Save San Diego Neighborhoods Critique of Proposed Amendments to Short Term Rental Ordinance

by on April 6, 2021 · 0 comments

in Ocean Beach, San Diego

The group Save San Diego Neighborhoods has sent a letter from their attorney to the San Diego City Council objecting to elements of a proposed amendment on short term vacation rentals. The Council meets today, Tuesday, April 6 to work out regulations for short term occupancy. The letter is from Everett DeLano of Delano & Delano.

Here is the substance of that letter, dated April 5, 2021:

Dear City of San Diego City Council: 

This letter is submitted on behalf of Save San Diego Neighborhoods (“SSDN”), a California non-profit corporation, in connection with the proposed amendment to the City’s Municipal Code to impose a license requirement and operating regulations for short term residential occupancy (“Ordinance”). On Tuesday, February 23, 2021, the City council voted to approve the Ordinance.

I. The Proposed Ordinance is Inconsistent with the General Plan and Local Coastal Program 

Speakers at the February 23 Council hearing observed that, without a distancing requirement within the lottery system to prevent clustering of rental properties akin to restrictions imposed on liquor or marijuana shops, the Ordinance is designed so all beachfront property could be transferred from residential housing stock into short term rental stock. This design flaw conflicts with the Housing Element of the General Plan and Council Policy 600-19 and with the City’s Land Use and Community Planning Element Policy LU-I.15 requirement to plan for the equal distribution of potentially hazardous and/or undesirable, yet necessary, land uses to avoid over-concentration in any one geographic area, community, or neighborhood. General Plan at LU-44.

Finally, several individuals at the February 23 hearing noted the Ordinance lacks a mechanism for enforcement that applies to the hosting platforms. While the Ordinance provides that host may lose their license, currently the platforms have no disincentive to avoid transacting with unlicensed hosts. This omission conflicts with the City’s policy to ensure that the granting of development incentives does not result in an adverse impact upon health, welfare, and safety of the surrounding community or upon any designated cultural and/or historic resource. General Plan at LU-33.

As explained in our February 19 letter, a Local Coastal Program consists of a local government’s land use plans, zoning ordinances, and other legal instruments necessary to implement the plan. Pub. Res. Code $$ 30108.6, 30512, 30513. The Ordinance, as a city-wide amendment that licenses short term rentals up to one percent of San Diego’s total housing units outside Mission Beach, is inconsistent with the land use plans of the communities outside Mission Beach.

Several commenters at the February 23 Council meeting noted that the 30% whole home cap under Tier Four licenses in Mission Beach will create a disparate impact in relationship to the 1% cap on the Tier Three licenses issued outside of the Mission Beach area. The concentration of 30 percent of whole home rentals in Mission Beach creates an unequal distribution and over-concentration of an undesirable land use in the City. General Plan at LU-44. Given this disproportionality, the Ordinance will cause the most severe inconsistency in the Mission Beach Community Planning Area and proximate communities.

The overarching design of the local governments’ land use plans distinguishes commercial visitor uses from residential uses. In virtually every community, the Ordinance violates the intent behind these plans because it permits commercial visitor uses in areas the jurisdictions designated residential. As one common example, the Peninsula Plan provides that single-family residential land uses will continue to occupy a majority of the land area in Peninsula, while it confines visitor land uses (e.g., rentals, time-share) in the Roseville commercial district, specifically the areas of Roseville east of Rosecrans currently zoned R-400. Peninsula Community Plan at 11, 26.

The Proposed Ordinance is Inconsistent with the Pacific Beach Community Plan. 

The Pacific Beach Community Plan notes that the community suffers negative externalities from its proximity to Mission Bay and the effects of tourism since, like other communities nearby, Pacific Beach serves dual purposes as both a visitor destination and a residential community. Pacific Beach Community Plan at 3. However, affordable housing opportunities have been reduced and much of the residential portion lacks neighborhood identity. Id. at 6. Visitors continue to rely on private cars despite available public transit and so are encouraged to utilize peripheral parking. Id. at 3, 5, 27. As short term visitors infiltrate residential neighborhoods in Pacific Beach and nearby in Mission Bay, Pacific Beach will suffer increased traffic and diminished neighborhood identity. The Ordinance has ignored the conflicts it will create under these conditions.

Increasing short term rental use in the entire residential area of the Pacific Beach community directly contradicts the Pacific Beach Community Plan’s Commercial Element and its intent to balance its dual purposes as a residential community and visitor destination. The Pacific Beach Plan confines new development of visitor-serving commercial uses, which includes short term rentals, along Mission Boulevard and Garnet Avenue. Id. at 3. To provide a greater opportunity for the development of affordable housing, the Commercial Element of the Plan promotes the development of single-room occupancy hotels and living units, rather than whole home short term rentals. Pacific Beach Community Plan at 22. Pacific Beach specifically designates hotel uses to the Mission Bay Drive commercial area and visitor-serving commercial uses to the Mission

Boulevard commercial area, rather than to residential areas. Id. at 42, 44. The Ordinance violates the Pacific Beach Community Plan by permitting commercial visitor uses in areas the Plan designated residential and undermines the supply of affordable housing.

B. The Proposed Ordinance is Inconsistent with the Clairemont Mesa Community Plan 

Clairemont Mesa is a suburban community characterized by the single-family homes. Clairemont Mesa Community Plan at 1. Residents in the community already believe that the number of guest quarters and companion units that have been developed in single-family neighborhoods is changing the character of those neighborhoods and identified the proliferation of guest quarters as an issue of concern to the community. Id. at 5, 21. Guest quarters are located on the same premises with the main dwe the use of a person employed on the premises, members of the family, or a temporary guest, which would include whole home short term occupancy. Id. at 21.

The Clairemont Mesa Plan limits the location of development of guest quarters only to areas where such development will not adversely impact surrounding neighborhoods or natural features of a site, in areas designated as open space, or on lots smaller than 5,000 square feet. Id. at 33, 135. The Clairmont Mesa Community Plan also prohibits guest quarters in the Hillside Review Overlay Zone. Id. at 33. Therefore, the ordinance violates the Clairemont Mesa Community Plan because it permits guest quarters where the Clairemont Mesa Plan prohibits their development.

II. The Proposed Ordinance Fails to Meet the Requirements of CEQA 

As several commenters noted in the February 23 Council hearing, tourism causes a significant impact to the environment. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic creates unprecedented conditions in the tourism market for the foreseeable future; several individuals at the Council hearing commented tourists would be more likely to prefer renting whole homes to hotels out of concern for the virus.

III. Conclusion 

In light of the foregoing reasons, Save San Diego Neighborhoods urges the City Council to deny approval of the Ordinance. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely, Everett DeLano 

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