Councilmember Barbara Bry addresses short-term rental issues in LJ
Published - 08/24/17 - 01:46 PM | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Our beaches, bays and open spaces make San Diego a desirable place to both live and visit. Balancing the needs of the residents who live here and the tourists who come to visit requires political will and leadership. After years of discussions and failed proposals, it is time for clarity on an issue central to San Diego’s housing and tourism markets — short-term vacation rentals.

Through a March 15 memo, City Attorney Mara Elliott opined that short-term rentals are illegal under the current city zoning laws. The city is now awaiting regulatory guidance from the City Council before taking any action to enforce the city attorney’s memo. My proposed regulatory framework respects the rights of property owners, upholds current zoning laws and creates a workable compromise.

My proposal protects the rights of homeowners who wish to participate in home sharing by renting out a room in their home to help make ends meet. It further allows property owners to rent out their primary residence for up to 90 days per year if they want to go on vacation or make extra income during special events like Comic-Con. As a high-tech entrepreneur, I embrace the sharing economy as an innovative and integral part of our overall economy. I know it is here to stay and that it will continue to grow.

While my plan preserves homeowners’ ability to rent out a room or even their entire primary residence, it prohibits absentee investors from commercializing single-family homes by turning them into full-time mini-hotels in residential zones. To put it simply, I propose to enforce the current law that prohibits these short-term rentals in residential zones, and I believe that a short-term rental is any time period less than 30 days. We can uphold the current zoning law, maintain the character of our neighborhoods, consistently collect Transient Occupancy Taxes from both home sharing and legal whole-house rentals, and preserve our precious housing stock for families who live and work in San Diego. Simultaneously, we can offer San Diego visitors unique and affordable options for accommodations.

San Diego has a severe housing shortage that makes it difficult for residents to rent, let alone purchase a home. If we want a future for our children and grandchildren here, we need to move quickly to address this issue. Advocates, experts, elected officials and associations all agree that we must increase the housing pipeline. My proposal both protects housing stock and allows residents to supplement their income.

The City Council recently took steps to remedy the housing shortage by passing a package of legislation aimed at creating more units, lowering construction costs and encouraging transit-oriented growth.

That package included eased regulations for building companion units, affectionately known as granny flats. While legislation at the state level went into effect in January to make building companion units easier, the City Council’s new policy went even further to streamline regulations. During the council discussion of this item, an important amendment to limit the rental of these units to no less than 30 days was added. This 30-day minimum requirement makes it clear that this policy is meant to incentivize the creation of units to make housing more affordable for San Diegans. The policy’s intention is not to make it easier to build commercial enterprises in our backyards, and the City Council recognized this by passing the companion unit legislation with an 8-1 vote.

The proliferation of mini-hotels in residential communities is an issue I’ve been hearing about from community members since I began my campaign for the District 1 council seat. Understandably, residents are concerned about the character of their neighborhoods and quality of life. When you purchase a home in a residential neighborhood, you are not signing up to live next to a Marriott. My office sought extensive community input in developing my proposal and will continue to do so until the council takes action on this issue. We will present a draft ordinance for community review at a public town hall meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 30, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the La Jolla Community Center.

As the District 1 council member, it is my duty to ensure that we maintain the quality of life that we all love about San Diego. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the City Council to pass fair and sensible short-term rental regulations for the residents and visitors of our beautiful city.

Barbara Bry is the councilmember for District 1, which represents La Jolla.

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