What Campbell’s Runaway Short Term Rental Train Will Do

by on February 22, 2021 · 5 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Kevin Hastings

Tomorrow, Tuesday, Feb 23rd, councilmember Jen Campbell will seek to legalize all the Short Term Vacation Rentals (STVRs) in your neighborhood, and leave room for even more.  Her proposal has been endorsed by Airbnb and VRBO, but none of the neighborhood community groups.

Campbell’s policy was developed behind closed doors by VRBO and a hotel worker’s union and successfully dodged public input and scrutiny.

It would create a 4-tier licensing system covering everything to full-time STVRs without host on site (Tier 3 & 4), to the uncontroversial part-time rentals and room shares (Tier 1 & 2).

It would limit licenses for the full-time whole-home STRs to approximately 6,500 city-wide.  Campbell has peddled this as a “78% reduction in STRs” that will “return 7,000 units to long term housing”.  She does this despite providing no analysis of the existing number and types of STRs.  A cursory study of the existing STR situation, and a previous study commissioned by the city both show her claims to be false.

Of all the STRs in San Diego (pre-pandemic) , approximately 5,000 of them meet the Tier 3 & 4 criteria subject to a cap.  This means this category of STR could increased by approximately 1,500 over what we see today, and further increase by 1% of any new housing units built in the city. (This in addition to whole-home STRs in duplexes or ADUs with a host close-by that are allowed without limitation.)

So if you live on a block in northwest OB where a third of the homes have been converted to mini-hotels, this will continue under Campbell’s proposal.  Even apartment complexes entirely converted to Airbnbs can persist under this proposal with a little paperwork (they have to register each STR license to a unique social security number.)

Community groups have been lobbying Campbell on this issue since a previous ordinance was rescinded following a signature referendum funded by Airbnb.  She stonewalled these community groups until after she had inked a deal with special interest groups.  She will claim community support because she cherry-picked the most permissive line out of Mission Beach Town Council’s recommendations, a group that is now largely controlled by vacation rental owners and profiteers.

Her ordinance coming to council remains largely unchanged since its inception last June, other than increasing the allowable number of STRs.  She has continued with her misleading housing claims while ignoring feedback from the Planning Commission and countless community groups to provide more analysis behind her arbitrary numbers, and to add provisions to aid in enforcement, and mitigate negative impacts on community character and housing affordability.

The OB Planning Board specifically, despite their long-standing opposition to whole-home STRs, recommended adding fines for host platforms, and reducing concentrations by capping licenses per council district and requiring minimum distances between STRs.
Their recommendations are here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1HlGdFZRamPco1X3Yt9AS5v8y3TFdMSlq/view?usp=sharing
These were quickly endorsed by planning groups from Pacific Beach, Downtown, and Point Loma.

I urge you to email and call in public comment for tomorrow’s council meeting, before this becomes law.  Offer your personal perspective. Know that community groups are ready and willing to negotiate a middle ground on this issue, and that on-site hosts have nothing to worry about.  Know that Airbnb is calling on all of its hosts and characterizing any attempts to amend this proposal as a defacto ban against all STRs.  Know that city legislation doesn’t need to be held hostage by a 30 billion dollar company, and that worst case, an ordinance might require a city-wide vote.

The draft ordinance and PUBLIC COMMENT instructions are here.  You can access via phone or Zoom.  The meeting will also be broadcasted on the city’s cable tv and Youtube channel.


I’ve been told by several that Campbell has already secured the votes behind closed doors to pass this proposal, so we might see a rerun of what happened when she was elected council president despite overwhelming opposition from citizens.  But all hope is not lost.  Community members have doubled down in the past few weeks lobbying community groups and councilmembers across the city to derail this runaway train, or at least make some key amendments to it.  And they’ll be there tomorrow and thereafter to make sure they are heard.

Kevin Hastings is an Ocean Beach resident and Vice Chair of the OB Planning Board. He has been involved in Short Term Rental policy since 2015.  The views and opinions expressed here-in are his own unless otherwise stated.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

kh February 22, 2021 at 7:50 pm

Update: Tonight the Linda Vista Planning Group also unanimously supported OB’s STR recommendations.

Jen Campbell’s chief of staff, Venus, was also there to present their draft ordinance which raised more questions than answers. It was an interesting and rewarding experience to finally get equal air time at this type of venue.


Frank Gormlie February 23, 2021 at 9:39 am

kh – thank you and the OB Planning Board for helping take the lead on this important issue at the neighborhood level. It does go to show ya how important local community planning committees are, and especially the OB board. BTW, now is the time to get involved with the OBPB.


Geoff Page February 23, 2021 at 9:36 am

That’s great to hear, kh. Seems that Linda Vista, unlike Midway, was able to see outside itself and join the fight for the whole city. Glad to hear of this success.


Frank Gormlie February 23, 2021 at 11:56 am

The spotlight is indeed on Jen Campbell today – the U-T has a large OpEd spread on “Recall Campbell”.


Frank Gormlie February 23, 2021 at 7:33 pm

The San Diego City Council voted 8-1 on Tuesday to pass a proposed ordinance to regulate short-term vacation rentals in San Diego.

Final approval of the ordinance requires a second vote at a future council meeting, the mayor’s office said in a news release issued on Tuesday. That vote would likely take place in October. The only no vote on Tuesday was from District 1 Councilmember Joe Lacava.


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