San Diego City Council fails to enact Airbnb regulations yet again

A divided city council failed on Tuesday to reach agreement on the long-debated issue of regulating short-term rentals, leaving in limbo an issue that has plagued elected officials for nearly three years.

Multiple proposals, some more permissive than others, were presented on the platform in the hope of reaching a consensus, but after more than four hours of debate and hours of more public testimony, the nine members of the council could not get five affirmative votes.

The inability to act seemed to frustrate council members as well as the community.

“I am very disappointed today. We’re like a dysfunctional family, ”said City Councilor Scott Sherman, who had favored a more permissive proposal originally developed with three of his colleagues – City Councilors Mark Kersey, Chris Ward and David Alvarez. “We’re back to where it always has been, the wild Wild West. “

City Councilor Chris Cate was even more blunt.

“After nearly three years since my office presented its initial proposal on colocation and short-term rental, today’s inaction by my fellow council members has proven that we cannot govern,” a- he said in a statement. “Time and time again, the council has relied heavily on special interest and voting initiatives to enact major public policy. There’s been a lot of talk about dysfunctional politics in DC, but it’s happening in our own backyard.

By taking no action, the council also failed to set a date to reconsider the matter.

Earlier this year, San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott released a memo concluding that short-term rentals are prohibited because they are not defined anywhere in the city code, but she pointed out last week that without a clear definition of what a vacation rental is, enforcement of the current law is not possible.

While it emerged at the start of the 10-hour session that action would likely be taken, Alvarez then walked away from a compromise proposal he and three of his colleagues had crafted in September that would have allowed up to three vacation rentals per owner, but would have imposed a three-night minimum stay in coastal communities.

City Councilor Barbara Bry, who originally sought to limit rentals popularized by the online platform Airbnb to an individual’s primary residence and for no more than 90 days a year, compromised and agreed to unlimited use throughout. year round, but wanted strict limits on the number of whole house rentals.

Where she wouldn’t budge was on slightly more permissive proposals suggested by other board members on Tuesday that she said would open the door to more investors converting long-term homes into vacation rentals.

Without limits on no more than two homes, including her primary residence, investors would continue “to buy homes and turn them into mini-hotels,” she said.

And while it seemed like Alvarez was supporting the boundaries Bry was looking for, he and the rest of the board couldn’t agree on how to define who could and couldn’t rent homes short-term.

The board agreed that whatever proposal is adopted, a stronger enforcement of short-term rentals is needed via a levy to increase revenue in order to pay additional code enforcement officers. But without a regulation adopted, there was no vote on this issue.

Belinda Smith, a Mission Hills resident and member of the San Diego Short Term Rental Alliance, said she was “flabbergasted” by the council’s inaction.

“I am deeply disappointed that our elected leaders were unable to provide further details on short term rentals.”

Equally frustrated was Tom Coat, a Pacific Beach resident and longtime critic of the growth of short-term rentals.

“They haven’t held back investors from out of town,” he said.

While the numbers vary wildly on the number of entire homes, condos and short-term rented apartments in San Diego, the best estimate so far is nearly 9,000. That’s according to a report released last week. by Host Compliance, a San Francisco-based data analytics and consulting company that works with dozens of cities across the country.

There are also around 2,500 additional accommodations, the company reports, where guests stay and rent out their guest rooms. There is no disagreement between the members of the council on this category of cohabitation which they support.

While short-term rentals have popped up across San Diego, analysis of host compliance shows that the largest concentration is in 10 neighborhoods, with about half of rentals in just five communities – Mission and Pacific Beach, downtown, La Jolla and Uptown.

Whatever regulations are ultimately adopted, approval from the California Coastal Commission will be required for rentals in the city’s beach communities.

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