Councilmember Lorie Zapf on short-term vacation rentals: 'Protect neighborhoods'
by Lorie Zapf
Published - 08/25/17 - 04:33 PM | 1 1 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It’s midnight on a Wednesday and you are trying to sleep, but all you hear is loud party music thumping and rattling your windows. For the third night — just this week — you have been kept awake by the party house next door. This situation is occurring in many of our neighborhoods, prompting residents to call my office pleading for help from the City Council to protect their quality of life and neighborhoods from the constant drumbeat of late night partying. Vacationers are just enjoying the best of San Diego while everyone else in the neighborhood has to get up early for work or school. The issue with short-term vacation rentals is the neighborhood-altering proliferation in our once quiet neighborhoods.

Addressing the issues of short-term vacation rentals and protecting neighborhoods has been one of my top priorities. It is important for readers to understand that we have specific zoning laws that allow for different types of uses in the different areas of the city of San Diego. Many homes are located in single-family residential zones. Some areas are multifamily where there is a concentration of apartments and condominiums. There are also commercial and industrial zoned areas where many businesses reside.

Beach community homes are highly sought out for purchase by out-of-the-area business enterprises, investors and individuals who convert single family homes into mini-hotels. They make thousands of dollars by renting whole homes to dozens of guests. It is not uncommon to see advertisements for “two-bedroom home, sleeps 12.”

While absentee landlords renting homes as a business is problematic, I do support home-sharing. Home-sharing, where the owner lives on site and rents out single rooms, does not create the problems that “whole home vacation rentals” create. Home-sharing allows homeowners who are in financial need to make extra income to pay for their retirement, medicine, etc.

My goal has been and always will be to protect the integrity of the neighborhoods and uphold the city’s obligation “to promote neighborhood quality, character, and livability” (Municipal Code 131.0403). City Attorney Mara Elliott has put forth her memo stating what I’ve argued from the beginning — that short-term vacation rentals are not permitted in single-family residential zoned neighborhoods.

I support the property rights of homeowners who bought in single-family residential neighborhoods. They put their trust in the city of San Diego’s zoning code and their faith that the city would protect their neighborhoods. Our zoning laws must take precedence. If not, why have them?

I received this message from a constituent that sums it up: “We worked and saved for years to buy a family home in an area where we could make a life with friends, family and neighbors. All of us built a community where we feel safe and familiar. Unfortunately, when vacationers with no stake in the house, neighborhood or community move in and out ... all of this was destroyed.”

As City Council members, we have a covenant to protect our neighborhoods. I’m looking forward to Councilmember Barbara Bry’s new ordinance relating to short-term vacation rentals. I’m hopeful she is able to encourage our colleagues to vote in support of it.

Some may think that short-term vacation rentals do not cause problems. On the contrary, many San Diegans who have seen the fabric of their neighborhoods fray due to vacation rentals are not just losing their neighborhoods, they are also losing their school enrollment, small businesses that are supported by full-time residents, PTA volunteers, youth sports coaches and community volunteers. In reality, they have lost their community.

I don’t want San Diegans to be told that somebody’s vacation and/or party is more important than our residents and preserving our neighborhoods.

Councilmember Lorie Zapf represents District 2 on the San Diego City Council.

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Patti Ghio
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August 25, 2017
Thank you, Lori, for understanding how this situation makes for neighborhoods torn apart by the lack of code enforcement and lack of police enforcement of noise laws. I have lived in Pacific Beach next door to vacation rentals on each side of me in the last few year. We bought in single family zoning instead of closer to the beach in 1983, and the whole culture of the neighbor is changed. It leaves neighbors angry at neighbors and a definite unfriendly atmosphere for the vacationers. As our city relies on tourism, I don't think that the visitors should have to experience that annoyance and anger, yet they do. This problem serves no one well and it has gone on too long.
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