The “Coastal Exception” for San Diego’s Short Term Vacation Rentals

by on November 15, 2017 · 5 comments

in Ocean Beach

An aerial view of Dog Beach by Riz Rafael

As the San Diego City Council is about to sit down on December 12th and hammer out what probably will be some kind of compromise on one of the most contentious issues in the city – short term vacation rentals – it is interesting to know that some community leaders who serve on beach and coastal planning committees tried to come up with something different earlier this year.

Called the “Coastal Exception”, members of these volunteer panels – including the OB Planning Board – tried to carve out literally an exception to what has looked like a consistent drumbeat for Airbnb’s march across neighborhoods among many City Council members. Faced with the possibilities of a very horrible compromise that would allow Airbnb and such businesses to legally ride roughshod over beach communities, these planning board  members drew up draft legislation, called Draft Coastal Zone STVR Legislation. OBPB Chair John Ambert and Vice-chair Blake Herrschaft participated in drawing up this draft.

However, Councilwoman Barbara Bry came up with her own proposed ordinance for STVRs and Councilwoman Lori Zapf came out and endorsed it. So, no one on the Council level gave the “Coastal Exception” any traction.

The Council will meet in Golden Hall at 10 am on Dec. 12th.

But here it is:

Draft Coastal Zone STVR Legislation


Use Types Vacation rentals or short-term rentals can be broken up into two categories as described below.

1)      Whole Home A whole home is a dwelling unit that is occupied as a whole by transients for compensation for fewer than thirty consecutive days. This use would be a separately regulated use in the Land Development Code

2)     Home Sharing Home sharing is an accessory use within a dwelling unit where the primary resident resides in the dwelling unit while providing accommodations to guests for compensation. The guests would not have free access to and use of all of the dwelling unit. This use would be a separately regulated use in the Land Development Code[HB1]

Zoning Restrictions for Whole Home in Coastal Zone:

The following restrictions are specific to the Coastal Zone as defined in the Local Coastal Program

Whole Home STVRs are allowed only in the following zones: CC-1-1, CC-1-3, CC-3-4, CC-3-5, CC-4-1, CC-4-5, CC-5-1, CC-5-4, CC-4-2, CC-4-5; and within the following Planned Districts; La Jolla Planned District (LJPD-1, LJPD-2, LJPD-3, LJPD-CC), Mission Beach Planned District (MBPD-NC-N.)

Homeshares are allowed in all zones where residential use type is permitted


Annual Permit

The annual permit would be required for all whole home and home sharing uses that are subject to the limited use regulations. The permit is valid for 12 months unless revoked. If revoked, a new permit would not be issued until 12 months after the date of revocation. In addition, the permit would not be issued to properties with a related pending code violation case unless the permit is required to remedy the violation.

The annual permit is an essential component of regulating a whole home or a home sharing use and provides an important tool to effectively enforce the regulations. By requiring the annual permit for these uses, whole home or home sharing uses that do not possess a valid permit could be easily identified by the City and appropriate action taken.

Occupancy Agreement

The occupancy agreement is intended to serve as an information tool and guide for occupants of a whole home or home sharing use. The agreement would provide information on local noise ordinance regulations, parking restrictions, rules for trash and recyclable containment and disposal, including information regarding the remedies available to the City to address and enforce violations of these rules. The agreement would also include a “good neighbor policy,” reminding the guests to be respectful of the surrounding neighborhood. A copy of the agreement shall be provided to guests prior to their occupancy of the unit.[HB2]

The names and telephone numbers of two contact who for owner-operated rentals can be permanent residents on the property and who are capable of responding to the property within sixty minutes.


The approach and costs associated with enforcement is largely dependent upon how the City ultimately decides to regulate such uses. Enforcement options include:

1)      Hiring a third-party data aggregator and review group to be paid for by permitting fees. This review group would be responsible

a.       Management of permit fees, permitting process, and operating agreements

b.       Monthly assessment of available legal, and illegal operators

c.       Monthly report to code compliance to utilize to shut down illegal operators

d.       Annual permit renewal process

2)      Hiring additional City of San Diego staff to manage the permitting, review, and regulation to be paid for by permitting fees.

[HB1]Based on report 17-022 from City of San Diego Planning Department to City Council on March 14, 2017
[HB2]Based on report 17-022 from City of San Diego Planning Department to City Council on March 14, 2017

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

triggerfinger November 16, 2017 at 10:47 am

This seems like a terrrible idea. It makes much more sense for the councilmembers of the inland suburbs of San Diego to dictate the future of our neighborhoods.


Frank Gormlie November 16, 2017 at 11:07 am

he said tongue firmly planted in cheek.


Ex Castillo November 16, 2017 at 11:30 am

Considerations as to which type of Ordinance is more applicable, suits to the zoning aspect, and implies the equality of the concerned citizens – the business owners and that of the public interest. Applicable ordinances must be thoroughly examined by the issuing board not to deter the opportunity of fostering the economic growth of Gearheart; thereby promoting/creating jobs, taxes benefits and providing travelers a place to stay as vacation rentals’ primary objective. is a great site that helps vacation rental owners find travelers. You can add your listings for free and then pay a fee when booked – check details at


bobo November 17, 2017 at 9:00 am

Honestly, the Draft Coastal Zone STVR Legislation seems like a fair compromise. It allows those with extra space or a ADU in their homes make some extra income and keep out the whole house (and noise) problems. Adding a permit with an enforcement plan is also well thought-out.

Frank wrote: “one on the Council level gave the “Coastal Exception” any traction.”
Does that mean this Draft is dead-in-the-water? Is there a way to compare the Barbara Bry proposal to this Draft? Maybe we can force the better of the two (or a hybrid) to be seriously considered.


kh November 17, 2017 at 10:26 am

It could be combined with Brys proposal and pass coastal commission scrutiny.

Problem is some councilmembers aren’t minding their own districts. They want to pimp out our beach communities for the TOT tax revenue.


Leave a Comment

Older Article:

Newer Article: