Airbnb in San Diego – Good Riddance to a Great Thing?

Last Wednesday morning, April 22, the City of San Diego Smart Growth and Land Use Committee held a public comment hearing on the topic of short-term rentals in San Diego in advance of creating a proposal clarifying the status of this sort of property use and potentially creating additional rules and regulations.

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After the hearing room was full, many more waited in the lobby.

The meeting was attended by hundreds of San Diegans and testimony was heard in 30 minute chunks with those opposing restrictions on this property use alternating with those supporting restrictions.  Many, myself included, were unable to speak during the 4 hour meeting.  A continuance of the meeting will be held on May 29th for those that were unable to speak.

San Diego’s primary issue is it is a very desirable place to live and visit.  It’s a good problem to have.  Today there are more vacation rental properties than ever, the hotel industry just came off a record-breaking year, rents are high and rising, as are property prices.  There is more demand for every type of property than supply can keep up with.  Further impacting the supply is a strong sentiment across most of the city against increased density and/or building heights.

The city is approaching this issue in the wrong way.  A small number of San Diegans have had issues with short-term rentals – mostly complaints of noise, trash, or impacts on street parking.  For those not familiar with common San Diegan complaints, the lack of pavement on which to park private vehicles at public expense is nearly always the top of the list.  Joni Mitchell is probably crying.  More likely, she’s darkly laughing.

The complaints raised have existing rules and penalties that can be applied.  If enforcement of those rules is the issue then the solution is to improve enforcement by increased staffing and resources.  The solution should not be to curtail the property rights of every property owner in the City of San Diego.  Banning or restricting the ability of property owners to use their property is not the answer to problems with enforcement of public nuisance laws.  It would quite literally mean reducing the property rights of hundreds of thousands of San Diegans due to the complaints of a few hundred or perhaps a few thousand.  That is not a relevant or appropriate response.

Restrictions on use of platforms like Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway, and others would also be a real disservice to homeowners throughout San Diego.  For the first time, technology is putting the opportunity to utilize what is typically the largest asset a family owns, their home, in the hands of every property owner.  Vacation rentals have existed for decades in San Diego but were mostly relegated to property management firms and wealthy individuals that could hire staff to manage the properties.  Today, this is possible to the average person whether they are renting their home once a year or every night of the month.  This is a great thing.  It also means many dollars coming into and staying in San Diego, benefiting our entire economy.  Unlike hotels, which are often owned by non-local companies, home-sharing brings dollars into our city and keeps them here – in the pockets of our friends and neighbors.  Win win.

Are there bad actors among the property owners and visitors in San Diego? Certainly.  There are also bad actors among homeowners and renters.  When there is an issue there are tools to remedy them.  Utilize the tools we have, don’t take away a great opportunity for all property owners in San Diego and a boon to our economy across the board.

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John P Anderson

I'm a Kansas native living in San Diego. I enjoy learning about environmental issues and connecting with good people that want to make the world a better place. Cheers!

5 comments
JimboPunjabi
JimboPunjabi

Right on John! I hope the city can realize the potential for a huge tax win while also supporting residents to deal with the outrageous cost of housing in San Diego. The sharing economy builds community and improves quality of life. I hope the city can act progressively and get on board. Thanks!

Belinda Smith
Belinda Smith

I can't figure out how to edit my comment, so let me just say that when I refer to the same staffers who worked on the mini dorm regulations, I am talking about Code Enforcement.

Belinda Smith
Belinda Smith

Great piece, John! I am hopeful the City will use common sense, and we will get a solid ordinance that protects the rights of home-owners to rent out our homes the way we want to. These same staffers worked really hard on the mini dorm issue, and that seems to have largely been solved. I will add that if ever there was a time for our Electeds to address the TOT issue for reallocation of funds to beef up SDPD or CAPP enforcement, now would be the time to do so. If the funding can't come from TOT, let's at least review the budget and make sure there are monies in place to address noise complaints at a much higher level than they have been in the past. We know that Airbnb in San Fran is remitting $1million a month in TOT taxes. Surely with good compliance, San Diego can generate the same, and some funding can go to SDPD? Belinda Smith STRASD

gooserhack22
gooserhack22

Thanks Belinda, and for your efforts in organizing property owners to protect our rights. I agree that allocating funds to noise complaints would be a good idea, as would allocating funds to ensure compliance with TOT remittance. I believe the council can make discretionary reallocations of the TOT funds, or could adjust the budget for SDPD in the upcoming budget approval process which is in May, I believe.