San Diego

Unnerved Property Owners Threatening Legal Action Over Short-Term Vacation Rental Rules

A day after the San Diego City Council voted on drastic changes to the city’s short-term vacation rental rules, property owners are voicing strong displeasure and are hopeful they can benefit from possible legal action.

“I think it’s one of the most short-sighted decisions the city council has ever made,” said Cy Pilkington.

Pilkington has rented out two apartment units about a block away from Windnsea Beach for more than three years. He also lives in the complex. His rental properties are listed at $119 per day on the Airbnb webpage.

Under the new rules, Pilkington will only be allowed to rent one of the units and the unit he lives in for six months out of the year.

He says the council’s decision not only impacts property owners, but local businesses that benefit from the rentals.

“The county is going to suffer financially, the city is going to suffer, the community is going suffer and I don't think people really understand the total impact of that,” said Pilkington.

Meanwhile, Belinda Smith of the Short Term Rental Alliance of San Diego, says she’s heard from property owners who are poised to take legal action.

“I know that there are people so angry they want to sue. I've received emails from people saying ‘Where can I contribute to funding so I can fight this?” said Smith.

Former San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith attended the council meeting representing the interests of the rental industry. A day after the decision, he did not respond to NBC 7 phone calls and emails seeking comment on potential legal action.

Smith said the city has taken a big step in creating more problems, suggesting it could potentially create an underground market impossible to regulate.

“I think we've literally struck such a blow to the vacation rental industry that it will be very hard to fund any sort of monitoring or regulation or anything that's going to clean up the industry. It's not going to happen now,” said Smith.

Property owners also want the Coastal Commission, who's long favored short-term rentals, to step in and take action because the decision could potentially limit affordable access to coastal areas.

In an email response, a spokesperson for the Coastal Commission said, “Until we actually see the see the final ordinance and review the city’s LCPA (Local Coastal Program Amendment) submittal, it is difficult to directly comment on it.”

While some of the beneficiaries of the local short-term rental industry prepare for possible legal battle, beach community residents, especially those who have been neighbors to unruly temporary tenants, are happy with the new rules.

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