By Frank Gormlie / OB Rag
A San Diego City Council committee is posed to hear three different options for short-term vacation rentals being proposed by the Planning Department this coming Friday, March 25th.
The Smart Growth and Land Use Committee of the Council will meet in the morning at the Jacob Center (404 Euclid Ave, San Diego, CA 92114 – (619) 527-61610) and attempt – once again – to juggle the contentious issue of how to deal with these particular types of rentals, an issue that the Council and city staff have bounced around now for 2 years.
The large venue, apparently, has been chosen in anticipation of the usual over-flow crowds that have turned out for this issue.
The issue of short-term rentals have roiled the beach areas and Ocean Beach in particular. Over the past year and a half or so, the OB Planning Board – in conjunction with the OB Town Council – held a forum on STVRs. Overall, both within the large audience and among the panel members, the rentals were heavily criticized. The Planning Board is having to constantly deal with the issue, attempting to be a force that holds these rentals and their owners and the city to account for their proliferation.
The OB Rag has taken a strong stand against STVRs in locales such as OB, where they threaten the very fabric of community. (See post on the Loss of Community )
It was only last November that the city council shot down a proposed outright ban on short-term rentals in most single-family neighborhoods.
The planning department released its report last Friday, March 17, a report that, according to Lori Weisberg at the San Diego Union-Tribune reflects the lack of any consensus on the issue among members of the City Council of within the communities of the city. Because of the lack of consensus, the department came up with three proposals that they believe represent the range of options on regulating vacation rentals.
Planning Director Jeff Murphy told the U-T that they considered “all the testimony, public input, letters raised during the process and tried to come up with three options that reflected the desires of both the council and the community.”
The report comes on the heels of a memo issued by newly-elected San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott that declares short-term rentals are not allowed under the Municipal Code.
Weisberg summarized the options:
The most lenient of the three options governing the short-term rental of entire homes would allow them to operate in residential zones but would require ministerial permits, as would all the options.
The strictest proposes a minimum stay of 21 days, an option favored in the past by City Councilwoman Lorie Zapf, who represents the beach communities where residents have protested the loudest over vacation rentals.
A third proposal strikes a middle ground, allowing vacation rentals but requiring a special permit for larger homes that have six or more bedrooms or accommodate more than 10 guests. The “neighborhood use permit” that is being proposed requires a hearing and notification of surrounding neighbors.
The planning department is recommending that “home sharing” – where homeowners rent out a spare bedroom – be allowed, but also proposes placing some restrictions on larger houses and numbers of vacationers.
As Weisberg noted, District 2 Councilwoman Zapf favors the “strictest” option of allowing a minimum stay of 21 days where hosts are required to apply for a ministerial permit. Councilwoman Barbara Bry of District 1 told Weisberg that she is still reviewing the proposals and has as yet formed her choices. Bry has a history of supporting strong regulation of short-term rentals.
In contrast, Councilman Chris Cate of District 6 likes the more permissive option. Weisberg said:
“[Cate] has routinely argued for permitting vacation rentals citywide but putting in place stricter enforcement and a series of escalating fines for hosts who violate noise and nuisance regulations. He said he favors the department’s more permissive option.”
Cate is quoted as saying:
“One thing we need to flush out more is the enforcement piece because no matter what option is chosen there needs to be 24/7 enforcement to ensure the rules are followed.”
There’s that sticky issue – enforcement; no matter which option is chosen, how does the city enforce its regulations and how, by the way, is enforcement paid for?
Planning department head Murphy told Weisberg:
“One new thing we’re introducing is that we’ll require a ministerial permit, and what’s key about that is for people who violate rules related to noise or trash we can revoke that permit. We lack that today.”
A lot of money is being made by sites like Airbnb and VRBO. Recently Weisberg wrote in another piece that Airbnb reports that its hosts in San Diego took in nearly $70 million in 2016, from 357,300 guests. She wrote:
In San Diego, short-term rental income from Airbnb listings shot up 74 percent, from $39.9 million in 2015. The number of guest arrivals nearly doubled, from 185,000 in 2015 to 357,300 last year.
Airbnb has claimed that it has 5,000 hosts across San Diego.
Weisberg spoke with Tom Coat, a PB homeowner and board member of Save San Diego Neighborhoods, the organization that has been fighting short-term rentals. Coat had another spin on the recent and gushing Airbnb report:
“Airbnb is making a big profit off of selling the right to a peaceful environment in a residential zone. They’re releasing this report now because they know ordinances are being considered in San Diego and they’re trying to put a positive spin in advance of the next round of vacation rental hearings.”
Then there’s the other wild card: the California Coastal Commission. In December the Commission sent a letter to the planning department warning against blanket bans of short-term rentals, but agreeing there is the need for “reasonable and balanced regulations.”
This Friday over at the Jacob Center, another chapter of this ongoing saga will play out as members of the city committee sit down and grapple with the realities of this issue.
News source: San Diego Union-Tribune