San Diego Council Committee to Hear Proposals for Short-Term Rentals – Fri., Mar. 24th

by on March 22, 2017 · 3 comments

in Environment, Ocean Beach, Politics, San Diego

A San Diego City Council committee is posed to hear three different options for short-term vacation rentals being proposed by the Planning Department this coming Friday, March 25th.

The Smart Growth and Land Use Committee of the Council will meet in the morning at the Jacob Center (404 Euclid Ave, San Diego, CA 92114 – (619) 527-61610) and attempt – once again – to juggle the contentious issue of how to deal with these particular types of rentals, an issue that the Council and city staff have bounced around now for 2 years.

The large venue, apparently, has been chosen in anticipation of the usual over-flow crowds that have turned out for this issue.

The issue of short-term rentals have roiled the beach areas and Ocean Beach in particular. Over the past year and a half or so, the OB Planning Board – in conjunction with the OB Town Council – held a forum on STVRs. Overall, both within the large audience and among the panel members, the rentals were heavily criticized.  The Planning Board is having to constantly deal with the issue, attempting to be a force that holds these rentals and their owners and the city to account for their proliferation.

The OB Rag has taken a strong stand against STVRs in locales such as OB, where they threaten the very fabric of community. (See post on the Loss of Community )

It was only last November that the city council shot down a proposed outright ban on short-term rentals in most single-family neighborhoods.

The planning department released its report last Friday, March 17, a report that, according to Lori Weisberg at the  San Diego Union-Tribune reflects the lack of any consensus on the issue among members of the City Council of within the communities of the city. Because of the lack of consensus, the department came up with three proposals that they believe represent the range of options on regulating vacation rentals.

Planning Director Jeff Murphy told the U-T that they considered “all the testimony, public input, letters raised during the process and tried to come up with three options that reflected the desires of both the council and the community.”

The report comes on the heels of a memo issued by newly-elected San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott that declares short-term rentals are not allowed under the Municipal Code.

Weisberg summarized the options:

The most lenient of the three options governing the short-term rental of entire homes would allow them to operate in residential zones but would require ministerial permits, as would all the options.

The strictest proposes a minimum stay of 21 days, an option favored in the past by City Councilwoman Lorie Zapf, who represents the beach communities where residents have protested the loudest over vacation rentals.

A third proposal strikes a middle ground, allowing vacation rentals but requiring a special permit for larger homes that have six or more bedrooms or accommodate more than 10 guests. The “neighborhood use permit” that is being proposed requires a hearing and notification of surrounding neighbors.

The planning department is recommending that “home sharing” – where homeowners rent out a spare bedroom – be allowed, but also proposes placing some restrictions on larger houses and numbers of vacationers.

As Weisberg noted, District 2 Councilwoman Zapf favors the “strictest” option of allowing a minimum stay of 21 days where hosts are required to apply for a ministerial permit.  Councilwoman Barbara Bry of District 1 told Weisberg that she is still reviewing the proposals and has as yet formed her choices. Bry has a history of supporting strong regulation of short-term rentals.

In contrast, Councilman Chris Cate of District 6 likes the more permissive option. Weisberg said:

“[Cate] has routinely argued for permitting vacation rentals citywide but putting in place stricter enforcement and a series of escalating fines for hosts who violate noise and nuisance regulations. He said he favors the department’s more permissive option.”

Cate is quoted as saying:

One thing we need to flush out more is the enforcement piece because no matter what option is chosen there needs to be 24/7 enforcement to ensure the rules are followed.”

There’s that sticky issue – enforcement; no matter which option is chosen, how does the city enforce its regulations and how, by the way, is enforcement paid for?

Planning department head Murphy told Weisberg:

“One new thing we’re introducing is that we’ll require a ministerial permit, and what’s key about that is for people who violate rules related to noise or trash we can revoke that permit. We lack that today.”

A lot of money is being made by sites like Airbnb and VRBO. Recently Weisberg wrote in another piece that Airbnb reports that its hosts in San Diego took in nearly $70 million in 2016, from 357,300 guests. She wrote:

In San Diego, short-term rental income from Airbnb listings shot up 74 percent, from $39.9 million in 2015. The number of guest arrivals nearly doubled, from 185,000 in 2015 to 357,300 last year.

Airbnb has claimed that it has 5,000 hosts across San Diego.

Weisberg spoke with Tom Coat, a PB homeowner and board member of Save San Diego Neighborhoods, the organization that has been fighting short-term rentals. Coat had another spin on the recent and gushing Airbnb report:

“Airbnb is making a big profit off of selling the right to a peaceful environment in a residential zone. They’re releasing this report now because they know ordinances are being considered in San Diego and they’re trying to put a positive spin in advance of the next round of vacation rental hearings.”

Then there’s the other wild card: the California Coastal Commission. In December the Commission sent a letter to the planning department warning against blanket bans of short-term rentals, but agreeing there is the need for “reasonable and balanced regulations.”

This Friday over at the Jacob Center, another chapter of this ongoing saga will play out as members of the city committee sit down and grapple with the realities of this issue.

News source:  San Diego Union-Tribune

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

kh March 24, 2017 at 12:08 pm

Frank, feel free to post this as a new article.

Today, the “Smart Growth and Land Use Committee” is meeting to evaluate options for adding Short Term Vacation Rentals to our municipal code, and how to regulate them. The last 2 pages of this link show the 3 options being considered:

The committee is made up of 4 of our 9 city councilmembers, who are tasked with making a recommendation to the full council. None of them represent our beach communities. They are:
Scott Sherman (Chair)
David Alvarez
Chris Cate
Georgette Gomez

Here’s my evaluation on how this would affect whole-home STVRs, from worst to best.

Option 3: Allows STVRs everywhere. Requires a ~$200 annual permit for 3+ bedroom homes. Permit is through the city and ignores any community planning board input. Bad actors could have their permit pulled.

This could impact chronic nuisance/party houses, IF code enforcement does their job and follow up on complaints. (Getting them to is like pulling teeth). It could deter some very part-time hosts of 3+ room homes that don’t want to pay for a permit. It would allow unrestricted growth of 1-2 bedroom STVRs and continued impact on beach housing costs and availability. IF the city limits # of permits, then growth of 3+ bedroom STVRs could be restricted.

Alvarez, Sherman and Cate (75% of the subcommittee) probably support this, so it’s likely to move forward for consideration.

Option 1: Allows STVRs everywhere, with permits. Requires on site host for 3+ bedroom units, and a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for 6+ bedrooms (or units for >10 people). The CUPs would go before our local planning board, who gives a recommendation to the city’s Planning Commission (who can ignore the planning board).

The onsite host requirement could severely curb growth of 3+ room STVRs, but no doubt operators would look for ways around it, like removing closets from their mcmansion so they can say it’s only a 2 bedroom with 4 “bonus rooms”. The 6+ bedroom rule would have a small impact on OB. I don’t think there is any 6+ room units here, but the >10 guest rule would affect the very large/party STVRs, making them less profitable.
It’s unclear which councilmembers support this option, but it might move forward if the subcommittee wants to throw in some compromise.

Option 2: STVRs allowed but with 21 day minimum for detached units, and requires permit for all units. Attached multi-family condos could have unrestricted STVRs with 2 days rentals.

This would effectively kill STVRs in detached units, and the housing/cost impact that comes with it. BUT… developers could bulldoze detached units and build a multi-unit condo to get around that rule. It would also focus the STVR investors on existing condos and apartment buildings, putting more pressure on those residents. I appreciate the attempt, but this is a poorly thought out proposal. It leaves our lowest cost units completely at the mercy of STVRs. It could actually make it worse for them then the other proposals.

Zapf and Bry support this, but probably no one else. Those two represent the coastal areas. The rest of the council has in the past gone against everything put forth by them.

Option 4 (do nothing): The City Attorney has issued a memo stated that STVRs are currently illegal in San Diego. This is a first, but I’ll be amazed if the city tries to prosecute their first STVR based on this memo. Previous city attorneys weaseled around the issue, saying it couldn’t be enforced, or not addressing the question. The new City Attorney seems content on waiting for the council to change the code to allow STVRs and define the regulations on them. If the council kicks the can further on this, maybe we’ll try enforcing the existing code for once.

If the council majority wants to change the existing code, it would likely go through a chain of bureaucracy for more input and tweaks, and if passed, require Coastal Commission approval to apply in the beach communities.

The Coastal Commission likes STVRs. They say an outright ban on STVRs contradicts the coastal act, that visitors depend on STVRs for affordable rentals (screw you long-term renters), and removing STVRs would unduly restrict coastal access to visitors. They provided a list of restrictions though that might fly (some of which would curb the impact of STVRs on our housing costs). The Coastal Commission doesn’t seem to care that STVRs are already illegal under the existing code… and that code was already approved by them.


Frank Gormlie March 24, 2017 at 4:13 pm

Today – Friday March 24: According to KPBS: “A City Council committee failed to reach a consensus Friday on the thorny issue of regulating short-term vacation rental properties in San Diego and moved along three proposed options without recommending a preferred alternative. … Staff said they would draft ordinances based on all three options and present them in late summer or fall. A related plan to allow home-sharing — in which a live-in resident simply rents out one or two bedrooms — was passed unanimously.”


kh March 24, 2017 at 4:21 pm

That’s great news. I think. Video from the meeting: I haven’t watched it yet, it’s 3 hours long.


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