Well, So Much for the Democratic Majority on the San Diego City Council – 8 to 1 Vote for Campbell’s STVR Plan

by on February 24, 2021 · 4 comments

in Ocean Beach, San Diego

Short term vacation rentals on Voltaire St. in Ocean Beach.

Well, so much for the Democratic majority on the City Council.

Yesterday, Tuesday, Feb. 23, after hours of “public” testimony, the Council voted 8 to 1 to approve Jen Campbell’s proposal on short-term vacation rentals. Councilmember Joe LaCava – representing District 1, the other coastal district – was the dissenting vote. The other Democrats voted along with the Republican to endorse the ordinance – which will need a second vote in October before becoming law in 2022. The ordinance will return to council for updates on the lottery and prioritization related to licensing.

LaCava proposed four amendments which would have been much stricter than the version which passed. None were accepted. He was concerned with equity in the ordinance and how to hold rental platforms accountable. According to the Beacon, said LaCava:

“I remain unwavering that we should be enforcing the City’s municipal code that prohibits short-term rentals. However, the Wild West with rentals still plagues our City. The current situation is no longer tenable.”

Three other councilmembers shared LaCava’s concerns – Monica Montgomery Steppe, Marni von Wilpert, and Sean Elo Rivera – but voted to pass the ordinance with the intention to refine it later. District 4 Councilmember Monica Montgomery-Steppe said:

“It’s been a years-long fight. I agree we need regulations. My concerns are with the estimated costs and enforcing STR platform accountability.”

Councilman Raul Campillo successfully amended the ordinance to prioritize “good actors” when licensing begins later this year.

District 8 Councilmember Vivian Moreno said:

“We all know short-term rentals are a major component of tourism. Given the demand for short-term rentals, it makes sense to regulate them. This ordinance before us is reasonable, and it’s worth giving it a try.”

Andrea Schlageter, chair of Ocean Beach Planning Board, was not happy with the decision. The Beacon quoted her:

“All of this language about ‘compromise’ and how this is a good compromise because no one is happy is disingenuous. Public policy is not about compromise. Good public policy is about protecting the average person while striving for justice and incentivizing good behavior.”

“Politics is about compromise and not caring about the opinions of the average persons. Politics is what got us this ordinance. Politics is why no community groups were brought to the table to negotiate directly with Airbnb. It’s a shame that a majority of the City Council is not dedicated to good public policy, just politics.”

Another opponent, Gary Wonacott of Mission Beach, also was quoted:

“Mission Beach is the last beach community that should be carved out. There are roughly 2,600 parking spaces in proximity to Mission Beach used by day visitors except for those filled by short-term renters who routinely bring multiple vehicles in the summer months. And Mission Beach is the least affordable with a $383 nightly rate (according to Airbnb) compared to Pacific Beach and Ocean Beach at $242 and $197 nightly rates.  Altercations between short-term renters and residents are all too common in Mission Beach with a density of 1,972 short-term rentals per square mile compared to 206 and 323 STRs per square mile in PB and OB.”

“This is the very definition of over-tourism. There are a very small minority of investors and short-term rentals management companies pushing hard for what are some of the most lucrative financials in San Diego. The carve-out is unfair and inequitable and likely faces a much more rigorous challenge at the California Coastal Commission.”

According to Times of San Diego/ City News Service:

The ordinance places short-term rentals into four categories: part-time rentals rented 20 days a year; home-sharing rentals; whole-home rentals; and whole-home rentals in Mission Beach. The latter two are the subject of the ordinance’s most strict restrictions.

Highlights of the ordinance include:

  • Capping whole-home short-term rentals at 1% of the city’s housing stock per the San Diego Planning Commission, which presently equates to 5,400.
  • Reducing whole-home short-term rentals based on the city auditor’s estimation that more than 14,700 short-term rentals exist, including 1,667 in Mission Beach.
  • Not limiting home-sharing short-term rentals.
  • Allowing part-time short-term rental operators to obtain a license at lower annual fees to accommodate high visitor events.
  • Yearly assessment of the program to determine if it is equitable and effective.
  • Requiring a local contact be able to respond to disturbances at the property in one hour or less.
  • Allowing short-term rental owners a maximum of one license, per person.
  • Creating a detailed Good Neighbor Policy along with strict enforcement guidelines, a fine structure for violations, and a license revocation standard.

Jen Campbell – the architect of the so-called compromise between property owners and corporate rental services such as VRBO and AirBnB and Unite Here Local 30 – was also the winner. She continues to claim her new ordinance will reduce the volume of whole-home short-term rentals, but at the same time, nobody can agree on just how many STVRs there are in San Diego. However, even her supporters questioned her condition that a future lottery be held to select whole-home STR operators. They argued instead that operators with the cleanest records be given first priority for whole-home rental licenses.

However, it remains to be seen how this vote affects Campbell’s status in her own district. District 2 has been arguably the worst hit by the flood of STVRs over the last five years. And Campbell’s crafting of the ordinance has been one of the key issues that has fueled the Recall campaign. Will this vote cause the recall to throw up its hands in surrender or will it strengthen the resolve of Campbell’s constituents who are mounting it?

Interestingly, the majority of Democrats on the Council are from districts that have not had to struggle with the challenges and ravages of the vacation rental industry in their neighborhoods. And most of them are undoubtedly pro-labor, so when a union was a key signature on a plan like Campbell’s, it must be good, right?

Yet why does one union get such a pass? Why did one union get to trump the neighborhoods’ priorities? There’s plenty of working stiffs in District 2, plenty of pro-labor folks, many of whom belong to unions. Many of them have been standing up to short-term rentals for years now and have clamored for some kind of protection from the loss of their community.

Why wasn’t there a more transparent, broader more widespread effort made to fashion some kind of real compromise on the issue? Why didn’t Campbell show some true leadership and guide her district into hearings and reports, using people and resources from the district – who know an awful lot about STVRs, believe me?

Unfortunately for Campbell, however, the other councilmembers and their constituents don’t get to vote in the recall – it’s just District 2 voters. And they’re not happy.









{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Geoff Page February 24, 2021 at 1:39 pm

“Councilman Raul Campillo successfully amended the ordinance to prioritize “good actors” when licensing begins later this year.”

What the hell is a “good actor” and who will set the requirements to qualify as one? This term came right out of Campbell’s mouth. She used the term, along with “bad actor” when she was pushing this stupidity. When you build something so ambiguous into an ordinance, you opened a wide door.

Or, maybe “good actors” are those who support Campbell? If so, to paraphrase Muhammad Ali, “I’m a baaaad actor.”


kh February 25, 2021 at 9:40 am

They said a “good actor” is someone’s who’s been following the rules.

I’ll interpret that as someone who has not broken the laws by renting housing at any point for <7 days in multifamily zones, or operating primary as tourist lodging, or anyone operating any type of STR after the city attorney clarifying they are all illegal.

Therefore anyone currently operating STRs in residential is a “bad actor” and should be at the back of the line. This would also give their suffering neighbors a break finally.

I’m certain Campbell will do the right thing and not concern herself with what Airbnb wants, right?


Geoff Page February 25, 2021 at 9:48 am

I like that, kh. A “bad actor” is anyone who has been operating an STVR because STVRs are illegal in San Diego. There are no “good actors.”


Mat Wahlstrom February 25, 2021 at 1:40 pm

The whole thing has been a hot mess, but this “good actor/bad actor” nonsense, along with the plans to select legal versus illegal STVRs via lottery, is arming a time bomb.

As I stated as part of my comment at the meeting: “In the city attorney’s memo [MS 59*] in the supporting documents, section II item D [page 5] cautions that a proposal such as this one could expose the city to liability for charges of “regulatory taking.” Therefore this specific attempt to legalize while limiting STROs will bring on a deluge of lawsuits the costs of which will offset any potential revenues generated.” *https://onbase.sandiego.gov/OnBaseAgendaOnline/Documents/DownloadFile/Memo.pdf.pdf?documentType=1&meetingId=4249&itemId=195850&publishId=454647&isSection=False&isAttachment=True


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