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City Council Repeals Regulations On Vacation Rentals

A hand holds up a sign reading "Neighborhoods are for neighbors, not vacation rentals" at a San Diego City Council meeting, Nov. 1, 2016.
Matthew Bowler
A hand holds up a sign reading "Neighborhoods are for neighbors, not vacation rentals" at a San Diego City Council meeting, Nov. 1, 2016.
City Council Repeals Regulations On Vacation Rentals
City Council Repeals Regulations On Vacation Rentals GUESTS: Barbara Bry, council president pro tem, City of San Diego Lori Weisberg, reporter, The San Diego Union-Tribune

The San Diego City Council rescinds its new rules on short term rentals and a meeting at La Jolla elementary takes on the issue of suspect race descriptions. This is kape PBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Cavanagh. It's Tuesday October 23. Our top story on Midday edition. San Diego's short term rental regulations turned out to be short term themselves. The package of regulations approved by the City Council this summer was rescinded on an 8 to 1 vote by council members on Monday. The regulations would have limited vacation rentals to primary residences only and for no more than six months a year. Airbnb and other home sharing sites conducted a successful petition drive to suspend the new law and put it to voters in the 2020 election. The city council instead decided to rescind the regulations and start over again. San Diego has struggled for years to enact laws regulating short term rentals which is a big business especially in the coastal areas of the city. City Council President Pro Tem Barbara Aubrey was instrumental in moving the new regulations forward. But yesterday she voted to rescind and she told us why Air B and B which reportedly has a value of 31 billion dollars came to San Diego and spent over a million dollars collecting signatures to force the council to consider whether to rescind it or whether to put it on the 2020 ballot. And I made the decision to rescind because if we wait till 2020. First of all nothing happens in the interim. We're frozen. And second they're just going to spend millions of dollars using deceptive tactics which is what they did to collect the signatures. So it's my hope that first of all the mayor will enforce our existing law and our existing code is a de facto ban. And the mayor's office has been given a list of particularly problematic properties. And so my hope is he will enforce. And at the same time I'm willing to work with the community to develop a new measure that is substantially different next in a year after we passed the first measure were allowed to pass the same thing again. But for now we just need to pass something substantially different. Do you have anything in your mind about what that might be. Is there any formulation in your mind about where that might go at this point. I have a very open mind as to what a new ordinance could look like. And of course we will be getting legal advice as to whether a proposed measure is substantially different. Council member Bri thank you. Thank you very much. Joining me now is San Diego Union Tribune reporter Laurie Weisberg. Laurie welcome to the program. Thank you. Council president Bree says she wants mayor Faulkner to use the present laws which do not allow short term rentals to stop all the rentals. While the city council comes up with a new proposal is that a likely scenario. I don't think so. And you also have some confusion over when we say the current law does not allow short term rentals to previous city attorneys said the law was vague enough that they couldn't conclude that our current city attorney Mark Allia last year said that she does believe that the municipal code does not allow short term Reynold's because there are nowhere to find in the code and some people in the city have glammed onto that opinion. Others have not. But the mare has never been willing nor I think the rest of the Council to enforce that. And so I think we're kind of in a very ambiguous period in fact during that council hearing yesterday Councilman David Alvarez once again asked for some clarity on that. The city attorney hasn't really revisited that opinion. I think she's taking her cue from the mayor's office but I just don't think he'll be hard. They don't have the funds to suddenly enforce that apparent law that would be requiring you to go after thousands of short term rentals and suddenly saying you're all illegal and you will have to shut down. I think for practical purposes I don't see it happening. So I think she and others are taking that tack. OK Muir's office then go after these real problem properties and she referred to about I think there are 10 of them that she referred over to the the mayor's office recently. What part of the regulations the new regulations that were just rescinded what part of those were Airbnb the home sharing services most upset with. Well it's clearly the issue of second homes and that's the it's been the issue in many other cities as well. Primary only does allow for home sharing. But the real issue is people that have a second a second home that they can't rent out now. And the question is and you posed it to council Embree is what can they do to make this substantially different and still muster with referendum law. And you would think the substantially different part would be to allow at least one second home rental and that was part of a proposal the mayor had offered up earlier the shares for the debate. And that was rejected by the council. So I'm curious to see if they revisit and use that as the template for making the new regulations quote substantially different from the from the previous ones. I've been speaking with San Diego Union Tribune reporter Laurie Weisberg. Laurie thank you. Thank you.

The San Diego City Council voted 8-1 Monday to repeal an ordinance that placed regulations on short-term renters using platforms like Airbnb and HomeAway.

The City Council originally passed the ordinance, 6-3, in July. Short-term rental operators would have been limited to renting primary residences a maximum of 180 days per year and would have had to pay transient occupancy taxes to fund the construction of affordable housing projects. The ordinance also mandated that vacationers stay in short-term rentals for a minimum of three days in coastal areas of the county and downtown San Diego. The regulations would have gone into effect in July 2019.

City Council members have said they plan to craft a new ordinance for short-term rental owners and companies, but no timetable for that has been agreed upon.

District 7 City Councilman Scott Sherman spearheaded an effort to qualify a referendum on the ordinance shortly after the Council passed it. In late August, Sherman and a group of short-term rental advocates announced they had collected roughly 62,000 signatures, enough to trigger the referendum. The Council then had the option to repeal the regulations or put them to a public vote, likely in 2020 unless the city called for a special election.

"That's what the referendum process is for," Sherman said. "If a majority of citizens who sign a petition believe that their government passed something that went too far, they have a right to come up and say 'we want to vote on this or you guys need to rescind it."'

Homeowners who list their houses for rent using short-term rental platforms considered the regulations a de facto ban despite the ability to rent for up to 180 days per year, a feeling reflected by most public comments at the City Council meeting. Short-term renters also argued that they properly vet each person or group of people staying in their rental properties.

But supporters argue that the regulations were intended more to restrict investors, both local and out-of-town, from renting multiple properties and listing them year-round on short-term rental platforms, theoretically withholding housing in a county with the fourth largest population of homeless people in the country according to a 2017 report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

District 1 City Councilwoman Barbara Bry called it "a sad day for our city," supporting the repeal only because not doing so would tie the city up in two years of litigation until the next election, she said. Bry also chastised Airbnb, which faced accusations of funding signature gatherers who allegedly used manipulative tactics to fill out petitions.

"I'm disappointed that a corporation reportedly valued at $31 billion descended upon our city with its unlimited millions of dollars and used deceptive tactics to force us to where we are today," Bry said. "If this goes to the ballot, this large corporation would largely spend millions of dollars."

District 2 City Councilwoman Lorie Zapf was the lone council member to vote against repealing the ordinance, suggesting there's no guarantee that a compromise on a new set of regulations will ever be reached again.

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