The City of San Diego is currently considering new regulations on short-term vacation rentals like Airbnb. These regulations could potentially ban this type of property use for the entire city. Currently the city is pursuing a case against a retired school teacher for renting out rooms in her home via Airbnb with potential fines of up to $250,000. There are also groups organized to push for restrictions and a ban on short-term rentals. Nearby cities like Carlsbad and Santa Monica have recently passed very restrictive rules regarding short-term rentals and there is a real possibility San Diego could be next.
If you have enjoyed visiting San Diego using Airbnb, VRBO, or other short-term accommodation please take a moment to share your story. I am part of a group of San Diegans that are working to preserve this opportunity for visitors and residents alike, to benefit our city socially, culturally, and economically. If you have friends or family that have visited San Diego using a short-term rental please pass along this request to them.
If you value the existence of short-term rentals in San Diego and platforms like HomeAway, VRBO, and Airbnb please share your thoughts to ensure they remain available here. The San Diego City Council is currently considering new rules and regulations for this type of property use which includes a potential ban, among other possibilities. The Short-Term Rental Alliance of San Diego (STRASD) is a grass-roots group of San Diegans that has organized to give a voice to responsible hosts here and the benefits that short-term rentals provide to the city.
The City Council Smart Growth and Land Use Committee held a hearing on April 22nd attended by hundreds of San Diegans on this issue and will have another hearing on May 29th. For many, it is not possible or difficult to attend in person and voice an opinion. STRASD has created an online submission option you can use to add your thoughts and why you support short-term rentals here. Whether you are a property owner, a visitor to San Diego, a local business, or anyone else that supports platforms like Airbnb your voice is important and needs to be heard! STRASD will compile the submissions and present them to the City Council. Please take two minutes (or more) and add your perspective. It really makes a difference.
The following is my submission, as an example. Yours can be shorter or longer – the important thing is that you make a submission. If you’re not familiar with this issue or would like to discuss I’d be happy to talk with you, just drop me an email or phone call.
I am an Airbnb host in North Park and love the platform and the opportunities our family has due to it. We bought our home two years ago, and the presence of a second legal and permitted unit on the property was the primary consideration outside of neighborhood for us. We exclusively use Airbnb when we travel and wanted the opportunity to be a host in San Diego. We are a one-income family and planned on the income from the second property to allow us to spend quality time with our young children. A ban on renting our property on a short-term basis would be a major issue for us and may cause us to sell our home and potentially leave the region as well.
It’s not all about the money though. For us and for many hosts there are many factors at play in being hosts on Airbnb. We are able to accommodate friends and family in town (no return on investment) due to the flexibility provided. We are able to help move San Diego away from solely being a car-focused place by encouraging bike use (provided), bus, etc. Many guests do not bring a car, they walk around the neighborhood and improve the conditions around parking and traffic for all. We can show off our great neighborhood of North Park and the many businesses located here. I give all of our guests great San Diego beer to help promote one of our most recognized industries. We’re also able to host parents of friends that otherwise would be miles away instead of a short walk.
During the time we’ve owned this property we’ve made many improvements to the cottage we rent out, hiring local electricians, plumbers, construction workers, and other service providers. We also pay a neighbor to clean the cottage at an hourly rate that is more than double the existing minimum wage. The positive economic impact for San Diego provided by platforms like Airbnb and VRBO is significant and on top of indirect effects like restaurant purchases and zoo tickets the dollars paid for the lodging itself benefit our local community by staying with owners that live and spend here, not hotels that take the money out of our city.
Please keep ordinary San Diegans like us that are good hosts and care about and are involved in our community in mind when contemplating any regulations or rules on short-term rentals. This is a great opportunity for many people in the city that should not be eliminated due to a very few problem locations. Thank you.
The debate about short-term rentals, including sites like Airbnb, Flipkey, VRBO, and Craigslist continues in San Diego. The San Diego City Council Smart Growth & Land Use Committee held a public hearing on April 22nd that was attended by hundreds and will be continued in a hearing to be held on May 29th. To date, four council members have issued memos on the issue (click links for full memos):
While there are a broad number of issues that have been raised, there are also some very major points that nearly everyone agrees on. These basic points should be the baseline for any proposed rules or regulations. They include:
Everyone should pay the hotel taxes due
Anyone renting out a property or a part of a property is responsible for timely and full payment of the San Diego hotel taxes – for most, that is a transient occupancy tax of 10.5% and a tourism marketing district assessment of .55%. (For more details on the taxes click here.) These taxes are not being debated although the City Treasurer could do more to improve the payment system including acceptance of credit card payments, a payment profile system to save account information and history, and acceptance of zero due filings. Additional staff for the Treasurer’s office to collect back taxes would likely pay for itself many times over in addressing current non-compliant properties.
Owner-occupied properties should be allowed to host guests
The horror stories of late-night parties, loud noise, and heaps of trash no doubt reflect reality in some instances. These types of issues are far more likely to occur in a non-owner occupied property. I have heard very few people that want to prevent a widower from renting a room in their house, or a young couple trying to pay bills renting a spare bedroom. Home owners should not be curtailed in their ability to rent space on their own property. There do not seem to be many San Diegans that would agree with the City Attorney prosecuting a retiree in Burlingame for renting rooms in her own home. (Other than perhaps her private investigator neighbors.)
Enforcement of existing nuisance laws and fines for bad actors
Late-night noise, property damage, trespassing, and other issues have existing laws on the books. These should be enforced and property owners held responsible for the behavior taking place on their property. Additionally, most parties support fines for bad actors on an escalating scale.
Hopefully the city council will take these common ground, and common sense, items as a starting point for any proposals put forward. Other issues remain and will likely be contentious but with very strong support across the board for the above items there is no need to muddy the conversation with issues that are not being debated.
Last Wednesday morning, April 22, the City of San Diego Smart Growth and Land Use Committee held a public comment hearing on the topic of short-term rentals in San Diego in advance of creating a proposal clarifying the status of this sort of property use and potentially creating additional rules and regulations.
The meeting was attended by hundreds of San Diegans and testimony was heard in 30 minute chunks with those opposing restrictions on this property use alternating with those supporting restrictions. Many, myself included, were unable to speak during the 4 hour meeting. A continuance of the meeting will be held on May 29th for those that were unable to speak.
San Diego’s primary issue is it is a very desirable place to live and visit. It’s a good problem to have. Today there are more vacation rental properties than ever, the hotel industry just came off a record-breaking year, rents are high and rising, as are property prices. There is more demand for every type of property than supply can keep up with. Further impacting the supply is a strong sentiment across most of the city against increased density and/or building heights.
The city is approaching this issue in the wrong way. A small number of San Diegans have had issues with short-term rentals – mostly complaints of noise, trash, or impacts on street parking. For those not familiar with common San Diegan complaints, the lack of pavement on which to park private vehicles at public expense is nearly always the top of the list. Joni Mitchell is probably crying. More likely, she’s darkly laughing.
The complaints raised have existing rules and penalties that can be applied. If enforcement of those rules is the issue then the solution is to improve enforcement by increased staffing and resources. The solution should not be to curtail the property rights of every property owner in the City of San Diego. Banning or restricting the ability of property owners to use their property is not the answer to problems with enforcement of public nuisance laws. It would quite literally mean reducing the property rights of hundreds of thousands of San Diegans due to the complaints of a few hundred or perhaps a few thousand. That is not a relevant or appropriate response.
Restrictions on use of platforms like Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway, and others would also be a real disservice to homeowners throughout San Diego. For the first time, technology is putting the opportunity to utilize what is typically the largest asset a family owns, their home, in the hands of every property owner. Vacation rentals have existed for decades in San Diego but were mostly relegated to property management firms and wealthy individuals that could hire staff to manage the properties. Today, this is possible to the average person whether they are renting their home once a year or every night of the month. This is a great thing. It also means many dollars coming into and staying in San Diego, benefiting our entire economy. Unlike hotels, which are often owned by non-local companies, home-sharing brings dollars into our city and keeps them here – in the pockets of our friends and neighbors. Win win.
Are there bad actors among the property owners and visitors in San Diego? Certainly. There are also bad actors among homeowners and renters. When there is an issue there are tools to remedy them. Utilize the tools we have, don’t take away a great opportunity for all property owners in San Diego and a boon to our economy across the board.