Report of Panel Discussion: Short Term Rentals – What’s the Future?

by on August 17, 2015 · 12 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, Economy, Environment, Life Events, Ocean Beach, San Diego

PL Dems STVRs panel July015

The panel: from L to R, Omar Passons (standing), Eric Murphy, Gio Ingolia, Joe LaCava, Gil Cabrera, John Anderson, Belinda Smith. (Photo from PL Dem Club)

Editor: The following is a slightly-edited report of a panel discussion on short term rentals held at the July meeting of the Point Loma OB Democratic Club.

By PL OB Dem Club Admin

The moderator, Omar Passons, attorney that the San Diego municipal code does not currently define a short-term vacation rental and that ordinance and formal definitions would soon be introduced by City Council.

There is a ‘border and lodger’ definition (generally stays are more than 30 day stay) and a ‘bed and breakfast’ definition (generally stays are less than 30 day stay, but this is not within the code) within the code. Short-term vacation rentals (STVR) means the renting of any portion of your property for less than 30 days.

TOT maps reveal alarming growth of more than 400 STVR units in just three months in San Diego neighborhoods (2,315 units available on January 15, 2015 vs. 2,738 units available on April 30, 2015).

The panelists included:

Belinda Smith, Short Term Rental Alliance of San Diego.

Belinda stated that there are 200 members of her Alliance and that the vast majority desire a simple transparent mechanism to pay the City taxes affiliated with their rentals. San Diego City has a new deal with AirBnB for the company to pay the approximate 11% TOT tax directly to the City.

The City of San Francisco has a similar agreement with AirBnB and has been receiving $1 million a month from AirBnB.  Her closing remarks stated that we need to embrace density and address the 30 foot height limit in order to better address housing affordability.

John Anderson, North Park homemaker and AirBnB host.

Founding member of the San Diego Short Term Rental Alliance and Bike San Diego board member, John spoke to the benefits of using AirBnB for accommodations, and touched upon the new ‘sharing economy.’

John reported that they rent out their small cottage on their property for economic reasons and benefits. In his closing remarks, he stated that we need to be mindful of our rights in how we utilize our houses and property.

Joe LaCava, Chair of the San Diego Community Planners Committee and candidate for San Diego City Council District 1.

Joe believes we have two different kinds of regulations that are needed: quality of life regulations and economic regulations.

Joe warned that investors and big money interests are coming in to kick out community members that are renters in order to book more STVRs. In his closing remarks, he stated that he doesn’t know of another City that spends more time kicking policy down the road and thus not allowing people to be on the same page and understand their investments.

Gil Cabrera, the Cabrera Firm, APC and candidate for San Diego City Attorney.

Gil stated that while the City Attorney office shouldn’t be driving policy, we’re trying to shoe horn STVRs into bed-and-breakfast descriptions, which doesn’t equate to fair enforcement. The municipal code must be amended to include STVR at the City Council.

In his closing remarks, Gil stated that we’ve too long let private interests negotiate our public interests behind a veil, and that he will bring transparency to these negotiations.

Giovanni Ingolia, Co-Chair of the OB Community Plan update sub-committee, has served 8 years on the OB Planning Board and former chair.

Giovanni raised concerns about zoning issues in communities whereby single family homes are becoming vacation rentals and de facto hotels and pushing out affordable housing. He said the new policy should protect our affordable housing stock and protect our quality of life.

In his closing remarks, Gio stated that he hopes the City Council will also seek the approval and feedback of the local community planning groups, and that the policy must protect local renters.

Eric Murphy, Research Analyst for UNITE-HERE Local 30, a union of more than 4,500 hotel and food service workers in the San Diego area.

He stated that there is a difference between ‘owners on site’ and ‘owners off site,’ which affects community quality of life in that it creates mini hotels and pushes out community renters. Eric stated that in LA, 89% of AirBnB’s revenue is derived from owners-off site. He warned of AirBnB’s power dynamics and that of investors, which could also drive down wages of hotel workers and cleaning persons. In his closing remarks, Eric cautioned the systemic market affects of giant corporations on our local communities.

Here are several questions from the audience:

Why does the City recognizes STVRs under the B&B code to receive taxes, but doesn’t recognize these entities in the zoning code to protect community quality of life?

Joe LaCava stated that this is because the City cares more about money than it does about neighborhoods. Gil Cabrera stated that it also shows the power of the enforcer to pick and choose what gets regulated and enforced.

What is the industry perspective on how to protect affordable housing?

John Anderson, stating that he doesn’t represent the AirBnB industry, replied that what what is absent from today’s conversation is the number of empty/vacant units in the City of San Diego, of which there are more parcels than there are STVRs. He also stated that the 30-foot height limit has impacted affordable housing stock.


{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Sammy August 17, 2015 at 2:02 pm

In the Alley between Sunset Cliffs & Cable st, The 4800 blocks of Santa Cruz & 4800 Block of Coronado & on Cable st between SC & Coronado, we have watched no less than 5 condos turn into VRBO & also the Cottages turn into VRBO/STR in the past 5 years.
Traffic speeds down/up the Alley by persons who don’t care about neighbors since they don’t live here. Loud parties in the alley across from us from condos that were once single family homes but sold and are now VRBO. They have corporate parties All night, bachelor parties & all might poker parties w loud music drinking.
It has most definitely changed this part of OB due to new construction of no less than 3 super sized condos on 4800 bl of Coronado ave in the past 6+ years. At least 5-6 of those are VRBO. All is neighbors have to put il w noise, traffic, garbage , drugs, extra junk out out on alleys when stuff gets put out.
OB is changing for the worst.! Know that


John Loughlin August 17, 2015 at 3:32 pm

It was a fascinating discussion well moderated by Omar Passons with informed panelists and inciteful questions. Here’s a link to data showing how AirBnb is being used in OB


Molly August 17, 2015 at 9:03 pm

It’s an important issue, especially at the coast, and thanks to the PLDC for holding the panel thing and keeping the issue alive. I’m hoping the OB RAG keeps publishing articles about it.


Old Hippie August 17, 2015 at 9:10 pm

Hope you’re right Molly that the Rag will stay on top of the short term vacation rental issue. A lot of people don’t yet see the consequences.


OB Resident August 18, 2015 at 9:07 am

There are two types of property owners who lease AirBnB. There’s the person that wants to rent their empty beach home twice a year while they’re on vacation to shoulder some costs. This person creates affordable vacation rental opportunities in our community while they help offset bills.

The other person is an investor trying to rent out a unit and make money & equity. As discussed in your article, there is a lot of money at stake and i doubt these investors typically live in Ocean Beach. Extrapolated to the extreme, the OB community won’t last.

I’ve noticed that the conversation seems to focus almost entirely on making the latter, while the actual OB resident (and the theory of house-sharing that made AirBnB ‘cool’) has been left in the dust. Just because it is web-based isn’t a reason to call hoteling ‘sharing.’


Lori Hegerle August 23, 2015 at 7:53 am

Of course the people involved with the Short Term Rental alliance want a simple way to pay the TOT to the city. They make so much money that simply paying 11% is nothing to them. Address the 30 foot height limit? WHAT? Embrace density? WHAT? What STVR’s do is the opposite of addressing affordable housing. STVR’s artificially jack up the price of housing both in the rental market and the buying market. It is not just AirBnB it is VRBO and many others that are in our communities. SF does have a great policy. They only allow owner on site STVR’s and if owner is off of site at all then you can only rent out your property up to 90 days per year. This type of regulation keeps our neighbors in our neighborhoods….maybe it does not go far enough some cities have if owner is off of site they can only rent out place up to 30 or 60 days only. We must not only protect the single family zones we must protect the multi-family zones as well that is where most of our affordable housing are.

Thank you OB rag for keeping us informed. I would love to be apart of any future discussions or meeting regarding this.


John Loughlin August 23, 2015 at 9:25 am

We’ve posted an audio recording of the meeting that you can listen to from the website, or download as a Podcast
It includes the Q&A section with edits for audibility.


Lori August 23, 2015 at 11:15 am

Thank you for the podcast link!!!


Geoff Page August 24, 2015 at 9:48 am

Here is a good piece by Michael Hiltzik, the excellent LA Times busnienss columnist. The vacation rental business is now a business, not just a few folks renting out rooms.


Geeta August 17, 2016 at 5:20 pm

Air b & b ads hide behind the mythical person renting her extra bedroom so that she can pay tuition to go to school. Here in O B, that mythical person might be an owner renting out the little studio behind the main house to make a killing (oops, I mean, Big Bucks)…trouble is, that little studio might formerly have been rented to a year-rounder, someone whowas invested in our community, helping to make it the community that it still is. The other real danger is rapacious investors who see this as a Business Opportunity, a Golden Egg.
We’re in trouble, folks. Cities with progressive-ish governments are clamping down, while our city government has a long history of serving the investor class at the expense of everyone else who lives here.


OB Joe August 17, 2016 at 7:41 pm

Geeta – couldn’t agree with you more. WHere’s the new rules, city council??? they’ve been working on this for a year – and I think one of the points you’re making is that the “slow-down” is intentional.


editordude August 17, 2016 at 7:44 pm

Interesting to note that this article is one year old exactly. And nothing has changed as one of our commenters stated.

Why has it taken so long? Actually, the story is changing from what will the new regs be, to how the Council stalled on this important issue facing the coastal communities.


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