Mayor creates a stir with his short-term vacation rentals plan
by DAVE SCHWAB
Published - 06/28/18 - 08:00 AM | 17647 views | 3 3 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Signs like this one on Crown Point Drive are in neighborhoods around Pacific Beach.     THOMAS MELVILLE / BEACH & BAY PRESS
Signs like this one on Crown Point Drive are in neighborhoods around Pacific Beach. THOMAS MELVILLE / BEACH & BAY PRESS
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Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s much-anticipated new regulations on short-term vacation rentals, seeking to strike a balance between those who want them out, and the Airbnb industry promoting them, was greeted by both strong support – and vehement disapproval.

“What is being lauded as a compromise is in fact a concession to the short-term vacation rental industry,” said Joe LaCava, former chair of the Community Planners Committee, which oversees the City’s more than 40 citizen advisory groups making land-use recommendations.

“Despite more pressing problems facing our City, the extraordinary city resources proposed to justify these incompatible uses prioritizes short-term vacation rentals over the real needs of San Diegans and our neighborhoods,” LaCava said.

John Thickstun, a spokesperson for Save San Diego Neighborhoods, a single-family neighborhood group formed to lobby for more restrictive short-term rentals, had a list of questions for the mayor to answer about short-term rentals.

Among them: What are the definitions of “primary” and “secondary” residences? Will rentals be limited to property titleholders? Does the proposed ordinance prohibit an individual from purchasing any number of residential dwellings and having others hold title and use the residences as short-term vacation rentals? Are short-term vacation rentals to be limited to “living breathing human beings” as opposed to trusts, associations, corporations? 

Philip Minardi of the Expedia Group, the parent company of vacation rental platforms HomeAway.com and VRBO.com, had a different take.

“For generations, whole-home vacation rentals have played an important role for San Diego homeowners and for families visiting the City,” said Minardi.

“We applaud Mayor Faulconer and City staff on their efforts to craft a fair and effective policy that addresses community concerns and recognizes San Diego’s vibrant vacation rental community. We look forward to reviewing the proposal when it is released in full and welcome continued collaboration with all local stakeholders,” Minardi said.

Faulconer characterized his new proposal as seeking to “strike a balance between growing the home-sharing industry, enforcement and neighborhood quality of life.” 

The mayor’s proposal would:

- Create the City’s first license-based system to manage short-term rentals.

- Charge cost-recoverable fees to administer licenses and enforce code violations.

- Establish a “Good Neighbor” policy to preserve neighborhood quality of life.

- Hire additional staff to respond to complaints about nuisance properties.

- Implement a per-night fee that would generate an estimated $3 million annually for affordable-housing projects.

 “This is a balanced approach that establishes clear rules of the road for short-term rental hosts and guests while protecting neighborhood quality of life through increased oversight and enforcement,” Faulconer said.

“This is a fair compromise that allows the home-sharing economy and our neighborhoods to co-exist and gives everyone clarity moving forward. I look forward to working with the City Council on passing these proposed regulations.”

Monday, July 16 is the date during which the full City Council will take on Faulconer’s short-term vacation proposal.

Is the mayor’s proposal a compromise or a sell out to the rental industry?

Depending on who you speak to, Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s short-term vacation rental proposal is either an impartial workable compromise – or dead on arrival.

“It’s not a compromise at all,” claimed John Thickstun, spokesperson for Save San Diego Neighborhoods, a grassroots group lobbying for tighter short-term rental controls. “Mayor Faulconer’s proposed ordinance is not only ill-conceived and unenforceable, it is also unlawful.”

“The mayor’s draft ordinance is a fair and balanced compromise, which protects a homeowner’s property rights, San Diego’s thriving tourism economy and the right for neighbors to not be negatively impacted,” countered Jonah Mechanic of SeaBreeze Vacation Rentals in La Jolla. “The current code is outdated, ambiguous, and confusing.”

Under Faulconer’s proposal, a maximum of two licenses can be issued to a host: one for their primary residence and one additional license for a secondary residence. The primary residence could be rented out for up to six months per year, with the secondary residence available for year-round rental.

Proposed new short-term rental regulations would require a three-night minimum stay for coastal and downtown communities. Units with five or more bedrooms will first be required to obtain a Neighborhood Use Permit from the Development Services Department. Rental owners would also need to register with the City and pay an annual $949 fee, per-year, per rental. Monies collected would be used for enforcement of the rental ordinance.

Asked what would be acceptable to coastal residents in a compromise, Thickstun replied: “The bottom line is that short-term rental are a transient use in the City’s municipal code. Transient uses do not belong in residential zones. What you’re talking about is changing the municipal code to allow these transient uses in every residential zone in San Diego. What [Faulconer’s] doing is really putting one over on San Diegans.”

Thickstun argued short-term rentals take away from the existing housing stock. He pointed out San Diego is presently in the throes of an affordable housing crisis. “Our housing stock is for people who live in this community,” he said. 

Crunching the numbers, Thickstun noted the Airbnb industry estimates there are 11,000 to 15,000 short-term vacation rentals in the city of San Diego. “If this is true, that means the majority of these [owners] have short-term vacation rentals. And half of these people don’t live in the City of San Diego,” Thickstun said. “There’s no legal distinction between primary and secondary residences in the mayor’s proposal. That leaves the door open for entities outside the city of San Diego to own secondary residences.”

Defending the mayor’s proposal, Mechanic noted, “As is the case with most compromises, neither side gets everything they want.”

But this is a fair and balanced answer to a very complicated issue.”

Mechanic said: “The cap of only two permits per- person eliminates the risk of neighborhoods being over- run by short-term rentals, while still embracing the sharing economy throughout our city. Most importantly, the mayor’s ordinance raises millions of dollars that will go toward supporting enforcement of noise and nuisances.”

Mechanic added: “We all agree that no one should have to live next to a ‘party house,’ and we welcome additional enforcement efforts to remove party houses and bad actors from the sharing economy here in San Diego. The short-term vacation rentals cap prevents the potential for investor to come in and buy properties and turn them into short-term rentals. It’s a win-win.” 

If passed by the City Council on July 16, Faulconer’s ordinance would not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2020. 

Comments
(3)
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Michael Flannery
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June 29, 2018
A similar version of this ordinance went into effect 14 months ago in Palm Springs, CA. Since then short term rental complaint calls have been cut in half despite the hotline number being heavily advertised after the ordinance passed. The 50 bad operator list has been cut down to a handful and shrinking. The calls to the police are down more than 90%. Due to the regulations, fees which represent barriers to those who do not want to play by these rules, the number of short term rentals is down by 10% and falling. This compromise in the great city of San Diego will be effective as long as enforcement is done right.
Jimmy L
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July 01, 2018
The city is incapable of enforcing the municipal code. The city already doesn't respond to noise complaints or quality of life concerns and in the rare occasion that they do show up nothing is done. It's funny that one of the most criticized operators of STVR's is in support of the proposal as I am sure he believes that the city wont enforce anything that is passed and it will be great for his commercial enterprise.
anonymous
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July 01, 2018
The sharing economy and opening up homes to travelers has been around for hundreds of years. Limiting licenses will prevent real estate investors from buying dozens of properties and turning them into short-term rentals. This will solve the concerns of people that believe this is 'ruining neighborhoods'. Short term rentals are helping many people keep their homes and afford to pay rent. These people are quiet and respectful of their neighborhoods. I applaud the mayor for taking steps to protect both sides. The city will gain at least 3 million dollars to help with affordable housing. Let's hope they take serious action and help to get the homeless off the streets and subsidize affordable housing with this additional income. We can all appreciate that this should help a very serious problem affecting San Diego.

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