San Diego isn’t ready to start regulating short-term rentals

With the busy summer tourist season approaching, the City of San Diego is proposing to delay the start of long-awaited short-term rental regulations that were scheduled to go into effect July 1.

In a report to the San Diego City Council, the city treasurer’s office recommends delaying the imposition of the new citywide cap on vacation rental licenses until the end of the year, because the California Coastal Commission should not weigh on the regulations approved by the council until March. His blessing is required before the new rules can take effect in the city’s coastal area where a large proportion of Airbnb-style rentals are located.

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City Treasurer Elizabeth Correia will ask council at its Tuesday meeting to change the original implementation date of San Diego’s short-term rental ordinance to an unspecified date that would fall until nine months after the Coast Commission has certified the new legislation. If the commission accepts the settlement at its March meeting, it could potentially delay the effective date until December.

“The additional time will allow the City to onboard and train staff, accept applications and issue licenses, and provide sufficient advance notice to area hosts who are currently accepting advance reservations for their properties. “Correia said in his report to the council.

Beyond the uncertainty surrounding what action the Coast Commission will ultimately take, there is the challenge of launching licensing requirements just before the July 4 weekend, when holidaymakers would have already booked their overnight stays months earlier. . With less time now to get the licensing program in place, city officials say vacation rental hosts wouldn’t know far enough in advance if they’ve obtained licenses, which will be issued through a system of lottery.

“We originally thought 1 July 2022 would be the perfect time, but we’ve heard from operators that it was the 4th of July weekend when a lot of people book ahead and summer is also often fully booked,” said Venus Molina, chief of staff. for Councilwoman Jennifer Campbell, whose office took the lead in bringing compromise legislation to council last year. “I didn’t even think about it. Now it could be the end of the year or sooner than that.

In a report to council last fall, city staff said they hoped to start the lottery application process by March 31, with the results of the draw due by May 31.

“Although the California Coastal Commission has committed to review the item in March 2022, the outcome of the review is unknown,” the city’s chief financial operations officer, Tricia Mendenhall, said in an email. ‘Union Tribune. “Therefore, we are proactively requesting an extension to ensure the city is able to consistently enforce the provisions of the ordinance throughout the City of San Diego.”

Coastal Commission planner Alexander Llerandi said Thursday that staff were still reviewing the San Diego ordinance and therefore had not yet formulated a position on the regulations.

For years, the city of San Diego has wrestled with how to regulate the vacation rentals popularized by online home-sharing platforms like Airbnb and HomeAway. Last April, the board finally approved a new order which caps whole-home rentals citywide — except Mission Beach — at 1% of the city’s more than 540,000 units, or about 5,400. In Mission Beach, which has a long history of vacation rentals, the The allowance is more generous, limited to 30% of the total number of housing units in the community, or approximately 1,100.

Only one permit will be authorized for individuals renting their entire residence for more than 20 days. An unlimited number of licenses will be allowed for vacation rentals of less than 20 days per year or colocation operations where a host rents a room or two.

Jonah Mechanic, owner of SeaBreeze Vacation Rentals and leader of a coalition of vacation rental operators, welcomes the decision to delay implementation if it means the result is more effective regulation.

“After all this time, energy and effort from all parties, we want to make sure the launch is going to be okay,” he said Thursday. “The last thing we want is for something to be rushed that turns out to be ineffective and doesn’t really get to the root of the problem, which is bad actors breaking the rules and annoying neighbors. “

He noted that the average time to book a short-term rental is 110 days before the day of arrival, which means visitors to San Diego start making reservations in February for the summer season.

“So if hosts don’t know whether they have a license or not, that definitely creates a logistical issue as to what a host needs to do,” Mechanic said. “And that would be right in the middle of summer and right before the busiest weekend, which is the 4th of July. That was a (implementation) date that we never agreed to as it would create a logistical nightmare as to whether hosts should be accepting bookings.”

Under a proposed lottery system to award what will likely be highly sought-after licenses, the highest priority will be given to longer-term rental operators who have not committed any code violations associated with their units at the over the past two years. Points would be awarded on a weighted scale that would not necessarily guarantee licensing for those people but would “improve the likelihood of good actors receiving a license,” Correia said in a memo to city council.

Mayor Todd Gloria’s spokeswoman, Rachel Laing, said the mayor remains committed to getting the bylaws “in place and working for the community as quickly as possible.”

She added, “Residents of San Diegan are understandably eager to see these regulations come into effect after waiting years for a framework to be adopted. The Mayor shares their impatience, which is why staff have been working diligently to complete any implementation tasks that can be done prior to Coastal Commission review.

Ann Kerr Bache, president emeritus of the La Jolla City Council, who had fought for tighter regulations on short-term rentals than approved, said she understood the need for a delay in the implemented and feared that the city was not yet ready to tackle the biggest problem. new ordinance challenge — application.

“It’s not a very strict order to begin with, and the enforcement and compliance procedures haven’t been fully vetted and adopted,” said Kerr Bache, who met with Campbell staff to discuss the issues. ‘application. “So this delay gives city residents who need to implement this ordinance the opportunity to consider the detailed suggestions they have received for enforcement.”

In order to fund the administration and enforcement of vacation rental regulations, license and application fees will be charged. The board approved a fee schedule ranging from $100 for a two-year license for hosts who rent out their properties less than 20 days a year to $1,000 for those who rent entire homes more than 20 days a year. . Application fees range from $25 to $70.

Revenue is expected to cover the hiring of approximately 15 new positions, including nine in the area of ​​code enforcement. The city treasurer’s office estimates the total one-time cost of implementing the vacation rental program to be over $1.2 million, which includes licensing software, a phone system, the purchase of three new municipal vehicles for enforcement and the addition of new personnel.

Mendenhall said the city plans to spend $521,796 this fiscal year on software, a phone system and hiring a program manager.

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