Two Pacific Beach community activists are proposing a compromise on short-term vacation rentals, a complex issue that has divided communities for years.
“STRs should be strictly regulated and limited. This is critically important to the quality of life and community character,” said Scott Chipman who, along with Tom Coat, is offering the prospective accommodation. “With some cooperation among advocates, a true compromise that protects neighborhood character and quality of life can be attained without delaying lawsuits or referendums.”
“In PB, we've been seeking a solution to the growing number of vacation rentals since at least 2007,” said Coat. “We need courage and imagination to find a new, more balanced solution that will get us to the goals we want – providing real relief to impacted neighbors, treating historic vacation rentals fairly, preserving existing housing stock for residents, and keeping residential neighborhoods residential.”
Added Coat, “We simply can't have a repeat of what happened in 2018. City Council passed a primary-only ordinance, and only then talked about finding a way to enforce it. That's a completely backward approach that won't work. Then, of course, the ordinance lost in the court of public opinion when a successful initiative forced the just-passed regulations to be rescinded.”
Jonah Mechanic, owner of SeaBreeze Vacation Rentals in La Jolla and president of Share San Diego, Airbnb's San Diego arm, said the short-term rental industry is open-minded about compromise.
“There is more than a 100-year history of short-term rentals in our community, there’s a place for them,” he said. “It’s going to require sacrifices from both sides. It’s the nature of a compromise that neither side walks away (completely) happy. We applaud the efforts of those who understand that a compromise is necessary. It is the only thing that is going to make progress.”
Mechanic contended the City’s 2018 primary-only residence ordinance was unfair and a non-starter for compromise because it would have restricted short-term rentals to primary-only owners, those living there all but two or three months out of the year.
“That cuts out the overwhelming majority of the current inventory, and data clearly shows that would be a ban with a pretty name slapped to it,” Mechanic argued.
Defining the issues, Chipman noted, “STRs often can generate visitors that are noisy, with too many cars, and too many people in a residence, while a concentration of STRs loses community character and permanent residents.”
Chipman made several suggestions to remedy that including, freezing the current STR number now; limiting the number of STR permits to one per person/social security number; limiting the number that can be on any particular block, neighborhood, or area; allowing each person to own one plus a primary residence eliminating the corporate takeover of areas; a guideline of two guests per bedroom; adding no more than one person per 200 foot maximum addressing over occupancy; prior to permitting the residence would be inspected and approved for a certain occupancy; no permit would be allowed for any residence with illegal construction; permits would include a fee to cover regulations, inspections and enforcement; no noise after 10 p.m.; code compliance should be available 24/7 with specific officers dedicated to this; violators of noise/disturbances would result in fines for both property owners and occupants; STR permits would be non-transferable to another owner; and any existing rental unit/home sold would require the new owner to apply for a permit.
Coat noted proponents of banning all non-primary STRs are quick to point to the memorandum issued on March 15, 2017, by City Attorney Mara Elliott, which said STRs are prohibited by San Diego's zoning code.
“What they neglect to mention is that the memo also stated that the Municipal Code, as currently written, does not allow the reasonable compromise our communities seek, a compromise respectful of those who wish to enjoy the quiet enjoyment of their homes, and those who wish to take advantage of the innovation economy,” said Coat. “With a fundamental and fair change in the way vacation rental complaints are enforced, we believe we can now get to that ‘reasonable compromise.’ Our communities deserve nothing less than a lasting, enforceable, and fair vacation rental solution.”
“The short-term rental industry is on record as favoring several compromise proposals for better regulating STRs,” said Mechanic.
“We have always been supportive of enforcement of noise and nuisance ordinances,” he said. “We have always been supportive of enforcement of noise and nuisance ordinances,” he said. “We need to get rules on the books so that both guests and hosts know the rules and know how to follow the rules. For example, we are in full support of no amplified music or outside activity past a realistic and agreed upon time in the evening and before an acceptable time in the morning.”
Continued Mechanic: “We’ve also been firmly supportive of paying, through millions of dollars collected in permit fees, for dedicated code compliance officers. We would certainly support the maximum occupancy of housing and are also supportive of making sure the houses being rented are legal. We also agree that fines should be levied against both property managers, and short-term renters, for violations.”
Concluded Mechanic: “The short-term rental industry is in favor of common-sense, simple solutions that are effective and easy to execute. This is a very complicated issue requiring thinking outside the box, and some compromise from both sides.”