Heated debates over short-term vacation rentals continue

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SAN DIEGO —  Tuesday night,  the San Diego Community Planners Committee voted 24 to 3 to reject City Council-member Lori Zapf’s proposal to allow short term vacation rentals to operate in San Diego residential zones with restrictions and Council-member Chris Cates’ proposal to allow STVR in residential zones, outright.

The Committee moved to recommend the City Council draft a new ordinance recognizing and reiterating that STVR are Visitor Accommodations, which are not permitted to operate in residential zones under the San Diego Municipal Code.

The Committee also voted to recommend the City Council allow some changes to be made to the Municipal Code section regarding Boarder and Lodger Accommodations that would allow home sharing where the owner is on-site during the visitor’s stay with some restrictions on the minimum length of stay and the maximum number of lodgers allowed.

The issue of short-term vacation rentals has long been a heated one. Vacation rentals can be lucrative for the homeowner but critics argue it destroys coastal community living.

In Kearny Mesa, residents showed up Tuesday in droves for a packed community planning meeting.

Opinions heard at Tuesday night’s meeting will be used by community planners who will help form city ordinances that regulate the rentals.

It’s the California Coastal Commission’s desire to have affordable overnight housing for beach visitors. San Diego wants a cut of the business in hotel taxes; coastal community homeowners want strict regulations.

“If you look at the San Diego municipal code, visitor accommodations are not permitted in residential zones,” said Save San Diego Neighborhoods Attorney John Thickstun.

He says vacation rentals ruin communities with transients who care little and are in town for less than twenty days.

“We’re not adamantly opposed with regulation to the rental of rooms in a house where the person who owns the homes is present. So that’s where we make the distinction,” Thickstun said.

Some items on the negotiating table include zoning changes, minimum stays and limits on the number of dwellings in multiple and single-family neighborhoods.

“It needs to be regulated, but that said, we don’t want limits or caps on how many days we can rent or any kind of minimum guest stays,” said Belinda Smith, Airbnb host and co-founder of the Short Term Rental Alliance of San Diego

She says vacation rentals are here to stay whether people like them or not. She said she will continue to speak at every meeting to make sure her rights as a homeowner are protected.

“The opposition calls them mini hotels, and I just don’t think that’s really fair. The definition of a hotel, according to San Diego Municipal code, is six rooms or more and you really don’t find houses that big in San Diego,” Smith said. “I think people should have the right to do what they want with their property if they’ve worked hard to buy a home and they need to rent out a room, they should be able to do that. That’s kind of fundamental to the American dream.”

Some say current law prohibits short-term vacation rentals, but others say the ordinance is so vague, property owners have gotten away and skipped out on paying the bed tax.

The San Diego City Council is expected to come up with a more understandable ordinance by November.


  • Lori Hegerle

    The majority (about 95%) of all SD Town Planning boards that were present listened to residents. They voted to allow home sharing where the owner is on-site and to NOT allow short term whole house rentals (where the owner does not live on site) in all residential zones. The STVR’s would be allowed in the commercial type zones. Will the SD City Council listen to their own town planners???? Other coastal cities have enacted the same type of policies. Do not let the SD Council tell you that the Coastal Commission will not allow this. Council members please listen to your communities.

  • Belinda Smith (@lindismith)

    The sharing economy is here to stay. Common sense regulation is needed. The ordinance proposed will go a long way to helping manage some of the issues associated with STRs. One of it’s features limits occupancy of 2 people per bedroom + 2, so a studio could house a family of four. Seems reasonable for those of us on a budget.

    -Belinda Smith, Co-founder Short Term Rental Alliance of San Diego

  • Greg Ross

    First off… This article does not present all the facts. There was overwhelming support for Pro- Vacation rentals last night. Over 75% of the room had green flags and stickers supporting STR’s. Due to time constraints, the planners still had a stack of paper almost an inch thick just for people that WANTED to speak about the positives of VR’s but didn’t get the chance. Not one……Not one single property management company got to speak at all! Several people on the planning committee continually said that the issue needed to be tabled as they had not heard enough people speak and did not understand the issue as well as they should but a motion was proposed and passed never the less. It was a circus to say the least. So much for due process!

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