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Backers Say Proposed Vacation Rental Restrictions Are Reasonable

A studio in South Park rented out through the website Airbnb on Aug. 8, 2011.
A studio in South Park rented out through the website Airbnb on Aug. 8, 2011.

Backers Say Proposed Vacation Rental Restrictions Are Reasonable
Backers Say Proposed Vacation Rental Restrictions Are Reasonable GUESTS: Sherri Lightner, council president, City of San Diego Chris Cate, councilmember, City of San Diego

San Diego is the perfect spot for concepts like air B&B to thrive. Hosts can rent visitors a spare room or guesthouse and make cash and visitors get to save money. It's a win-win except it may not be legal for much longer. Outgoing Council President Sherri Lightner is proposing a change to the municipal code that would prohibit short-term home rentals of less than 30 days in many neighborhoods. Joining me is Council President Sherri Lightner and welcome. What is the problem with air B&B rentals? I think a keyword in your description and that is prohibit. San Diego has a permissive zoning code and unless it's explicitly permitted, it is not allowed. Practically speaking, do you have a problem with air B&B rentals, are your constituents telling you there is a problem? Absolutely. I constituents have worked on this problem for years now. What do they tell you? The horror stories of not sleeping at night, not knowing who their neighbors are in that sort of thing. Can you clarify the restrictions you are proposing. Under your proposal, would there be any neighborhoods in San Diego where someone could put up their entire house or apartment on air B&B for just one or two nights? The current municipal code does not permit that. It wouldn't matter if it was a multifamily neighborhood or There are multi family zones and commercial zones If someone lived in a multifamily residential neighborhood with very be able to put up their apartment or condo for AirBnB ? Certainly in some of the planned districts. Do you envision that happening? My proposal has been greatly overstated. It is an enforcement of the existing law. How do you enforce these -- this clarification of the code? Coronado does not allow full house rentals that are only a few days long. You can find plenty listings on AirBnB. How would the city and force this clarification. It would be similar to what already exists, its complaint driven. I know that when we were having difficulty with some of the TRT collections, the treasurer's office started an aggressive campaign with them, going out and getting addresses. Sherri Lightner, some critics are saying this will force the short-term rental market to go underground, are you concerned about that? I'm not. I think that this attention to the enforcement that's needed of our existing municipal code, albeit with clarification, is very important and it sets the stage for further discussions on how we want to envision something different in the city of San Diego in the next year or so. Something that would require input from the community, right now the community is being victimized. Let me be clear, you are envisioning this would lead to the city voting on whether or not to have short-term rentals in the style of AirBnB That is always a possibility but it needs to go through the proper process and not just be slipped in under the rug, instead of having a thorough vetting by members of the public. It is all about property rights. It's about the property rights of the single-family homeowners in their quiet enjoyment of their property, as well as some of the other residential zones in the city. I've been speaking with city Council President Sherri Lightner. Thank you very much. Joining me now is city council member Chris Cate who has an alternate propose an oral -- proposal to short-term rentals. Council President Sherri Lightner says her proposal is just a minor edit in the city's code to clarify that short-term rentals were never allowed in single-family neighborhoods. Is that how you see it? Absolutely not. Even though the president is proposing to change a few words within our municipal code, the effect that will have will be detrimental to thousands of individuals who take part in this activity every day. What does San Diego stand to lose in your opinion, if this measure were to pass? Individuals stand to lose the right to rent out a portion or their entire home on a short-term basis. A lot of these individuals rely on that supplemental income to make ends meet. This is a proposal that has not received any public vetting whatsoever. Community groups with feedback and stakeholder inputs, the proposal has been reviewed by a number of different committees and received hours of public testimony. We still haven't been able to get a hearing in front of my Council colleagues on the proposal that we've released. It's unfortunate that this has been a rushed process, this proposal is being put forward without any public input, especially something that will have a profound impact on so many. What is the primary difference in what you are proposing as opposed to what President Sherri Lightner is proposing? She's proposing a ban on both home sharing and printing out entire homes. What my proposal does is allows activity with a registration process, so we know who the individuals are for sharing or renting out their home. It requires a fee to take part in the activity and it uses that fee to pay for enhanced enforcement, 24/7 enforcement that would assess and fine those individuals who are not abiding by the rules and who are not maintaining the quality of life in their neighborhoods. That's what's needed most, the enforcement aspect. We are going to have to enforce whatever proposal we have and what we've seen in other cities, a ban will not work. It will go underground. People will still take part in the activity. We would have no idea how President Lightner plans to enforce her proposal. Clarify what happens tomorrow, what will city Council vote on, will the vote on competing measures? We will not be voting on my measure, the only boat is on President Lightner's measure because the way it's been documented. My hope is that my colleagues understand that a ban will not work. It's not the right path to take as a city and it will vote down the proposal. When the new Council comes in, we will have additional hearings on my proposal or others that would allow the activity to continue. I've been speaking with Chris Cate, thank you so much.

Two City Council members on Friday defended a proposal that would eliminate short-term vacation rentals from single-family residential neighborhoods in San Diego, calling it a "reasonable, measured balance" to a vexing problem.

Council President Sherri Lightner said the proposal recommends a "minor edit" to clarify the municipal code to encourage enforcement of current zoning provisions.

Short-term rentals, designated as "visitor accommodations," would be allowed in commercial zones and high-density residential areas, such as apartment complexes.

"This is not a ban on short-term vacation rentals citywide," Lightner said at a news conference. "We also want to make sure they stay in one of the many parts of our city zoned to accommodate visitors."

Residents in coastal neighborhoods represented by Lightner and Councilwoman Lorie Zapf have complained for several years about a proliferation of properties that are rented for a few days at a time to vacationers. In some cases, large numbers of renters pile into a house and throw loud, late-night parties that disturb neighboring homeowners.

"I have literally heard from thousands of constituents who have contacted me regarding the impacts short-term vacation rentals are having on their lives," Zapf said. "These are people whose lives have been turned upside-down in their very neighborhoods, in the homes they purchased to raise their families."

She said property-owners who rent out their houses are engaged in a "for-profit, commercial enterprise."

Several previous hearings on the topic drew hundreds of attendees. The proposal will go before the City Council on Tuesday at a special meeting that will be held at Golden Hall to accommodate another expected large crowd.

According to Lightner, land uses not actually spelled out in the municipal code are prohibited in the city. However, opponents said the increased use of private homes by vacationers wasn't anticipated by city officials, in the same way that marijuana dispensaries weren't envisioned before medical use was legalized.

Earlier this week, Councilmen Chris Cate and Scott Sherman, plus representatives of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and San Diego Taxpayers Association, called for a more balanced approach to regulating such properties.

If the proposal is approved, short-term vacation rentals would still be allowed in parts of popular tourist areas like downtown, the East Village, Hillcrest, Little Italy, Mission Valley, and parts of Mission Beach and Pacific Beach, according to Lightner.

"We believe the proposed minor edit strikes a reasonable, measured balance between continuing to allow short-term vacation rentals in zones that are designed to accommodate visitors while protecting the sanctity of our single-family neighborhoods," Lightner said.

She said the plan also facilitates city enforcement of code violators.

The proposal would not impact home-sharing arrangements or owners who live on-site and rent out rooms in their homes, she said.

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