Short-term vacation rentals ordinance sent back for rewrite
by DAVE SCHWAB
Published - 12/09/15 - 05:14 PM | 8583 views | 0 0 comments | 34 34 recommendations | email to a friend | print
On Dec. 3 the city Planning Commission “tore up” a proposed new city ordinance on Short Term Vacation Rentals (STVRs) cobbled together following months of public testimony and directed city staff to return Jan. 28 with a new set of proposed regulations.

The city ordinance commissioners nixed what would have created a new use category for STVRs while amending an existing one. It would have established a separately regulated — and new — use category for whole home rentals: "Short Term Vacation Rentals.”

The ordinance would also have put Home Sharing (owner-occupied rentals) in the same use category as the current Boarding and Lodging category. It proposed limits on visitor frequency, occupancy and eligible housing types in both Home Sharing and STVRs.

Architect and Planning Commission chair Tim Golba acknowledged that STVRs are a daunting issue that staff will be challenged to remedy.

“There’s not a whole lot here to find common ground on,” Golba said.

During their deliberations, commissioners pointed out they didn't want to repeat the mistake of a recently passed city ordinance restricting to four the number of medical marijuana cooperatives allowed to exist in each council district. They noted that ordinance has culminated in a race between competing applicants to be the first to open, which they added “has not resulted in the best-quality operators being in business.”

The failed city STVR ordinance was crafted by the Council’s Smart Growth and Land Use Committee (SG&LUC), chaired by Second District Council woman Lorie Zapf, whose district includes the beachfront between Point Loma and La Jolla.

That ordinance which came out of SG&LUC recommended minimum stays of at least 21 days for the short-term rental of a home not occupied by the owner. It, however, didn't place the same restriction on the sharing of homes with live-in owners.

STVRs have been a divisive neighborhood issue with two clearly drawn and mutually exclusive sides. On the one hand are homeowners convinced STVRs should be excluded entirely from residential neighborhoods. On the other side are STVR and Airbnb industry representatives arguing such rentals are a private property right and are good for the economy. Ordinance detractors insist that all that really needs to be done is to beef up enforcement of existing regulations to police — and eliminate — a few problematic operators.

Following the Dec. 3 Planning Commission meeting, Peninsulans weighed in on the commissioner's decision to send the proposed city STVR ordinance back to the drawing board.

“Despite comments to the contrary, there are no real STVR regulations on the city books,” said Point Loman Don Sevrens, who lives near an STVR. “I attended two separate days of public testimony, and it is clear all shades of opinion have been gathered. Some say the suggested result of a 21-day minimum stay does not strike the right balance and is a de facto ban.

“The worst thing that could happen now is inertia and continuance of the status quo,” continued Sevrens. “That would be harmful to the community and not in the best interests of both sides. If it is to be back to the drawing board, set a deadline and get with it. We need sensible regulations and we need them now.”

Point Loma Realtor Robert Tripp Jackson noted it's been “common for short-term rentals to exist in beach areas (most notably Mission Beach). He pointed out that when the real estate market “cooled” in 2006, that was when investors, who were sitting on inventory they couldn't sell, realized short-term rentals could bring in more income than long-term rentals.

“It really started becoming a 'big business' here in Point Loma,” Jackson said. “Instead of just renting a home, it would be offered on a weekly rate.”

Jackson added problems started when those short-term rentals started “popping up everywhere.”

“Often there would be a ton of vacationing people partying late into the night,” he said, adding, “It has brought a real-world nuisance to our community.”

Jackson gave a proposed compromise solution.

“I would support regulation limiting the number of vacation rentals, their location, and capping them (occupancy) at two (persons) per bedroom,” he said. “Law enforcement would have to be the police power (supporting) code compliance. The property owner would be fined, if two warnings didn't work. Regulations would apply for owner-occupied rentals too.”
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