Is San Diego’s Short-Term Rental Program on Verge of Collapse?

by on December 16, 2022 · 8 comments

in Ocean Beach, San Diego

The question has to be asked: given the unexpectedly low numbers of short-term rental applications the city has received, is San Diego’s much-vaunted short-term rental program on the verge of collapse?

We now know that from today’s U-T piece by Lori Weisberg,

“In all, the city received 3,110 whole-home vacation rental applications from throughout the city, excluding Mission Beach, said San Diego Director of Communications Rachel Laing. For whole-home rentals in just Mission Beach, the application submittals totaled 1,291, she said.”

Recall that the city was expected to have to hold a lottery to select only 5,416 applicants for licenses from the deluge of thousands who would be applying. It didn’t work out that way. The city only received 57% of that total. And now the city is holding an additional application period next week for securing a two-year license for hosts.

The problem, of course, is the money. As Weisberg iterates:

Revenue from required license fees, which is $1,000 for a two-year license, will be crucial for funding the administration and enforcement of the new regulations.

City officials had previously estimated that applications for the first round of all types of short-term rentals could generate more than $7 million. That funding could fall short if the city fails to attract significantly more applications.

So, to recap: the city was expecting 5,416 license applicants, at $1,000 a pop, to make more than $7 million to fund the enforcement of the new short-term rental regulations. But it has received less than 60% of the applications whose license fees would fund the program. (Mission Beach is in a special category — see below.)

Right now, without more applicants, the funding for the program looks in jeopardy. Which is why the city is reopening the application period, although officials don’t yet know how long they’ll keep the reopening.

Mission Beach is a “carved-out” exception. The city has 1,100 licenses for that community — 30 percent of the community’s housing units — and received 1,291 applications, so there will be a lottery for Mission Beach.

The city had plans to hire an IT consultant to help it identify unlicensed listings for all home sharing platforms like Airbnb and VRBO. But with the shortfall in fees, perhaps that position will only be part-time, and the city’s enforcement team that was expected to respond to complaints and weed out nuisance properties, may not be as large.

Venus Molina, Campbell’s chief of staff, must be asking herself, ‘Where did all the short-term rental hosts go?’ It was Campbell, under Molina’s initiative, who led in brokering a “compromise” with home-share billionaire companies to establish the program in the first place, much to the chagrin of her constituents.

Naturally, it’s all not over and maybe the city will receive sufficient license applications and fees to run the program. Stay tuned.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Gary Wonacott December 17, 2022 at 3:38 am

So apparently, then Councilmember Chris Ward was a genius when he flipped his vote in 2018 away from then mayor Faulconer’s STR plan to primary only, because he feared there would be too few applications to pay for enforcement. Councilmember Campbell’s office has confirmed to at least one Mission Beach constituent that the current erroneous number of Mission Beach licenses of 1081, based on the 2010 census estimate will decrease by about 125 licenses based on the 2020 census. The STR ordinance states that the latest demographics will be used and that would be the 2020 census. The impact of STRs in Mission Beach based on the 2020 census is a disgraceful 24 percent decrease in the population.


Sean Reilly December 17, 2022 at 5:05 pm

Housing stock in SD has been eaten up by STVR’s without a doubt. What’s not factored in here is the massive private equity investment in residential properties. Until municipalities get honest about this hidden driver, and the inflationary pressure it’s created, imbalanced home pricing will not abate. The miscalculation of the STVR licensing model is merely a side note to the overall inequity of the American economy.


frankf December 18, 2022 at 7:31 am

When and how will we be able to see the information on licensed STVRs? I have two within spitting distance of my house and I wonder if they applied for licenses.


Barbara A December 19, 2022 at 1:09 pm

I agree with you frankf, I think the number was so low because the STVR’s aren’t reporting them as STVR’s !?!
I would also like the city to provide address’s (don’t need any names) because I also know about 10-12 STVR in my area when I’m walking my dog! Since the city says they don’t have the manpower to enforce, I would be more than happy to cross check their list with mine!


kh December 22, 2022 at 7:20 pm

I have a list of all the addresses.


Toby OB December 18, 2022 at 11:47 am

The reason the applications were low is this; there will be zero enforcement of regulations and fines. Why go through the expense and hassle of applying for a license for an STRV when you can run this business without enforcement?


kh December 22, 2022 at 7:18 pm

The applications are only off by 15% at most. Not half.

There was about 6,000 STRs meeting the tier 3/4 criteria prior to this. 5,000 paid the fee. The remaining 1,000 could be normal turnover or lack of education.

The new law was never going to reduce the number of full time STRs, but for a few in MB.


Toby OB December 21, 2022 at 10:11 pm


Here’s the contact information for STRO code enforcement:


You’ll have to type in the web address below; the link didn’t copy:

A formal complaint process is supposed to be in place prior by May 2023.


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