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Mission Beach to get 30% short-term rentals

The rest of San Diego 1%

A caller from Mission Beach described the glut of Airbnbs driving away his friends and family. - Image by Matthew Suárez
A caller from Mission Beach described the glut of Airbnbs driving away his friends and family.

It's finally the homestretch for vacation rentals. After years of a Wild West that pits neighbors against neighbors and the remote investors they say are turning homes into hotels, rules have taken shape.

The San Diego Planning Commission is recommending the city adopt regulations that cut the number of whole home vacation rentals in half, use a lottery to distribute licenses, and include enforcement measures.

Mission Beach would get - or get stuck with - the biggest share. The small sandspit enclave would see 30 percent of its housing units eligible to become short-term rentals compared to the rest of the city's one percent cap.

A decision on the proposal, submitted by councilmember Jen Campbell in October and sent back to her office for changes, will be made by the city council early next year. If approved, the ordinance would go into effect Jan. 1, 2022.

It defines a short-term rental occupancy as a stay of less than a month, and a host as a "natural person" rather than an LLC. The plan is described as balancing the rights of hosts and neighbors, but while the commission unanimously agreed on the rules, hosts and residents did not.

It "will crush San Diego citizens looking for equality in life" said Scott Bishop, who manages over 20 short-term rentals, which he says lifted his family out of being middle income. "We can be responsible without taking away" our rights, he added. "No caps."

Airbnb echoed the call. Sarah Simon, advocacy manager, asked the commission to increase the citywide whole home cap to 1.2 percent to gain "the full economic benefits."

Others worried about residents, flanked by hordes of visitors. In Mission Beach, the proposal opens the door to 1,081 whole home vacation rentals, which are allowed for more than 20 days per year with the owner absent.

Andrea Schlageter: The Mission Beach carveout is "a giveaway" to investors.

A caller from Mission Beach described the glut of Airbnbs driving away his friends and family.

Also against the carveout is Gary Wonacott, a former member of the Mission Beach Town Council, who commented on OB Rag that no Southern California beach area has been more saturated with vacation rentals. "MB is being destroyed; the first step to recovery is to eliminate the carveout."

Venus Molina, Campbell's chief of staff and a main author of the plan, said 30 percent was enough to retain housing units and abide by the Coastal Act which requires affordable lodging. "And at the same time we know there is a history of short-term rentals in the Mission Beach community."

Andrea Schlageter, chair of the Ocean Beach planning board, agreed with home-share or whole-home short-term stays. But whole home short-term rentals for more than 20 days per year and the Mission Beach carveout "are a giveaway" to investors.

Vacation rentals can still work in mixed-use zones, she said. "It might help revamp our Main Street."

Molina said the rules will curb abuse of the system since only a host can apply for a license, and just one at a time. In addition, the whole home rental cap limits the number of licenses and they can't be transferred to other people or properties.

The difficulty of the lottery system, which applies to whole home rentals, discourages bad actors, she said. If someone loses their license, someone else on the list would get it, creating a big incentive to play by the rules.

Regulations will allow the city to differentiate between part-time use, home sharing, and whole home units, and licensing will help with tracking and enforcement. The city's development services department expects to transition from paper to digital modules by the end of December.

A 24/7 complaint portal on the city website will keep track of multiple complaints, which can get a host's license revoked.

Will neighbors abuse the complaint system? In 2017 the city banned the rental of granny flats for less than 30 consecutive days. But 100 units permitted earlier were grandfathered in for such use. And guest quarters are ineligible for vacation rentals, though neighbors may have a hard time telling the difference.

The commission recommended several revisions for the council to consider, suggesting the whole-house limit be distributed by district or another boundary equally; a requirement that the license holder validate their permanent address to match the rental property; and adding restrictions for issues like noise mitigation.

Planning Commissioner Vicki Granowitz asked about the possibility of putting limits on occupancy to deal with "the party problem."

That, however, is governed by state law, Molina said.

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A caller from Mission Beach described the glut of Airbnbs driving away his friends and family. - Image by Matthew Suárez
A caller from Mission Beach described the glut of Airbnbs driving away his friends and family.

It's finally the homestretch for vacation rentals. After years of a Wild West that pits neighbors against neighbors and the remote investors they say are turning homes into hotels, rules have taken shape.

The San Diego Planning Commission is recommending the city adopt regulations that cut the number of whole home vacation rentals in half, use a lottery to distribute licenses, and include enforcement measures.

Mission Beach would get - or get stuck with - the biggest share. The small sandspit enclave would see 30 percent of its housing units eligible to become short-term rentals compared to the rest of the city's one percent cap.

A decision on the proposal, submitted by councilmember Jen Campbell in October and sent back to her office for changes, will be made by the city council early next year. If approved, the ordinance would go into effect Jan. 1, 2022.

It defines a short-term rental occupancy as a stay of less than a month, and a host as a "natural person" rather than an LLC. The plan is described as balancing the rights of hosts and neighbors, but while the commission unanimously agreed on the rules, hosts and residents did not.

It "will crush San Diego citizens looking for equality in life" said Scott Bishop, who manages over 20 short-term rentals, which he says lifted his family out of being middle income. "We can be responsible without taking away" our rights, he added. "No caps."

Airbnb echoed the call. Sarah Simon, advocacy manager, asked the commission to increase the citywide whole home cap to 1.2 percent to gain "the full economic benefits."

Others worried about residents, flanked by hordes of visitors. In Mission Beach, the proposal opens the door to 1,081 whole home vacation rentals, which are allowed for more than 20 days per year with the owner absent.

Andrea Schlageter: The Mission Beach carveout is "a giveaway" to investors.

A caller from Mission Beach described the glut of Airbnbs driving away his friends and family.

Also against the carveout is Gary Wonacott, a former member of the Mission Beach Town Council, who commented on OB Rag that no Southern California beach area has been more saturated with vacation rentals. "MB is being destroyed; the first step to recovery is to eliminate the carveout."

Venus Molina, Campbell's chief of staff and a main author of the plan, said 30 percent was enough to retain housing units and abide by the Coastal Act which requires affordable lodging. "And at the same time we know there is a history of short-term rentals in the Mission Beach community."

Andrea Schlageter, chair of the Ocean Beach planning board, agreed with home-share or whole-home short-term stays. But whole home short-term rentals for more than 20 days per year and the Mission Beach carveout "are a giveaway" to investors.

Vacation rentals can still work in mixed-use zones, she said. "It might help revamp our Main Street."

Molina said the rules will curb abuse of the system since only a host can apply for a license, and just one at a time. In addition, the whole home rental cap limits the number of licenses and they can't be transferred to other people or properties.

The difficulty of the lottery system, which applies to whole home rentals, discourages bad actors, she said. If someone loses their license, someone else on the list would get it, creating a big incentive to play by the rules.

Regulations will allow the city to differentiate between part-time use, home sharing, and whole home units, and licensing will help with tracking and enforcement. The city's development services department expects to transition from paper to digital modules by the end of December.

A 24/7 complaint portal on the city website will keep track of multiple complaints, which can get a host's license revoked.

Will neighbors abuse the complaint system? In 2017 the city banned the rental of granny flats for less than 30 consecutive days. But 100 units permitted earlier were grandfathered in for such use. And guest quarters are ineligible for vacation rentals, though neighbors may have a hard time telling the difference.

The commission recommended several revisions for the council to consider, suggesting the whole-house limit be distributed by district or another boundary equally; a requirement that the license holder validate their permanent address to match the rental property; and adding restrictions for issues like noise mitigation.

Planning Commissioner Vicki Granowitz asked about the possibility of putting limits on occupancy to deal with "the party problem."

That, however, is governed by state law, Molina said.

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