The best way to go after the burgeoning private vacation rental market in Pacific Beach is to try to collect hotel occupancy taxes, city councilwoman Lorie Zapf told about 120 people at the Pacific Beach Town Council meeting on February 18.
"I've met with five city departments, and we are coming up with things we can do that are legal and effective," Zapf said.
The two fronts they've identified are going after the lost occupancy-tax revenue and land-use enforcement around quality-of-life issues: the late hours and partying, noise and parking problems that arise when the house next door becomes a hotel.
Last week, Voice of San Diego published a report that showed the majority of Airbnb.com's 3100 San Diego rental listings are in Pacific Beach. PB has 395 listings, Mission Beach has 300, La Jolla has 256, and O.B. has 140, according to the article. By comparison, North Park has 198. Rentals in O.B., PB, and MB currently range in price from $50 to $725.
"It's exploding — I'm hearing people are buying houses just to do that," said a resident who declined to be identified. "It is compromising our quality of life."
Residents complained about the “hotel” guests who show up in quiet neighborhoods with a lack of concern for the area and its people.
"You get people who have a very different agenda in a one-week rental," the town council's past president said. "I didn't buy in a single-family residential neighborhood so I could have a hotel next door."
Zapf said she understood the residents' concerns — having a hotel next door to her Clairemont home would make her "freak out," she said.
"The hotel owners are on your side," she said. “They are losing business and they have to play by the rules.” The problem is that homeowners have property rights that include being able to rent the home, she said. And the ways to fight the instant rentals is through neighborhood code enforcement — by writing letters, calling the police, and keeping a record of rentals and violations.
"We are losing out on so much money because people aren't paying their share [of the occupancy tax],” Zapf said. "They're using our lifeguards, they're using our beaches, they're using our police and they aren't paying their share."
Mayor Kevin Faulconer is meeting with Airbnb about the problems the rentals are creating, the councilwoman said. But, she reminded residents, renting your home is allowed by law. The city website indicates that homeowners who rent for short terms should be paying an 11 percent transient occupancy tax.
"I can understand your excitement over collecting TOT, but we have a hotel next door," resident Linda McAndrew told Zapf. "The house has a 750-square-foot deck that looks into our bedroom and it's featured on the website. Every week we have a different group of people drinking and partying next to our bedroom."