San Diego City Council Not Ready for Vacation Rentals at Monday Oct. 23 Meeting

by on October 19, 2017 · 5 comments

in Ocean Beach, San Diego

It does not appear that the San Diego City Council will be ready to finally make policy on short term vacation rentals at their hearing set for Monday, October 23rd.

Said Councilman David Alvarez, a key player on the issue:

“The breaking news is there won’t be anything done on Monday.”

A front page article in today’s San Diego Union-Tribune quotes Alvaraz as saying he doesn’t see how the Council can move forward on the contentious issue after the City Attorney just released a memo dated October 18 which raised serious legal questions about his proposed resolution. Alvarez had joined 3 of his colleagues – Council Members Chris Ward, Scott Sherman and Mark Kersey – to offer a proposal that was on the table for Monday’s discussion – but now it looks dead in its tracks.

After City Attorney Mara Elliott’s memo was released, Alvarez stated:

Without any guidance on how to make these proposals work from the legal perspective, I don’t see how we could move forward on Monday with any pieces of this. There are some very specific legal objections being raised over multiple pieces of our proposal.

We were trying to reach a point of consensus on how to legally allow these rentals while also protecting neighborhoods by avoiding excessive partying, building in an affordable housing fee, capping rentals so that it’s not an investor-driven activity but now we have no guidance on whether we can do any of that.

U-T writer Lori Weisberg reported:

Many of those provisions [of Alvarez’s proposal], though, raise questions of “equal protection” by imposing different regulations for different types of short-term rental hosts, says City Attorney Mara Elliott. She also points out that some of the fees recommended for generating revenues to help enforce new rental regulations could be interpreted as taxes and would require voter approval.

Elliott’s memo states:

“Treating primary residents who wish to allow for the short-term use of their dwelling unit differently from those who are not ‘primary residents’ requires a rational relationship between the requirement that the property be an applicant’s primary residence and a permissible state objective. It is unclear what permissible state objective would be met by this requirement.”


Elliott also has equal protection concerns with the limitations on how many properties a homeowner can rent out, as well as the three-night minimum stay on the coast because of possible conflicts with the state Coastal Act.

The Council hearing on Monday has been set for months. Other proposals besides the Alvarez-Ward-Sherman-Kersey one on the table will be Councilwoman Barbara Bry’s draft proposal – endorsed by Councilwoman Lorie Zapf – and three proposed ordinances coming from the city’s planning department.

Bry has proposed that homeowners be allowed to rent out only their primary residences on a short-term basis for no more than 90 days a year.  The Alvarez one would allow owners to rent out up to 3 properties on a short-term basis, and a 3-night minimum stay would be required in San Diego’s coastal areas.

The planning department will be offering proposed ordinances that range from the most permissive to the most restrictive, which would limit the rental of entire homes to no more than 90 days a year.

Critics of Airbnb and other rental host platforms have not been happy with Alvarez’s proposal. In fact, I wrote an article a couple of weeks ago criticizing Alvarez and some of the other Democrats on the City Council because they fail “to fully understand how vacation rentals are detrimental to communities, working-class, middle class communities.”

The OB Rag reported then – and  as we have been stating for some time –

The essence of the crisis being manufactured mainly in the beach areas by Airbnb and other sites is not only the substantial loss of housing stock for renters but the general loss of community. Once short term rentals take over portions of a neighborhood, that area is no longer a genuine community with real residents and with businesses catering to residents – and not visitors.

We’ve reported and analyzed this issue for several years now. Here is part of that analysis:

It is the Loss of Community that is the most dangerous aspect of this ‘home-sharing’ trend – especially at the beach.

Save San Diego Neighborhoods described the Alvarez proposal as a disaster. The coalition of residents that has fought to ban short-term rentals in single-family neighborhoods – immediately condemned the new proposed regulations proposed by the four councilmen as a “disaster” for the city’s neighborhoods.

We reported in September :

Pushed by Ward, the new proposed [Alvarez] plan would require three-night minimum stays – a huge departure from fellow Democrat Barbara Bry’s proposed set of regulations, made public last month. Bry’s would allow short-term rentals in owner-occupied residences, but not in houses with absentee owners, and it would also limit rentals when the primary occupant is absent to 90 days a year; it would keep the number of renters to two per guest room plus one other visitor per residence. Councilwoman Lorie Zapf has endorsed Bry’s recommendations, while Democrat and Council president Mrytle Cole has been mostly silent on the issue.

The Ward, Alvarez, Kersey and Sherman proposal also follows a state standard for occupancy, sets up a system for permitting and enforcement, and provides renters with a code of conduct that covers issues like noise, trash and parking.

Importantly, Airbnb, the home-lease giant, likes their proposal much more than Bry’s…

We also note, again, that Airbnb reported in September that San Diego was the fourth-busiest market for them, ranked only behind New York, Los Angeles and Seattle. According to Airbnb, 33,800 residences were booked during the summer of 2017, bringing more than 187,700 guests to town. The company estimated they spent $72 million. KPBS

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

embo October 19, 2017 at 10:17 pm

Isn’t this doing serious damage to the Hotel industry and aren’t they in essence at the “heart” of our coveted industry of tourism?


fearful October 20, 2017 at 10:29 am

Good point Embo,
I’m surprised the hotel owners are not putting more political muscle & money into fighting the Airbnb market. Surely, the hotels have noticed they have more empty rooms these days? (we could certainly use some muscle right now on this issue)
We don’t need to adapt new rules – just enforce the ones we have.
Too many long term neighbors (to which I called friends) – have been evicted and replaced with vacation rentals/airbnb. (I fear the same thing will happen to me one day)
I whole heartedly agree with Bry & Zaft about “owner occupied rental” Its the only way this should be allowed! Its the only way we can preserve our communities and allow some financial gains for those within them.


Geoff Page October 20, 2017 at 11:08 am

The bigger issue is the stupidity of the councilmembers crafting various proposals for council approval without having the city attorney review them first. Elliott had problems with all the proposals. The ego of these people who think they know everything and saw no need to get expert opinions is depressing.


embo October 20, 2017 at 10:55 pm

VERY frustrating!!!


triggerfinger October 20, 2017 at 1:13 pm

Hey Mara, how’s this for a “permissible state objective”:

The purpose of the residential zones is to provide for areas of residential development
at various specified densities throughout the City. The residential zones are intended
to accommodate a variety of housing types and to encourage the provision of housing
for all citizens of San Diego. It is also intended that the residential zones reflect
desired development patterns in existing neighborhoods while accommodating the
need for future growth.

Existing San Diego law, verbatim. Houses are for housing citizens of san diego, not lodging vacationers, therefore the city can absolutely prohibit full time STVRs… and restrict them to houses that have a primary resident.


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