City Attorney On Vacation Rentals: Lodging Mainly for Visitors and Tourists Prohibited in Residential Zones

by on December 28, 2015 · 4 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, Economy, Environment, Ocean Beach, Politics, San Diego

The following is from a Press Release from Save San Diego Neighborhoods:

City Attorney clarifies position on vacation rentals: Uses providing lodging primarily to visitors/tourists are prohibited in San Diego’s residential zones

SAN DIEGO, December 26, 2015 – Spurred by concerns from citizens over the proliferation of commercial mini-hotels in San Diego residential zones, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith has released a new memorandum on short-term vacation rentals that says providing lodging primarily to visitors and tourists in San Diego’s residential zones is unlawful and violates the city’s Municipal Code.

Goldsmith’s memo, released on December 22 in response to requests by citizens’ group Save San Diego Neighborhoods (SSDN), comes as the San Diego City Council prepares to consider a draft ordinance on the contentious issue, perhaps as early as January. Directed to the mayor and city council, Goldsmith’s release updates a 2007 memo on the same subject by then City Attorney Mike Aguirre.

Goldsmith’s memo clarifies the city’s visitor accommodations ordinance and, in many respects, supports positions held by SSDN.

“The ‘visitor accommodations’ ordinance is not based upon a specific term of an occupancy, so it does not bar ‘short-term’ rentals,” Goldsmith’s memo says.

“It does, however, bar residential uses that ‘provide lodging … primarily to visitors and tourists.’ ”

The memo is confirmation from the City Attorney’s office that visitor accommodations, that is, lodging primarily for visitors and tourists, is a commercial business and prohibited in all residential zones. Further, the memo confirms that it is -and always was – the intention of the city to keep visitor accommodations, and all commercial businesses, out of residential zones.

That is the position argued consistently by SSDN, which was formed in February of 2015 and has grown into a citizens’ movement of thousands because of concerns over the proliferation of commercial mini-hotels in residential zones. The number of STVR mini-hotels is estimated at more than 4,000 in San Diego residential neighborhoods.

“We believe City Attorney Goldsmith’s memo was an early Christmas present to San Diegans,” said Ronan Gray, President of SSDN.

“We have consistently asked the city council to do what Santa Barbara, Santa Monica and other California coastal cities have recently done and simply re-iterate that it is going to enforce the current Municipal Code, which does not allow commercial uses in residential zones.”

“We are going to continue to reach out to members of city council to adopt this position, then amend the code to allow, with some restrictions, home swapping and true home sharing, where the owner is present.”

In his memo, Goldsmith went on to suggest that the mayor and city council clarify the existing law regarding visitor accommodations to eliminate confusion so that “people of common intelligence do not need to guess as to its meaning.” Specifically, he suggested adding a term of occupancy to the ordinance, adding the word “rental,” and removing or clarifying the word “primarily.” (The full memo can be accessed at:

The memo is the latest step concerning an issue for which resolution has been sought by concerned citizens and local planning groups since 2007. This year, hundreds of San Diego residents packed two city council meetings in the spring to complain about the proliferation of vacation rentals and the negative impacts they create, saying “We ARE the neighbors, and we’re telling you there is a problem.”

On September 22, the Community Planners Committee (CPC) voted 24-3 to reject the city STVR draft proposal, which would permit mini-hotels in all San Diego neighborhoods. The draft proposal also fared badly with the city’s Technical Advisory Committee in October, and earlier this month at the Planning Commission meeting.

More information is available at, or by emailing


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Happyinob December 28, 2015 at 2:06 pm

AMEN !!!
How soon can we start putting this notice
on the doors of my neighbors & does this mean
The property on Abbott & Saratoga have to
stop their vacation rental rip off business ??
I’m so HAPPY


peter jensen December 28, 2015 at 7:39 pm

The problem has always been and continues to be the mayor and city council. They continue to ignore the public sentiment and pander to airbnb and the other commercial interests. The job of the elected politicians should be to protect the citizens from predators like airbnb and all the greedy investors trying for an new angle to make more money.


Happyinob December 29, 2015 at 2:35 pm

I find that’s hard to believe since the mayor
is so far up the glory holes of the hotel powers
that backed


Doug Blackwood December 30, 2016 at 8:54 pm

Ok then: so who do we notify of current vacation rentals?
Who is going to enforce( how many staff) this?


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