City Council votes in favor of Campbell’s short-term rental proposal
by DAVE SCHWAB
Published - 02/24/21 - 07:15 AM | 4803 views | 0 0 comments | 37 37 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dr. Jennifer Campbell
Dr. Jennifer Campbell
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San Diego City Council on Feb. 23 voted 8 to 1 to adopt a new proposed ordinance that would regulate short-term rentals and become effective July 1, 2022. District 1 Councilmember Joe LaCava cast the lone dissenting vote.

The short-term rental compromise was proposed by District 2 and current Council President Jennifer Campbell. Supporters of her proposal, however, questioned her condition that a future lottery be held to select whole-home STR operators. They argued instead that operators with the cleanest records be given first priority for whole-home rental licenses.

“I want to thank everyone who was a part of putting together this ordinance and who has fought so hard to implement common-sense ideas to our city,” Campbell said. “This ordinance shows San Diegans that our city government can do what we’re elected to do - to solve our most confounding problems with workable solutions.”

As outlined in a memorandum of understanding between Campbell’s office, Unite Here Local 30 union, and Expedia Group representing short-term rental platforms, her new ordinance claims to reduce the volume of whole-home short-term rentals. It also would create a legal inventory for STRs along with new rules governing their operation, including 24/7 accountability by operators.

“I remain unwavering that we should be enforcing the City’s municipal code that prohibits short-term rentals,” said LaCava. “However, the Wild West with rentals still plagues our City. The current situation is no longer tenable.”

“Not being able to regulate short-term rentals has been a big public safety concern,” said District 7 Councilmember Raul Campillo. “Without regulations, the City cannot hold bad actors accountable.”

“It’s been a years-long fight,” noted District 4 Councilmember Monica Montgomery-Steppe. “I agree we need regulations. My concerns are with the estimated costs and enforcing STR platform accountability.”

“I can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said District 6 Councilmember Chris Cate. “This is our fifth public hearing at the council on this issue. Short-term rentals are part of our DNA as a City. It’s always been a part of us, and always will be.”

“We can all agree this issue has been unresolved for far too long,” said District 8 Councilmember Vivian Moreno. “We all know short-term rentals are a major component of tourism. Given the demand for short-term rentals, it makes sense to regulate them. This ordinance before us is reasonable, and it’s worth giving it a try.”

Beach residents, both for and against, reacted to the City Council’s decision on short-term rentals.

Andrea Schlageter, chair of Ocean Beach Planning Board, was displeased with the decision.

“All of this language about ‘compromise’ and how this is a good compromise because no one is happy is disingenuous,” she said. “Public policy is not about compromise. Good public policy is about protecting the average person while striving for justice and incentivizing good behavior.”

Added Schlageter: “Politics is about compromise and not caring about the opinions of the average persons. Politics is what got us this ordinance. Politics is why no community groups were brought to the table to negotiate directly with Airbnb. It’s a shame that a majority of the City Council is not dedicated to good public policy, just politics.” 

Jonah Mechanic, president of Share San Diego, representing short-term rental platforms, gave an official statement from that group.

“Share San Diego supports Council President Campbell’s Good Neighbor STR ordinance, not because it is a big win for the local managers, but because it is a fair compromise that takes into consideration the concerns of both sides,” he said.

“For opponents who have voiced concerns about party houses and the City’s housing crisis, this ordinance fully funds a robust 24/7 code enforcement program and would return thousands of homes to the market. Make no mistake, capping the number of STRs based on a percent of the City’s total dwelling units, and instituting a license fee that will likely be the highest in the nation, is a major concession for STR owners.”

Added Mechanic: “We are willing to accept these items because we recognize the ordinance is a compromise. What is most important to us is that the responsible STR owners and managers continue to operate and earn an income that supports their families. Many of our members are concerned they will not be able to obtain a license in a random lottery that includes restrictions on whole-home rentals.

“If the goal of the ordinance is to eliminate bad actors, then we suggest prioritizing licenses for responsible STR owners who can prove they have been good actors, have been paying TOT, and do not have outstanding code violations.”

Another short-term rental opponent, Gary Wonacott of Mission Beach, gave his take on the City Council’s STR decision, which included a “carve-out” for Mission Beach, which has the highest number of coastal STRs, from the new ordinance.

“Mission Beach is the last beach community that should be carved out,” he argued. “There are roughly 2,600 parking spaces in proximity to Mission Beach used by day visitors except for those filled by short-term renters who routinely bring multiple vehicles in the summer months. And Mission Beach is the least affordable with a $383 nightly rate (according to Airbnb) compared to Pacific Beach and Ocean Beach at $242 and $197 nightly rates.  Altercations between short-term renters and residents are all too common in Mission Beach with a density of 1,972 short-term rentals per square mile compared to 206 and 323 STRs per square mile in PB and OB.”

Added Wonacott: “This is the very definition of over-tourism. There are a very small minority of investors and short-term rentals management companies pushing hard for what are some of the most lucrative financials in San Diego. The carve-out is unfair and inequitable and likely faces a much more rigorous challenge at the California Coastal Commission.”  

The short-term rental issue is scheduled to return to the City Council in October 2021 for final review and refinement.

The new ordinance includes:

• Capping whole home STRs at 1% of the City’s housing stock per the San Diego Planning Commission (based on SANDAG’s annual Demographic and Socioeconomic Housing estimates), which would equate to 5,400 today.

• No limit on home-sharing STRs.

• Allowing part-time STR operators to obtain a license at lower annual fees to accommodate high visitor events such as Comic-Con, Pride or December Nights.

• Allowing STR owners a maximum of one license, per person.  

• Creating a detailed Good Neighbor Policy along with strict enforcement guidelines, a fine structure for violations, and a license revocation standard.
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