While local cities continue to seek regulations on short-term vacation rentals, a bill making its way to the state legislature may provide the teeth needed for effective enforcement. Unless, that is, web businesses like Airbnb that facilitate transactions between homeowner and tenant are able to derail those plans.
Carlsbad's city council on Tuesday, April 21, took steps toward implementing a total ban on residential vacation rentals, except in certain "coastal zones" west of Interstate 5, closing off about two-thirds of the city's neighborhoods. Other patchwork regulations exist throughout the county, including a blanket ban in Coronado, a ban in apartment and condominium buildings in Encinitas, and a seven-day minimum length of stay in Solana Beach.
In San Diego, an overflow crowd showed up to a city-council committee meeting on Wednesday, April 22, to voice their opinions, both in favor and against any new regulations. Airbnb representatives, who contacted customers who use their service to advertise units for rent in an attempt to drum up attendance, handed out stickers outside the meeting room.
Those supporting the rentals said they took care to be conscientious neighbors, and that the income from renting out spare bedrooms or even entire residences allowed them to pay for needed repairs or supplement meager incomes. A La Jolla man said he'd face foreclosure if he was no longer able to rent out a second unit on his property to vacationing tourists, who pay much more than month-to-month tenants.
Opponents cried foul, claiming that by turning houses in residential neighborhoods into hotels, they were being bombarded with a flow of strangers who litter, pick fights with residents, and host loud parties into the night.
There was so much public interest in the matter that the committee agreed to take up the issue again on May 29. No proposals for management within the city have been written, though councilmembers floated ideas such as limiting vacation-rental use of a residence to once per month or requiring a special use permit, the suggestion of council president Sherri Lightner.
Also at issue is whether property owners are collecting and remitting the proper transient occupancy taxes to cities, let alone reporting their businesses at all.
Enter Senate Bill 593, a measure penned by senator Mike McGuire (D), whose district covers the state's northern coast from San Francisco to the Oregon border.
The bill would require operators of residential short-term rentals to file quarterly reports with local municipalities, including information on the addresses where rental activity is taking place, length of guests' stays, and total rental fees collected. It could also allow cities and counties to compel property owners to collect and remit transient occupancy taxes, as is currently required of hotel and bed-and-breakfast owners.
The measure passed through the senate’s Transportation and Housing Committee on April 21. Once again, Airbnb rallied its customer base to fight further regulations.
"What we do not need is another layer of regulation," one Airbnb "host" told the committee, according to a Courthouse News Service report. Privacy groups also "expressed concern about the privacy implications of the government's collecting information from a company," though McGuire noted that if the landlords were operating within the law, they were already providing this information to the IRS and state tax collectors.
Airbnb, a San Francisco–based company reportedly valued at up to $20 billion, has vowed to continue the fight, launching a website to mobilize owners to lobby for reduced regulation of the vacation-rental market.
(corrected 4/24, 9:00 a.m.)