"What happens when an entire block has nobody living there?"
  • "What happens when an entire block has nobody living there?"
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"What happens when an entire block has nobody living there?" In 2014, when Jon moved to Abbott Avenue in Ocean Beach, he was surrounded by long-term renters. Every year since, he's seen neighbors evicted to make room for short-term vacation rentals.

"Airbnb called me last week asking for feel-good stories on hosting. I didn't have much to offer. If people want to feel good, they can volunteer at a soup kitchen, not sell out the community."

Jon, now a homeowner, misses getting to know his neighbors.

Elyse Lowe, out of Mayor Kevin Faulconer's office, is working on a proposal to address concerns of residents like Jon. This is according to Ann Kerr Bache who met with Lowe in mid-February on behalf of the Coalition of Town Councils.

Protestors walking past illegal vacation rentals in a November protest in Ocean Beach

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One of the big asks is to limit the number of vacation rentals in any one community. The coalition is willing to grandfather in existing rentals as long as they've been paying taxes and other fees, but they don't want permits transferring to new ownership.

Plan B is to buy the house next to Mayor Faulconer and turn it into a short term rental . . .

The coalition recommended violation fines: $500 for the first, $2500 for the second, and revocation of permit upon a third. Additionally, a $1000 fine per renter.

The mayor's office is working on a proposal, due out in a few weeks, to address disputes over short-term vacation rentals.

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Per city documentation from August 2017, of the more than 3300 vacation rentals listed, 69-percent are located in Mission Beach (1044), Pacific Beach (495), La Jolla (475), Ocean Beach (240), and Sunset Cliffs (23).

"Cheer's Bitches" - a short-term vacation rental shares a bachelorette weekend with a quiet single family neighborhood in La Jolla. 1-2 dozen out-of-towners under one roof for a whole weekend.

Though these numbers differ from the numbers touted on numerous vacation rental websites and by others, the geographical concentration seems to be in the ballpark.

On February 27, the San Diego Unified School District unanimously passed a resolution asking the city to pass vacation rental regulations. Their concern is that turning residential neighborhoods into commercial zones, via vacation rentals, will further decrease student enrollment and increase budget shortfalls.

One speaker pointed to vacation rentals leading to gentrification and displacement of minorities while another said 43 vacation rentals have been added to her Mission Beach neighborhood since October. If the city doesn't take action soon, her Plan B "is to buy the house next to Mayor Faulconer and turn it into [a] short term rental — and maybe we'll finally get some action."

The city reported $21,263,722 in total tax revenue for vacation rentals in 2017. The total includes penalties. According to the city, the exact number of residences wasn't available since third-party online hosting platforms don't remit payments via specific properties.

Per 2017 documentation, five streets were listed as having 587 (17 percent) of the rentals in San Diego — all in close proximity of each other in Mission Beach (458) and Pacific Beach (129).

Ocean Front Walk had the most with 225 between sixteen blocks, with 72 on just two blocks. Ocean Boulevard in Pacific Beach was next with 129, with 74 located in one luxury beachfront condo building.

Bayside Walk listed 121 rentals spread out between 15 blocks, with 50 rentals on just two blocks. Mission Boulevard listed 81 rentals on 17 blocks. It then dropped to 31 rentals sandwiched onto two Island Court blocks.

Owners of the rentals are a mixed bag of locals and those outside of San Diego, and as far away as China. Ten firms were listed as managing near 25 percent of all vacation rentals in San Diego.

Belinda Smith, co-founder of the Short Term Rental Alliance of San Diego (advocate for vacation rentals), said short-term rentals should continue to operate along the coastal communities as they have for the past 100 years.

While she agrees there needs to be regulations, she argues that San Diego's housing problem existed long before Airbnb came along in 2008. There is the added issue of coastal home prices not being affordable housing.

Case in point: the same two bedroom beachfront condo that goes for $250 a night can go for near $5000 a month as a long-term rental.

"I have one. And yet I hate them. Airbnb called me last week asking for feel-good stories on hosting. I didn't have much to offer. If people want to feel good, they can volunteer at a soup kitchen, not sell out the community."

Tom lives in one Ocean Beach unit and rents out the other 450 square foot unit. Last year, he made about $45,000 renting it out — saying it covers the mortgage for the entire property.

Tom sees those with a lot of money and no ties to the community as the biggest threat. Tom has seen granny flats meant to boost housing stock converted to Airbnbs in Ocean Beach.

As far as calls to the police regarding disturbing the peace or loud parties — between January and early-August 2017 — Pacific Beach had 2231, Ocean Beach had 1007, La Jolla had 810, and Mission Beach 554. Though it's hard to pinpoint which calls were because of vacation rentals, 40 percent of the calls for Mission Beach were focused on blocks and streets with the most vacation rentals.

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AlexClarke March 10, 2018 @ 7:15 a.m.

This is a classic community (government) vs. property rights. Those who have the most money will win.


Julie Stalmer March 11, 2018 @ 5:17 p.m.

Both sides need to feel heard to come to a decent compromise. No one will be completely happy, that's how that works. But I think the city needs to get their records closer to reality - how can you decide on numbers of vacation rentals if you don't know how many there actually are - the city's excel worksheet I sorted through was a hot mess.


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