress has a nice piece on signature gatherer regulations.



Dave August 22, 2018 at 10:00 pm

Yep, I’ve gotten into it with a few of them already, including three times with a guy who posts up outside the Home Depot on Sports Arena who, I think will finally remember me and stop engaging.

“Help protect homeowners’ rights in San Diego?” the pitch always opens.

“When you say that, do you mean the rights of owners in a residential zone to not live next to commercial businesses, or the rights of owners to use their residential property for commercial purposes?” I volley.

This never ends well, but just how poorly it goes depends on how much time I have to kill – if I’m being forced to spend time at Ken Langone’s orange shitstain it means I’m probably headed to a job and only have a minute or two to spare…


Val August 24, 2018 at 12:51 pm

I got approached the other day on Voltaire by two young homeless women. Clearly homeless. They couldn’t tell me any details or any information except, “it’s just to get AirBNB on the ballot”. I said no thank you. Then the pleads come “please, I just need the money” I walked away. They don’t care what they are pushing as long as they get money for them. Sad, pathetic and annoying.


John Thickstun August 24, 2018 at 1:27 pm

Check the comment to Matt’s article below. These “signature gatherers” are nothing more than a clan of hyenas. https://timesofsandiego.com/opinion/2018/08/23/airbnbs-war-on-truth-wont-kill-brys-vacation-rentals-compromise/


Tyler August 24, 2018 at 2:07 pm

They were collecting signatures from a randoms outside Newport liquor. Infuriating


Frank Gormlie August 25, 2018 at 12:51 pm

A reader wrote us: ” I was tricked last night at Macy’s Mission Valley to sign a petition against Airbnb. I found out later that those people were gathering signatures in favor of a permanent approval of Airbnb in San Diego. This is very deceitful.”


ZZ August 25, 2018 at 2:18 pm

It is going to be determined by the voters, as majors issues like this always are. Kind of petty to try to make it as difficult as possible to get it on the ballot. But that’s politics.

It should be common knowledge by now petition circulators are paid by the signature, and if you really care about what gets on the ballot, you should read the text of the initiative. It has been this way for decades.

For the reader who signed by tickery, I am sorry this happened to you. I am a supporter of this initiative, and planned on signing when I encountered a circulator. I will now NOT sign it to balance it out, so consider yourself avenged!


John August 27, 2018 at 2:09 pm

If anyone is asked to sign this petition ask the petitioners name and if they are registered voters in San Diego. Also taking a photo of them would be helpful (or video the interaction would be even better). You can report this to the San Diego District Attorneys office if you suspect that they are not registered voters or misrepresent what this petition is about in any way, both of which are illegal. DA phone is 619-531-4040 to get directed to the proper division. Also you can contact district 2 Councilwoman Lorrie Zapf at https://www.sandiego.gov/citycouncil/cd2/staff/zapf.


Frank Gormlie August 28, 2018 at 4:05 pm

A reader just called me telling me she was approached by an Airbnb petitioner who told her it was for “affordable housing”.


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