The March 24 special meeting on short-term vacation rentals was conducted by the City Council's Smart Growth and Land Use Committee chaired by District 7 Councilmember Scott Sherman. The other two committee members present were Chris Cate and Georgette Gomez.
After the March 24 meeting, Save San Diego Neighborhoods, a grassroots group opposing short-term vacation rentals in residential areas, hailed as a “victory” Smart Growth and Land Use Committee's decision to only forward a proposal to regulate home-sharing to the full City Council for its recommendation.
Save San Diego Neighborhoods draws a sharp distinction between owner-occupied home sharing rentals, and whole-house, absentee-owner rentals.
District 9 Council person Georgette Gomez concurred with Save San Diego Neighborhoods' view.
"I feel there's a big difference between owner-occupied home-sharing and whole-home rentals where the owner is not around when issues potentially arise, especially at night and on weekends," said Gomez. "Particularly, I feel there is a difference between investor-owned whole-home rentals and those simply trying to make ends meet.
“It is primarily these properties that are not owner-occupied that seem to be contributing to negative impacts, whose effects are being felt throughout neighborhoods, primarily in single-family neighborhoods. For those reasons, I feel this issue should be addressed separately,” Gomez said.
Commenting on the Smart Growth and Land Use Committee March 24 hearing, Airbnb press secretary Jasmine Mora said: "As we heard from the public, San Diegans deserve short-term rental regulations that are clear, fair and reasonable. The hearing was a productive discussion and a solid step toward rules that will preserve neighborhood quality, while allowing folks to continue to make ends meet through using our platform to share their home. We’ll continue to engage with our policymakers and community to ensure hosts, guests and our city can continue to benefit from the sharing economy."
Previously, new City Attorney Mara Elliott took a completely different tack than her predecessor, Jan Goldsmith, with her March 15 issuance of a memorandum of law advising the City Council on short-term vacation rentals.
"The city has a 'permissive zoning ordinance,' ” read Elliott's memorandum. “This means that any use that is not listed in the city's zoning ordinance is prohibited.”
Elliott's memo subsequently pointed out, “Short-term vacation rentals are not specifically defined, expressly permitted, or listed in any of the zone use categories, including residential or commercial."
Responding to Elliott's memo, Mora of Airbnb commented: "The portion of the (municipal) code referenced was not written with the sharing economy in mind and underscores why we need thoughtful, sensible short-term rental regulations. Thousands of San Diegans rely on home sharing to make ends meet and supplement their incomes. We want to continue working with city leaders to enact clear and common-sense regulations that ensure accountability and maintain neighborhood quality."
At the March 24 short-term vacation rentals hearing, John Ambert, chair of Ocean Beach Planning Board, noted the beach community is “one of the most heavily impacted of the rental communities with about 400 short-term vacation rentals operating at any given time.
“We need restrictions to short-term vacation rentals in commercial zones,” Ambert added.
“This is the first time we've asked for this kind of dialogue,” said Smart Growth and Land Use Committee member Cate, pointing out his stance against doing away with short-term vacation rentals altogether in residential zones remained unchanged.
“We've been down that road before,” Cate said.
In November 2016, a motion by then-City Council President Sherri Lightner, which some feel would have largely banned short-term vacation rentals in single-family neighborhoods, was defeated by a 7-2 vote.
Lightner’s proposal would have restricted a homeowner's ability to rent to transients for less than 30 days in most single-family zones, with renters or owners of single-family homes also not able to rent out a room or space for less than seven days without proper permitting.
An alternative motion brought by then-Councilmember now-Assemblyman Todd Gloria was then passed by the same 7-2 margin. Gloria's counter motion requested city staff do a fiscal analysis to determine the cost of greater short-term vacation rentals enforcement citywide, and asked staff to draft and return with a comprehensive ordinance better defining and regulating short-term vacation rentals, as well as remanding the matter back to the Council's Smart Growth and Land Use Committee for further consideration.