Campground’s Airbnb presents many of the same issues for regulators – Voice of San Diego

Image via Shutterstock

Californians have found a new way to camp – and like short-term vacation rental and ride-sharing companies, this presents a new challenge for government regulators.

Hipcamp launched in 2013 to address issues California campers are likely familiar with. Campsites fill up quickly. People often have to reserve their seats six months in advance. Government websites that campers use to reserve campsites on public lands are poorly designed and difficult to navigate.

The service tried to improve this process in California, and now its sleek, easy-to-use website has spread nationwide and also allows people to book camping destinations on private land.

It is the Airbnb of the campsite. The owners rent their land through the website. Potential campers can search for Hipcamp listings by location and can filter by price and amenities such as “drinking water”, “toilets” or “hiking.” Hosts charge between $ 20 and over $ 100 per night.

On 20 landowners in San Diego County use the site, offering everything from high end outdoor ‘glamping’ sites (glamor camping) with amenities such as outdoor beds, bathrooms and swimming pools to basic tent camping.

But like other elements of the sharing economy, the rules and regulations owners must follow are obscure.

A few of the properties are listed in towns like Poway and Encinitas, and the owners there are probably breaking the law. For example, Robert Manis, director of development services for Poway, said the city does not allow the use or occupancy of a trailer or motorhome on zoned residential land.

“We have arrangements to store an RV on residential land when the RV is owned by the owner. But it is not allowed to be busy, ”Manis wrote in an email. “The use of a motorhome as described with Hipcamp is not allowed under the municipal code of Poway. “

But most Hipcamp ads are found in unincorporated, county-governed communities, where the rules aren’t so clear. There are no specific regulations related to sharing the house or land, but homeowners must adhere to county building, zoning, and other regulatory codes.

“Before determining what would be needed to allow people to camp on a property, the county would review each situation independently and assess the land use characteristics of the property to determine applicable requirements,” the spokesperson wrote. Jessica Northrup County in an email.

She said the county encourages landowners who wish to lease land from campers to contact the county first. Those who already do could break building and zoning codes, Northrup said, especially people who have built decks or other structures without the necessary permits. Not having access to the toilet or water can also be a problem.

Another big potential problem with camping on private property is the risk of fire. Landowners are responsible for making sure their roads are wide enough to accommodate fire trucks.

And just like with Airbnb hosts, Hipcamp owners need to be careful when it comes to browsing. access to people with disabilities and racial discrimination.

Ilana Friedman is a retired sales employee who recently opened a non-profit animal rescue at her property in Ramona. To help generate income, she has also listed her property on Hipcamp.

“We’ve had quite a few guests already,” she said. “It was pretty awesome. I have met some amazing people.

Campers at Friedman’s property have the added benefit of being allowed to spend time with his rescue animals. She has a dozen horses, a mule, lots of donkeys, two pot-bellied pigs, a sheep, a lamb, two goats, a 100-pound turtle and other animals, including an indoor chicken that suffered an accident. cerebrovascular system and now barks like a dog.

Friedman can lease four sites at a time on his five acres. She said some of the guests stay with each other while others want to get involved and help feed and care for the animals.

She said she did not speak to county officials about the relevant regulations because she did not know it was necessary; Hipcamp told her she had nothing to do, she said, and sent two young men after she signed up.

“They stayed the night and they basically interviewed me and walked around the property with me and took a million pictures and then they got on Hipcamp,” she said. “From what Hipcamp said, everything was perfect. I would never do anything that wasn’t over the edge.

Dawn Sardinas rents her Ramona land on Hipcamp and rents a house on Airbnb. She did a few things to make sure she didn’t break any rules, like getting a business license and a food handler’s license. She said she is also monitoring what San Diego City Council is doing in terms of regulating the home sharing industry so that she can be ready for potential future regulations.

“As far as I know, I am compliant,” she said.

Hipcamp spokesperson Annelise Poda said in an email that her company policy is to encourage owners to navigate local rules and regulations themselves.

“Unfortunately, as a market, we cannot advise our hosts on the laws and regulations in their particular areas as they really vary from county to county and state to state,” he said. writes Poda. “Of course, we are happy to do our best to help you with your navigation, but we only require that our hosts obey these local laws and obtain the necessary permissions that are applicable to them.

She said Hipcamp is working with policy advisers so the company can better help hosts in the future.

Comments are closed.