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City Staff To Develop Regulations For San Diego Vacation Rental Properties

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.

City Staff To Develop Regulations For San Diego Vacation Rental Properties
City Staff To Develop Regulations For San Diego Vacation Rental Properties GUEST: Andrew Bowen, metro reporter, KPBS

It's Wednesday, November 2. Our top story on midday addition, their B&B and other short-term rentals are okay in the city of San Diego although new regulations may be on the horizon. The city Council rejected a proposal yesterday that would've banned short-term rentals in most San Diego's single-family neighborhoods. The been proposed by Sherry Lightner went down on a 7 to 2 vote. The issue drew a lot of a crowd to: health and the public testimony pushed the session to nearly 7 hours. Joining me is that reporter Andrew Bolin. What was some of the public testimony like? Long. As you said the meeting was about seven hours to my five of the hours was public testimony. Hundreds of people there. That speaks to the seriousness of this issue that the number of people affected in the passion on both sides. There were homeowners that set their lives have really been up ended and their neighborhood has been taken over by these short-term rentals and they say they are owned by investors who don't even live in San Diego. They are far away and have no regard for the neighborhood character in peace and quiet. On the other hand there were hosts who say they go to great lengths to ensure that their guests are actually respectful and that they don't rent to people who plan on having big parties at night, and their homes are rented all year like some worse cases. There was a woman who said she inherited a house from her and that she can't pay the tax unless she has this rental income. There was a maid who said she cleans your B&B and that speaks to the jobs that this market creates. We heard a lot of anecdotes but there wasn't a lot of data and I think that's one thing that has been missing from this conversation. We need real facts, not just the worst stories for the best stories because in most cases like these, you can't necessarily rely on anecdotes. Councilmembers for the only votes in favor of the band but what kinds of objections to the other councilmembers raise? They said this proposal would amount to a de facto ban on all short-term rental activities in that cell would San Diego needs. They need a sensible balanced policy that allows the good actors to continue their operations especially when no one is complaining about their operations. Actually punishes the bad ones. Another line of criticism was the swiftness with which the meeting was called just one week ago that we got this special counsel session. It wasn't scheduled and Councilman Gloria had some particularly harsh words for that. This is the assertion of the process that we normally follow as a city Council and I think it's disturbing unfortunately the Council has not had an opportunity to consider a call for well-crafted coordinates that takes into consideration the difference between home sharing, on swapping, whole house rentals and where order remains on-site. The president measure did not pass. What did pass? Councilman Gloria made a motion requesting that the mayor develop a cost estimate for how the city could be thought of enforcement, how much it would cost, and what kind of enforcement it could actually pay for, things like greater restrictions on the noise ordinance and things like that. The second was to act staffers to return for a more copperheads of regulations that would explicitly allow and spell out what kind of home sharing is allowed, those things that he just mentioned in the soundbite. A system that kind of a dance to the realities of how people actually use these things. The proposal yesterday by Council President Lightner would have banded vacation rentals for anything less than 30 days in a single-family neighborhood. People don't take vacations for 30 days. It's also worth noting Councilman Gloria said his motion yesterday was similar if not identical to a motion he made nearly one and half years ago. When this sort of issue was making its way through the committee and that proposal or that thing died and never got to the full Council. The meeting was a little unusual. It wasn't Golden Hill instead of the Council, : Hall. Sorry, Golden Hall. Apparently attorney Jan Goldsmith wasn't pleased with how the meeting itself was caused. Did he share the same objections that we just heard from Todd Gloria? His job is not to advocate for policy, but rather that he enforces the law that is on the books when possible and that he advises the city Council on what my work and what might work better were more difficult to enforce. He is taken a little bit of a brunt of criticism from the city that people have said he's not enforcing the law that's on the books and that he says the law is unenforceable. In order to enforce an all-out ban you would have to stakeout these houses, you would have to figure out who is renting from these homes and what constitutes a visitor. If someone lives in North Park and they are renting a home in Mission Beach, does that make them an outsider? There are so many details that go into the enforcement of these measures that he felt are not spelled out in the law and that's what his criticism was. Last question, when can we expect to find out more about the city's potential regulations? They said they wanted some proposals to come back to the Council within four months, but these things, before they would actually be implement it or even voted on, they take a long time and have to go to to the community planning groups which is the volunteer groups in the neighborhood. The planning commission, the bureaucratic body that sees things before the Council then the Council committee and then the full Council. As we know, we had some elections coming up next week and it will be a new Council in office in a little over one month. A lot will depend on who is on the Council and who is the Council President who controls when things are on the agenda and whether things are voted on at all. It could be quite some time before this is resolved. I've been speaking with Andrew Bolin. Thank you.

City Staff To Develop Regulations For San Diego Vacation Rental Properties
The City Council has directed staff to develop a comprehensive set of regulations governing vacation rental properties in San Diego and bring them back for consideration within four months.

The City Council Tuesday directed staff to develop a comprehensive set of regulations governing vacation rental properties in San Diego, and bring them back for consideration within four months.

In so doing, the council members voted 7-2 to reject a proposal by council President Sherri Lightner that would have prohibited short-term vacation rentals in neighborhoods zoned for single-family homes. Councilwoman Lorie Zapf was the only colleague to support her plan.

"To tell someone they can't rent out their house is a serious problem," Councilman Scott Sherman said.

Regulating such operations has been a thorny issue in recent years as the properties have proliferated in coastal areas and neighbors complain of loud late-night parties, safety problems, overcrowding and trash.

The City Council has held several long meetings on the issue in the past, and around 300 people showed up to speak at a special meeting at Golden Hall. Public testimony took around five hours.

Opponents of Lightner's plan said the problems created by a small number of property owners could be dealt with through regulations, instead of an outright ban.

Robert Vacchi, the city's code enforcement director, told the council that his staff is unable to pursue land-use violations at vacation rentals under existing regulations. The department has never referred such a case to the City Attorney's Office for prosecution, he said.

Vacchi said the troubles being created for neighbors are of noise and nuisance, falling under the jurisdiction of the San Diego Police Department.

Councilman Todd Gloria, who made the motion to direct staff to develop regulations, said he also wanted to find out how much it would cost to provide enforcement.

Under his plan, approved on a 7-2 vote, staffers will take what they come up with to the council's Smart Growth and Land Use Committee so the proposed regulations can be vetted before returning to the full City Council.

Lightner brought her proposal straight to the council, noting the issue had been discussed at numerous meetings in the past.

"While we await a draft proposal from city staff to regulate short-term rentals, we urge the city to begin enforcing our existing municipal code zoning regulations now to bring relief to the thousands of residents who face nightly negative impacts from commercial hotel operations in their single family neighborhoods," Lightner said after the vote.

Airbnb issued a statement that said, "We are pleased that common sense prevailed today. Our community remains committed to working with the council on reasonable, simple home-sharing rules that allow San Diegans to share their homes and earn supplemental income, support neighborhood businesses and increase additional revenue for the city."