San Diego

City Council Fails to Adopt New Rules on Short Term Rentals

The San Diego City Council failed to vote on changes for short-term rental policies after a marathon meeting in which more than 100 members of the public spoke. 

Councilmembers adjourned without reaching an agreement. A regular council meeting is scheduled Wednesday. 

Councilmember David Alvarez was the reason the vote was held up. He voted against the two main proposals, voicing concerns about home-sharing housing permits.

By the end of the meeting, the audience had dwindled to a few dozen people, but earlier in the afternoon the meeting was filled by hundreds of San Diegans as City Council debated new rules for landlords who rent rooms, apartments or entire homes through Airbnb and other short-term rental platforms.

The audience was so big, the council moved its regularly-scheduled meeting to the city’s Golden Hall.

Landlords and property-owners who favor fewer restrictions on short-term rentals wore lime green shirts and told council members they need that rental income to pay their mortgage and other bills. They said short-term renters help support business in neighborhoods that have few, if any hotels, including South Park, Golden Hill, North Park, Clairemont and Mission Hills.

They promised to abide by requirements designed to limit noise and disruption by some short-term guests, who disturb neighbors in residential areas.

“And if we have a clear regulation that allows a neighbor to call in a problem, and then have [an enforcement officer] come out and find out what’s going on, I think we have a better chance of eliminating the bad actors,” said Belinda Smith of Mission Hills.

Smith and many other landlords support a proposal backed by four councilmembers, that would allow landlords to rent out up to three properties, for an unlimited number of days per year.

Opponents wore red shirts and generally backed an alternative proposal from Councilmember Barbara Bry. That more restrictive plan would allow unlimited rentals only when the landlord lives in the home, apartment or condo.

One opponent of short-term rentals said the industry robs San Diego of affordable housing.

“Mission Beach used to have an elementary school,” said Jennifer Tandy. “It used to have a library. It used to have all things a good community has. But now it caters directly to the visitor.”

Tandy says local families are priced out of homes because landlords can sell their properties for more, to investors who convert those homes to short-term rentals.

About 200 people signed speaker slips to address the council, and public comment took five hours.

At about 3:30 pm, the city council started discussing a possible compromise solution. 

Supporters and opponents of short-term rentals also had an opportunity to sway City Council opinion on Monday, during a news conference organized by Airbnb and its local consultant.

Landlord John Anderson, who lives in North Park, told NBC 7 on Monday that fewer restrictions on short-term vacation rentals would help lesser-known neighborhoods win a share of the tourism dollars.

“Many tourists want to come to San Diego for an authentic experience, for that vibe, for that sense of community,” Anderson said. “And I think that is a really powerful, long-term trend.”

Critics claim that policy would encourage outside investors to purchase homes in residential neighborhoods, and essentially convert those properties into hotels.

The critics also said the practice would inflate home prices, making it even tougher for local families and singles to buy homes and condos.

“We must stop the growth of vacation rentals in some areas so that families can sustain those communities as viable neighborhoods,” said Tom Coat, a Pacific Beach resident who favors more restrictions on Airbnb type-rentals.

Coat supports Councilwoman Bry's proposal, which Bry said is the only one that “prohibits investors from converting homes in our residential neighborhoods into permanent mini-hotels.”

Ed. Note: A previous version of this article indicated the council would continue the discussion on short-term rentals Wednesday. The proposals are not on the council agenda. 

Contact Us