District 2 Councilmember Dr. Jennifer Campbell’s compromise proposal on short-term rentals has stirred strong emotions, being condemned outright by at least one civic group, while other stakeholders have adopted a more conciliatory tone.
Campbell worked with representatives recently from Unite Here Local 30 and Expedia Group, the parent company for leading short-term rental brands Vrbo and HomeAway, to craft a comprise on short-term rentals. The parties agreed to a set of comprehensive rules to regulate San Diego’s short-term rentals industry.
As outlined in a memorandum of understanding, Campbell’s proposal would reduce the volume of whole-home short-term rentals, while creating legal inventory for short-term rentals platforms and local operators that comply with the new rules.
In a letter to San Diego Community News Group published online July 7, Pacific Beach Town Council decried Campbell’s proposal for “not consulting community town councils, planning groups, and residents.” Pacific Beach Town Council’ s letter claims Campbell’s approach would “legalize short-term rentals in our neighborhoods,” while arguing that short-term rentals are “illegal under the city’s zoning code and have no place in residential zones.”
“San Diegans deserve short-term rentals regulations that protect our neighborhoods, preserve valuable housing and will stand the test of time,” said Campbell, whose district includes the Point Loma, Pacific Beach, and Mission Beach, in a released statement.
“I promised my constituents I would work for them to tackle the tough issues, and that is exactly what happened here. I appreciate the willingness of Unite Here and Expedia Group to work with me in the spirit of collaboration. I look forward to discussing their proposal with my colleagues when this issue comes back to council,” said Campbell
“After several failed attempts to address the issue, it is clear that a compromise is what we have needed and a compromise is what Campbell is proposing,” said community activist and planner Scott Chipman of Pacific Beach. “After hundreds of hours of public testimony, everything that could be said has been said about what is good or bad about short-term rentals. Now we should be talking about how to get a compromise policy that protects neighborhood character and quality of life.”
Tom Coat, another community activist on the issue of the short-term rentals, concurred with Chipman.
“People are underestimating how big an accomplishment it is to get one of the major vacation rental platforms to agree to a 0.7 percent limit for short-term rentals (outside of Mission Beach),” Coat said. “That is a huge step forward in dealing realistically with an issue that has eluded a San Diego solution for 13 years. Neighbors have suffered enormously because they've gotten little or no relief from disturbances due to our inept enforcement system. And, all the while, the number of short-term rentals has grown considerably, which negatively impacts our neighborhood character and quality of life.”
On the pro- short-term rentals industry side, Jonah Mechanic, owner of SeaBreeze Vacation Rentals in La Jolla and president of Share San Diego, said Campbell’s proposal is a true compromise worthy of further review.
“One side is willing to compromise, and the other side tells you, ‘It’s our way or the highway and they want nothing but a complete ban,’” said Mechanic noting he was perplexed by the other side’s reaction claiming Campbell’s proposal is weighted in their favor.
“The numbers in it are not great for us,” Mechanic said. “It would create the highest (permit) fees – $1,000 to $1,500 per year – in the entire nation for whole-home rentals. It would cap the number of short-term rentals in Mission Beach at 30 percent, which is what Mission Beach Town Council proposed.”
Added Mechanic: “This ordinance would generate about $6 million every year for code compliance to help alleviate noise and nuisance concerns, and the short-term rentals industry would pay for that. Plus it would place a cap of .7 percent on the number of permits they’re (City’s) issuing for short-term rentals. It can never get any bigger than that. This should be a massive win for those guys. They’re getting everything they have claimed they have been fighting for over seven years, but it appears that is still not enough and the only thing that will make them happy is a complete ban.”
“We can't say anything is bad because the policy is not really written yet,” said Chipman of Campbell’s short-term rentals compromise. “We can say what we think must be included to achieve the two desired goals: to protect neighborhood character and quality of life.”
Chipman said those points include the immediate establishment of a moratorium on new short-term rentals; disqualifying LLCs as qualified applicants; requiring more reasonable distance separations for short-term rentals often concentrated in just a few blocks; require property inspections to root out illegal construction, and requiring enforcement to respond to complaints in real-time.
District 2 Councilmember Dr. Jennifer Campbell’s compromise short-term rentals memorandum would:
• Establish four tiers of STRs in the City of San Diego, ranging from home-sharing to whole-home rentals.
• Cap whole-home STRs at 0.7 percent of the City’s housing stock (based on SANDAG’s annual Demographic and Socioeconomic Housing estimates), which would equate to 3,750 permits today – reducing whole-home STRs by 70 percent or more based on the City Auditor’s estimation that 16,000 STRs exist today.
• Establish two-night minimum stays for most whole-home rentals.
• Allow residents a maximum of one permit, per person.
• Adopt the Mission Beach Town Council’s recommendation to permit up to 30% of the housing units in the community to be used as whole-home STRs (1,086), which will be in addition to the city-wide cap.
• Allow all residents to home-share.
• Allow part-time STR operators to obtain a permit at lower annual fees to accommodate high visitor events such as Comic-Con, Pride or December Nights.
• Create a detailed Good Neighbor Policy with strict enforcement guidelines, a fine structure for violations, and a permit revocation standard for repeated violations.