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San Diego inches closer to regulating short-term rentals

A sign lays on the ground with its message in opposition of short term vacation rentals, July 17, 2018.
KPBS Staff
A sign lays on the ground with its message in opposition of short term vacation rentals, July 17, 2018.

The San Diego City Council on Monday approved a set of fees to be charged to those seeking a license to operate short-term home rentals.

The rentals, popularized by sites like AirBnb and VRBO, have gone unregulated for years as city leaders struggled to forge a compromise. The stalemate ended in February when the council approved regulations that will cap the number of licenses for homes rented out 20 days or more per year.

RELATED: Mayor Gloria Signs Short-Term Rental Ordinance Into Law


Licenses for those types of rentals will cost $1,000 a year. Licenses for homes rented fewer than 20 days per year will cost $100, while licenses for rentals where the owner lives onsite will cost $225. Neither of those lower cost licenses will be subject to a cap.

Revenue from the fees will fund new software and staff positions to administer and enforce the regulations.

Before signing off on the fees, councilmembers heard a presentation from city staffers on their progress toward crafting a lottery system that will distribute the licenses that fall under the cap system. The city will limit licenses for homes outside Mission Beach to the equivalent of 1% of the city's total housing stock.

In Mission Beach, which has a long history of short-term home rentals even before the advent of online hosting platforms, the city will offer licenses totaling 30% of the neighborhood's housing stock. Staff estimated there would be 1,081 licenses available in Mission Beach and 5,416 licenses in the rest of the city.

Several short-term rental hosts voiced concerns Monday over the city's proposed lottery methodology, which they said did not do enough to prioritize responsible hosts over those with a history of tolerating unruly guests. Many also opposed starting the license requirement in July at the height of tourist season.


Councilmember Raul Campillo agreed the lottery methodology needed improvement, given that the council agreed to the regulations on the condition that good hosts be given priority in obtaining licenses.

"There's a whole lot of people depending on this system rolling out with credibility, applicability and accountability for good hosts, good guests and more," Campillo said.

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