Business

SF’s Mayor Lee taps sharing economy startups to prepare city for disaster

The Mayor of San Francisco is using the sharing economy to prepare the city for disaster.

Today San Francisco’s Mayor Ed Lee and Board President David Chiu announced a partnership between the city of San Francisco and advocacy organization BayShare to develop innovation and technology around disaster preparedness and response.

BayShare is a local advocacy organization that promotes the sharing economy. Members include well-known startups like Airbnb and Lyft. It supports civic development by working with the government to achieve common goals — increasing resource efficiency, creating jobs and income, building community, and achieving zero-waste.

With this latest initiative, BayShare members will explore how they can help with disaster preparedness.

“After Superstorm Sandy, members of the Airbnb community wanted to help displaced families in their city find shelter,” said Airbnb founder and CTO Nathan Blecharczyk in a statement. “Our system wasn’t set up to support free emergency housing, so we worked to make the necessary changes to help our community support people in need. This work and the amazing outpouring of generosity from our community inspired us to build this tool […] we now have the infrastructure in place to help at a moment’s notice.”

Airbnb launched a microsite during the storm that allowed people to offer up their spare spaces free-of-charge to victims. This required redesigning the booking and payment system to accept no-cost listings for a defined period of time in a defined region. With this initiative, the company is standardizing this tool so it can be deployed anywhere in the world after a disaster.

These are the types of projects Mayor Lee wants to see.

San Francisco’s Department of Emergency Management (DEM) hosted a forum today for BayShare companies to interact with organizations like the Neighborhood Emergency Response Team, Tenderloin Hunger Task Force, and American Red Cross Bay Area to discuss how the sharing economy can help before, during, and after a disaster.

The sharing economy — also known as collaborative consumption–  is a growing sector of the tech community that centers around the sharing of resources. People with available assets like homes/rooms, cars, tools, skills, etc.,  can connect with people who need them through peer-to-peer marketplaces. This can include opening a spare room up to strangers on Airbnb, earning extra cash by shuttling people around town with Lyft, or finding someone to build your Ikea furniture on TaskRabbit.

Collaborative consumption drives more efficient allocation of resources, which is crucial during times of crisis. If homes need to be evacuated or public transportation is down, startups like the ones mentioned above can help. BayShare will now participate in the Mayor’s Working Group on the Sharing Economy by connecting its members to the local government and promoting individual and business involvement. BayShare will also join San Francisco’s Disaster Council.

Photo Credit: Telstar Logistics/Flickr


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