Meeting Split on Issue of Short Term Vacation Rentals – But Most Want Regulation

by on September 23, 2015 · 1 comment

in Culture, Economy, Environment, Media, Ocean Beach, Organizing, Politics, San Diego


At the peak of the event, more than 60 people crowded into the OB Woman’s Club on Bacon during a discussion on short term vacation rentals Wednesday night, September 21st.

A joint community forum called by the OB Planning Board and the OB Town Council, it gave community planners an idea of where OBceans were on the issue of STVRs as they were to attend a meeting of reps from all the city’s planning groups on the same issue the following night.  (Click here to read the agenda and the draft policy.)

In addition, the meeting – facilitated by board members of the OB Planning Board – was to examine the current draft of a proposed ordinance to deal with the issue of vacation rentals.

Councilwoman Zapf’s rep, Conrad Wear, reminded the room that the proposal is a “fluid document” and that his office is in the midst of dealing with STVRs as his boss heads up the city council committee which has dealt with the issue.  Conrad also reminded everyone that right now, the Municipal Code allows up to 25% of the units of a multi-family complex to be short term rentals.  Finally, Wear asked people to send their emails on the subject to all the council members, not just Zapf.


OB Planning Board members.

The entire issue of STVRs had already gone to Zapf’s committee; it was to be before the committee of community planners Tuesday, Sept. 22nd, and is to go before the San Diego Planning Commission at some point, and then to the City Council in late October or early November for final review and adoption of any ordinance. Plus the California Coastal Commission also has to approve any new law that has impact on the coastal areas.

Running the meeting, chair of the Planning Board, John Ambert told the audience that the meeting was informational only and that the Board was not going to take any action. Ambert also reminded the room that 85% of OBceans rent and that there are approximately 7900 dwelling units in OB.

At the top of the meeting was a presentation from a group called Save San Diego Neighborhoods, led by Rowen Gray. Gray turned it over the organization’s attorney (didn’t get his name) who then gave a lengthy presentation on current city law regarding short term rentals.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe first point made was that STVRs are not new – they’ve been around for years. Next, it was asserted that current City Attorney Goldsmith is relying on a 2007 memo on the issue by his predecessor, Mike Aguirre who said that short term rentals were allowed under current code. “The 2007 memo is bogus,” the attorney said.

The City of San Diego has allowed STRVs to exist for more than 30 years – as it’s difficult to enforce the local law.  “There’s no political will to enforce the municipal code.”

Another point: if it is not defined in the Municipal Code – and STVRs are not defined – , it’s not permitted. This is the same argument made by City Attorney Goldsmith against the city allowing medical cannabis dispensaries in.

In earlier years, the reason the rentals were not enforced was because it wasn’t a problem then. “The fact that STVRs have proliferated, it’s still against the law.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGray commented that in Pacific Beach, there was a sign advertising 20 people for a vacation rental that was a 4 bedroom with only 1 parking space. He continued: STVRs use city trash services and police services, whereas hotels and motels have their own security and trash services.

Short termers have a “huge impact on OB” Gray said. Places to rent drop off the market as the those type of rentals gain in numbers. They affect schools in the communities, Gray said, citing Mission Beach which lost is elementary school.

The panel then turned to having audience members make comments or ask questions, and here are a few of the comments made:

Lori – most of OB is multi-family zoned and STRVs really have a negative impact on OB.

Troy – is a STVR owner with a 3 bedroom house – but is in a small zone in northwest OB that actually allows them.

Jason – is a new homeowner in OB, and one of the appeals of living here is to be able to rent out your home. Due to the culture in OB, it’s already a party town. He said: “It made it difficult for me to rent it out.”

Sylvia – wanted to know how Airbnb is being enforced.

This writer – I made the points that most rental units advertised on Airbnb are by large professional vacation rental companies; a study of Airbnb rentals in OB showed that about 5% of the rental units in OB have been changed to short term rentals, and that is very significant; that allowing a quarter of all apartments to be STVRs is way too high; and finally the largest threat from such firms as Airbnb is the loss of community.

Bruno – thought the process was disingenuous, too one-sided. On weekends, he said, his family takes trips and they rent out their home out. He wasn’t in favor of restrictions on STVRs. The people he rents to help the local economy he said. “These are people who come here to spend money, go to local businesses, provide jobs”, and then he hinted that hoteliers must be behind the campaign against his kind of rentals. He admitted that in a year, he rents out his home for a month. (Left unsaid unfortunately, Bruno’s situation is not the problem – as his house that he rents out for only part of a year is his home, and never is on the long term rental market.)

Jane D – She was concerned not with Airbnb but with Craigslist – that no one is collecting taxes on the STVRs advertised on Craigslist. Also on her block there are 3 such rentals and they have large signs, she said. “That’s commercial advertising in my residential neighborhood,” which is not allowed.  She advocated that fees collected from permits ought to go for enforcement.

Susan B – Short term vacation rentals are not a normal use; they bring in lots of extra people and wanted to have current laws enforced.

Ed Decker – Has 4 units down the street; lives on the property and rents one out to long term renters and the other 2 out as STVRs. “Nobody is getting rich here,” Decker said. “I totally get the opposition, he said, and favors regulation. He does pay the TOT, he said. He does notice that his guests create noise, but that “it’s my neighbors who disturb my guests.”

Audry – “Everybody rents in OB,” she said. She also thinks “Airbnb is a fantastic program”, that it regulates itself, that competition is good. “Don’t regulate it,” she said, then added “I love Airbnb!”

Tony W – He could see both sides of the issue. He sees the loss of neighborhood in Mission Beach, but after he bought a small house in OB, his family outgrew it, so they moved to a rental, renting out the house as a STVR.

Paul B – He is on Airbnb, doesn’t live in OB, but has had “nothing but positive experiences” from the online rental company.  “Airbnb is great!” he gushed. Yet he was critical of the night’s process.

Laura D – wanted to know whether the new proposal mentions parking. She said she saw an ad for a “party house” in OB, where the owner lives in Phoenix, and where neighbors have had to call police numerous times.

Gretchen Newsom – She advocated mechanisms to ensure the taxes raised from STVRs are returned to the community. Her solution: strictly limit STVRs by non-locals, a database online that documented owners, number of complaints, etc.

Ambert declared “there’s a good split here, renters and owners.”

Once public comment was over, the panel continued the discussion of the issue among themselves – and each board member gave their opinion. No consensus or Board action developed.

Overall, although Airbnb had a good pocket of supporters present, it appeared that most in the audience and on the Board wanted some kind of regulation on the short term rentals.

This issue is not going away – and as Blake noted – it’s a situation where government is rushing to catch up to technology.

Here’s NBC7’s report on the meeting.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

SaneVoice September 23, 2015 at 4:11 pm

“These are people who come here to spend money, go to local businesses, provide jobs”, says Bruno. Pray tell, what does he think actual taxpaying residents of OB do ?


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