State bill to ban Airbnb rental of second homes in coastal communities in San Diego County dropped

On Wednesday, in a startling move, a state bill that would have sharply reduced short-term rental of homes in coastal communities in San Diego County was withheld for a year by its mover, even as legislation had authorized the California Assembly and several Senate committees.

The move by Tasha Boerner Horvath MP, D-Encinitas, came amid intense lobbying in Sacramento from short-term rental heavyweights Airbnb, HomeAway and VRBO, who claimed the legislation would have had a devastating impact on the region’s tourist economy and would have unfairly prohibited owners of second homes from renting their property for short stays.

The bill had just received approval from the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee on Tuesday and was on the Government and Finance Committee’s agenda for Wednesday when it was abruptly withdrawn by Boerner Horvath.

“I have made the decision to take the time to work on this throughout the next year,” Boerner Horvath said on Wednesday. “This is not the end of the process, but the beginning. We were nearing the end of the session and still making changes to the bill, so are you rushing those changes or is it better to take more time? This is not a quick victory, but a solid policy.

Boerner Horvath, who had started to be pushed back by some lawmakers in recent days, had already agreed to reduce the duration of his bill from five to three years, after which a study would be undertaken to determine whether the stricter controls had an impact. real on due to the loss of coastal housing.

While the proliferation of short-term rentals drew fierce criticism for years from owners of single-family neighborhoods, Boerner Horvath said his main motivation for drafting the bill was to preserve long-term housing, which , she said, were being eroded as more housing units were converted to short-term rentals.

By converting the Assembly Bill 1731 into what is known as a two-year bill, Boerner Horvath is able to revive it next year with possible changes without having to restart the process entirely. .

Airbnb, which has fought the bill and encouraged its hosts and others to denounce AB 1731, applauded the bill’s delay this year.

“It is clear that Bill does not have a voice as it is an issue that needs to be addressed locally and has an impact on San Diego, its ability to earn income, the economy. from the city and access to the coast for customers, ”Airbnb said in a statement Wednesday. “If the bill resurfaces, we will deal with it then. “

The bill specifically targeted short-term rental platforms by not allowing them to reserve residential properties for more than 30 days per year each, unless the full-time resident was present. Year-round rentals would have been allowed for the traditional shared apartment in which residents rent a spare room or grandma’s apartment on their property. The legislation had the effect of banning the short-term rental of second homes and properties from investors listed on colocation platforms, a provision that would have had a huge impact on coastal communities like Mission Beach, which has long been a magnet for vacation rentals.

The bill, had it been successful, would have had the greatest impact in the city of San Diego, where there are no regulations in place specifically governing the rental of homes for stays of less than 30 days at a time.

“This is disappointing news, and I don’t see it coming back next year for the same reasons it didn’t this year,” said Gary Wonacott, longtime Mission Beach resident, who lobbied for stricter regulations and enforcement in seaside areas, where the largest number of rentals are concentrated. “I believe Airbnb put pressure on the table. I think this bill was a win-win for the people of San Diego because it would have restored homes – although we don’t know how many – and I think it would have had a deterrent effect on investors.

Last year, the San Diego city council came close to regulating vacation rentals by agreeing to limit short stays to her primary residence only and to a maximum of six months per year. The board, however, had to reverse its action following a successful Airbnb effort to hold a referendum on the ballot.

While AB 1731 was originally designed to apply to all coastal areas of California, Boerner Horvath later amended the legislation to cover only the coastal area of ​​San Diego County, where towns and cities from Coronado to Carlsbad have very different regulations, ranging from outright bans to more permissive rules. The bill would have allowed cities to pass or retain more restrictive regulations than its bill.

Opponents of the legislation had hoped to call on the California Coastal Commission to fight the bill, given the agency’s strong support for vacation rentals as a means of providing affordable access to the coast. The commission has in fact repeatedly warned local jurisdictions against overly restrictive regulation of such rentals. But in the face of public calls to take a stand against AB 1731, the commission made it clear that it was going to remain neutral.

“Cities and counties in the state of California are grappling with the short-term rental phenomenon in a variety of ways and it is not a one-size-fits-all solution,” said Coastal Commissioner Aaron Peskin, board member of administration of San Francisco. said last month at a hearing where dozens of vacation rental guests showed up to protest the bill. “I am aware that Airbnb has encouraged people to come here and ask us to vote against this bill. We cannot do this because we are not in the State Assembly. This should take place in the halls of the Capitol in Sacramento and not at Coastal Commission meetings. “

State Senator Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, at Tuesday’s Natural Resources Committee hearing raised questions about the bill’s potential conflicts with Coastal Commission policy favoring rentals at short term. He also questioned whether the legislation would really make a significant difference in the supply of long-term housing.

“Are you really solving a problem? He asked Boerner Horvath. “Would these (rentals) be available to people if they weren’t for short term rentals?” We are all talking about housing, but what do you really touch, how many lives are affected in the county? It seems to me that you have to make a convincing case that your policy translates into better housing policies. “

In the coastal towns of San Diego County, there have been as many as 14,000 housing units listed as short-term rentals on Airbnb, HomeAway, and VRBO platforms.

Boerner Horvath’s bill included what she called a “retirement” mechanism that would have allowed cities to evade stricter short-term rental regulations by creating a “residential tourist” zone where such rentals would be permitted. Critics of the legislation, however, complained that having to create a new zone would have been a long and tedious process.

Boerner Horvath said on Wednesday that a potential amendment to his bill would be to better clarify the special tourist area.

Meanwhile, this fall, San Diego City Council will once again try to get rules to bring order to the local home-sharing market. Council members Barbara Bry and Jennifer Campbell, whose districts include many coastal communities, will likely lead the effort.

“We need a suitable solution for San Diego when it comes to short-term vacation rentals,” said Campbell, whose district includes Mission and Pacific Beach. “We are continuing our conversations with stakeholders on this issue and I hope we can finally reach a real resolution this fall. “

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