Is Sherri Lightner really proposing an Airbnb ban? — Voice of San Diego
For nearly two years, city leaders have grown weary of complaints and a legal gray area surrounding short-term vacation rentals in city neighborhoods.
Now, in a stunning move, City Council President Sherri Lightner has planned a Tuesday city council vote to clarify that renting houses to visitors is not permitted in single-family neighborhoods. If his city council colleagues agree, and the law survives any mayoral vetoes or other challenges, it could have wide-ranging implications for the large number of people renting their homes to visitors. No one disputes that it could eliminate the practice in many residential areas of the city. There is, however, a major dispute over what this might do for landlords who simply rent out parts of their accommodation to visitors while landlords remain on site.
We wanted to explain what we know about the plan through two fact checks. First, a little background.
As news of his plans spread, short-term rental giant Airbnb asked fans to campaign against Lightner’s proposal.
Airbnb claimed in a recent Facebook post And one online call to action that Lightner’s proposal could make it illegal for San Diegans to rent or share their homes. The company also claimed that renting out parts of your home while you’re still there, known as home sharing – a separate type of short-term rental – would effectively be banned.
There are two types of short-term rentals: whole house or apartment rentals, and shared accommodation, where a host stays on-site.
Airbnb, a major player in the short-term rental market, reports that 67% of its hosts rent their entire home or apartment. A third of them offer a private or shared room in their home.
An often quoted 2007 City Attorney’s Note concluded that there were no clear municipal regulations prohibiting or supervising such short-term rentals.
This has fueled confusion and frustration as more short-term rentals appear and San Diego residents, especially in beach communities, complain about unruly guests at neighbors. Meanwhile, vacation rental operators are taking money out and paying taxes. Airbnb reports paying more than $7.5 million in city hotel taxes last year.
Last December, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith weighed in with a note.
His office reiterated the vagueness of the current municipal code and suggested the mayor and council could make three changes if they wanted the current municipal rules to apply to short-term rentals. Goldsmith has not taken a position on whether to make these adjustments.
Lightner now offers two such changes.
Here is the current definition of visitor accommodation.
Lightner wants to remove the word “primarily” to broaden the definition of visitor accommodation. It also wishes to define visitors and tourists as transients staying for less than a month.
These changes would mean that even short-term rental operators who only occasionally welcome guests would be affected.
Declaration: “Lawmakers are meeting Nov. 1 to consider a proposal that could eliminate San Diego residents’ ability to legally rent short-term or even share their homes,” Airbnb wrote in a recent online campaign.
Decision: Rather true
The Airbnb blast claimed that Lightner’s proposal could ban whole-home rentals and home-sharing. Here we will address the first part of the complaint regarding short-term rentals.
One thing is undisputed: Lightner and short-term rental advocates say the proposal would ban whole-home rentals in single-family neighborhoods. These seemingly small changes to the city’s code would clarify that short-term rental transactions in single-family homes and apartments, not just hotels, count as visitor accommodations.
Lightner believes visitor accommodation is already prohibited in single-family neighborhoods under the current code. She argues her new bylaw would simply clarify that, explain where whole-house rentals are allowed, and open the door to enforcement.
“It has to be enforced. It’s been lacking in application for a great number of years to the point where people think it’s a right now,” Lightner said. “It’s not a right. It was never a right.”
Its main goal was to find a way to combat short-term rental problems in single-family neighborhoods. She is pushing this legislation in her final weeks as a city councillor. She will be fired in December.
However, its recommendations would not amount to a ban on all short-term rentals, as stated in Airbnb’s statement.
Its proposed changes allow for short-term rentals in certain commercial areas and two multi-family areas. A review of the city’s zoning grid map reveals small patches of these two multi-family zones in 10 city neighborhoods.
Sheri Carr, a former city code enforcement official who worked on Lightner’s proposal, said whole-home rentals would also still be allowed in limited areas in more than a dozen San neighborhoods. Diego with their own zoning regulations. These are known as planned district ordinances, and a handful of prime tourist destinations, including parts of Mission Beach, La Jolla, and downtown, have them.
Data provided to Voice of San Diego earlier this year showed that Mission Beach alone was home to 14% of Airbnb’s entire home or apartment rentals in the city.
Carr said she reviewed the plans for each of those planned districts and found that whole-home vacation rentals would still be allowed in parts of many of them, including Mission Beach.
A lawyer hired by vacation rental platforms estimated that 70% of whole-home rentals and home-sharing operations in the city could be eliminated by the rule change.
This estimate did not incorporate Airbnbs in the planned districts, where Lightner’s office said current rules would still apply, and it assumes home sharing would be prohibited, which I’ll cover below.
Aside from the attorney’s estimate, the company’s online assertion is that San Diego residents could lose their ability to rent their homes if Lightner’s proposal is approved.
This is mostly true.
The crucial nuance here is that while short-term whole-house rentals would be banned in many areas if Lightner’s proposal were approved, they would not be in all parts of the city.
Now let’s discuss what will happen to house sharing if Lightner’s proposal is approved.
Declaration: “This would effectively ban home sharing in San Diego,” Airbnb wrote in a recent online campaign.
Lightner has repeatedly stated that she is not trying to stop landlords from renting out rooms in their homes while they stay put, otherwise known as house sharing. But many people think that’s what the proposal would do, whether it likes it or not.
In an analysis sent to city council members on behalf of the rental platforms, San Diego attorney Robin Madaffer said Lightner’s proposal did not distinguish between whole-home rentals and home-sharing.
As a result, Madaffer claimed Lightner’s changes would give the city the ability to effectively shut down home sharing in most areas of the city.
“We believe the expanded definition of visitor accommodation would apply to home-sharing activities and prevent home-sharing activities in nearly all areas,” Madaffer wrote. “A different interpretation would likely lead to problems of applicability.”
At least one other lawyer agrees.
Omar Passons, a vocal critic of the city’s approach to short-term rentals, said Lightner’s proposal could effectively ended home sharing because it allows the city to apply the visitor accommodation definition to all operators in residential areas that have paying visitors.
But Lightner said she’s confident her measure won’t affect homesharing because the city is already responding to it with its boarding and lodging rules. She doesn’t try to change that language or ask code agents to crack down on roommates.
The city has taken the position that its boarding and lodging rules restrict home-sharing in city neighborhoods, but the city attorney’s office concluded in its December memo that those regulations needed clarification. important – and do not conveniently cover short-term rentals.
Short-term rental advocates said the city’s current rules aren’t working for roommates.
The boarder and tenant rules allow those who own property in certain multi-family areas to house visitors for at least seven days. Stays must be at least 30 days in single-family residential areas.
These times do not correspond to typical short-term rental stays. Airbnb reports that its customers have stayed in homes and apartments in San Diego for an average of just 3.6 nights over the past year.
The city’s B&B regulations are also not helpful to many short-term rental operators.
Smaller ones are allowed in most multi-family areas, but permits are required for single-family neighborhoods. They cost a minimum of $3,000 to $5,000 and even larger deposits are required according to city policies – an amount that occasional roommates are unlikely to pay.
For now, hundreds of San Diegans are renting rooms using Airbnb and other platforms despite these inconvenient rules. The city did not pursue them en masse and so they continued to operate.
Then came Lightner’s proposal.
Lightner said she was not trying to encourage the code enforcement to go after home sharers.
But proponents of short-term rentals fear the worst.
We classify a claim as unsubstantiated when there is insufficient evidence to support a statement. At this time, it’s unclear whether Lightner’s proposal would actually ban home sharing.
She says that is not her intention. The rest of the city council and, if the changes are approved, other city officials, will play a role in deciding how this would work in practice.