At the July 16 city council meeting, the usual sea of green (pro-vacation rental) and red (anti-vacation rental) t-shirts will be joined by blue representing Ocean Beach.
The Ocean Beach town council has chartered a bus so Ocean Beach residents can be heard on Monday when the city council is scheduled to vote on the mayor's short-term vacation rental proposal.
The mayor has swapped out "short term vacation rentals" for "short term residential occupancy". One local said the mayor's "Orwellian twisting" of words doesn't change a thing.
Vacation rentals are the only item on Monday's agenda. Though, with big votes having gone bust before (or not at all), it's anyone's guess how it will fly this time.
The mayor's proposed ordinance, if passed, will mandate that everyone renting out a home to vacationers be licensed. Property owners don't apply for this license, "hosts" do. A host can be a property owner with a deed or a renter with a signed lease. Any dwellings that get their license revoked have to wait a year to reapply (all licenses are renewed annually).
Each host can get up to two licenses as long as one of the addresses is their primary residence (granny flats are said to be off limits).
For home sharing, no license is required unless there are five or more bedrooms, then the host needs to register.
All these numbers mean nothing when it comes to Mission Beach as the number of licenses any one host can get issued is unlimited. Mission Beach is already the most heavily impacted area when it comes to vacation rentals.
It's clear from the city's December report that there are nearly five times the number of vacation rentals than the city has record of (approximately 3200 in May 2018). If this holds true, the $21 million tax revenue collected in 2017 could balloon to $100 million (if all off-the-grid rentals become legal).
Out of the 14,592 active listings in December, 75 percent are located in ten neighborhoods: Mission Beach (2305), Pacific Beach (1832), downtown San Diego (1588), La Jolla (1448), Uptown (1070), North Park (738), Ocean Beach (683), Point Loma (584), Clairemont (557), and Golden Hill (451).
The mayor's proposal puts aside funding for enforcement of quality of life nuisances caused by vacation rentals. The ordinance proposes to issue citations for noise up to $1,000 for both the vacationer and the host. If the police are called out, the vacationers could be responsible for the cost of that police response.
For the host, they will have to designate a local contact who can respond to any nuisances within one hour (phone or in-person).
Some say this is a loophole that doesn't guarantee the person is local. One person that manages vacation rentals said there is always someone local involved as the rental can only be maintained and cleaned locally.
There is a three-strikes provision when it comes to violations, though the city can go straight to pulling the license if deemed appropriate. Anyone that has a permit revoked can apply again in a year.
No transfers of licenses via hosts or locations will be permitted, but it's unclear if a host can then step in and apply at a new location (or vice versa).
Hosting platforms like Airbnb will be required to confirm a host has the required license and tax documentation. Though, it's unclear what penalties are for not doing so.
Nathan got a call from an Airbnb representative on Monday asking all hosts to pack the city council meeting on Monday. He thinks councilmember Barbara Bry's proposal is the only sane option. Bry's proposal allows unlimited home sharing in a primary residence on a short-term basis for up to 90 days a year.
An Airbnb representative told me they have had their hands full gearing up the city council meeting on Monday and that they do support the mayor's proposal.
I asked about what the city told me in March about third-party online hosts not remitting taxes to the city via specific property addresses. The representative responded, "Airbnb has been collecting and remitting taxes [more than $20 million] in San Diego since 2015."
Some have asked that Councilmember Scott Sherman (District 7) recuse himself from the vote because of his father's real estate holdings, some in a family trust.
Jeff Powell from Sherman's office said, "The councilmember is not involved in his father’s business. His father is not involved in short-term rentals. The only home the councilmember owns is the one he lives in. This false accusation is based solely on hypotheticals alone and provided no proof of any violations whatsoever. This is why the ethics commission [April] and the [fair political practices commission in December] both concluded that the complaint does not warrant an investigation and is not appropriate for consideration. These are absolute fabrications that have no basis in fact."
Powell showed me decision letters from both investigations that found the accusations speculative and without evidence.
Jonah Mechanic, is the president of Share San Diego and his company manages about 180 vacation rentals locally. He supports the mayor's proposal.
Mechanic said the mayor's plan has common-sense regulations that will raise an additional $6 million for enforcement and $3 million for affordable housing. "You can have the best regulations in the world. At the end of the day, if there is no funding for enforcement, it doesn't mean anything."
I asked for his take on Mission Beach not having the same permit limitations. Mechanic manages about a dozen rentals in Mission Beach.
"The situation in Mission Beach is very unique. This area has a lot of multi-family homes with the majority of them not owner-occupied." He said vacationers have been staying in vacation rentals in Mission Beach for over 50 years.
Mechanic said the hotel industry's recent campaign against vacation renters is over-the-top. "Families looking for a safe and quiet environment to enjoy San Diego make up the majority of those renting homes here. For the hotel industry to somehow associate that with child molesters and Megan's law is despicable."