Following lengthy testimony, the City Planning Commission Oct. 8 voted 4-3 to send a short-term rental compromise proposal by District 2 Councilmember Jennifer Campbell back for further review.
In carrying the matter over, the seven-member commission presented a long list of questions to be answered. Those included a request for more details of the council member’s plan including information on fees and a lottery to include short-term rental operators under a proposed unit cap, as well as specifics on how a new ordinance would be enforced.
If successful in passing muster with both the Planning Commission and the City Council, Campbell’s proposal would take effect Jan. 1, 2022.
Campbell’s plan has stirred strong emotions on both sides since it was first proposed three months ago. As outlined in a memorandum of understanding, her proposal claims to reduce the volume of whole-home short-term rentals, while creating legal inventory for short-term rentals platforms and local operators that comply with the new rules.
After two hours of back-and-forth public debate, during which proponents argued Campbell’s proposal was reasonable and preferable to the non-sustainable status quo, while opponents insisted STRs don’t belong in residential neighborhoods, planning commissioner Matthew Boomhower moved for a continuance.
“We absolutely need to regulate short-term vacation rentals,” said Boomhower. “I don’t believe there should be a complete ban. But I also don’t believe that the current wild west free-for-all is sustainable. I absolutely know that there are bad actors out there. But I also know that there are short-term hosts who follow the rules and need additional income.”
Added Boomhower, “I also think Councilwoman Campbell and her staff should be complimented for trying to solve this issue. Not many politicians would have had the guts to actually try and take this one on. But I’m not sure how we can be expected to vote on this in its current form.”
“It’s important that we have something on the books, something that actually creates some kind of structure and framework,” replied Campbell’s chief of staff Venus Molina.“We’ve gone through a lot of scenarios to actually get to where we are right now. We do feel strongly that a lot of the tools, the small details, will be fleshed out and bring about some processes over the next year to make this work.”
Commissioner Vicki Granowitz, who seconded Boomhower’s continuation motion said, “Residential zoning is residential zoning. Whole-house rentals are an inconsistent land use in a residential zone. And we’re trying to make those work. I am willing to try and find a compromise.”
“This isn’t the first time we’ve looked at this,” said planning commission vice-chair James Whalen. “There is nothing in commissioner Boomhower’s comments opposed to having rules to pull together to address the problems – and benefits – of short-term rentals.”
Several beach residents testified on Campbell’s proposal.
“Our own council voted very strongly in favor of our own proposal, which Jen Campbell took key components from and included in her proposal,” said Mission Beach Town Council president Matt Gardner. “Our proposal included fines and revocation of permits for bad actors.”
“We urge you to reject this ill-advised ordinance,” said Brian White, Pacific Beach Town Council president. “Our council was not consulted at all on the STR issue, and the same goes for many other community groups. We remain opposed to this approach, taken before an uncertain mayoral election, by legalizing hotel operations in our residential zoned communities. The residents have had no input, no seat at the table.”
“This ordinance does not have strict requirements, there is absolutely no maximum occupancy,” said Greg Knight of Mission Beach. “There is no way to comply with illegal dwellings. And we need enforcement.”
“We cringe at housing that’s converted to short-term rentals,” said La Jollan and District 1 Council candidate Joe LaCava. “We are horrified that apartments are being replaced with mini-hotels. San Diego should follow other coastal cities treating STRs as commercial operations: They are.”
Planning commissioners subsequently set Dec. 3 as the date for the council office and City staff to return with a more developed STR compromise plan.
District 2 Councilmember Dr. Jennifer Campbell’s compromise short-term rentals memorandum would:
• Establish four tiers of STRs in the City of San Diego, ranging from home-sharing to whole-home rentals.
• Cap whole-home STRs at 0.7 percent of the City’s housing stock (based on SANDAG’s annual Demographic and Socioeconomic Housing estimates), which would equate to 3,750 permits today – reducing whole-home STRs by 70 percent or more based on the City Auditor’s estimation that 16,000 STRs exist today.
• Establish two-night minimum stays for most whole-home rentals.
• Allow residents a maximum of one permit, per person.
• Adopt the Mission Beach Town Council’s recommendation to permit up to 30% of the housing units in the community to be used as whole-home STRs (1,086), which will be in addition to the city-wide cap.
• Allow all residents to home-share.
• Allow part-time STR operators to obtain a permit at lower annual fees to accommodate high visitor events such as Comic-Con, Pride or December Nights.
• Create a detailed Good Neighbor Policy with strict enforcement guidelines, a fine structure for violations, and a permit revocation standard for repeated violations.