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Only weeks ago, San Diego City Councilmen Chris Ward, Scott Sherman, Mark Kersey and David Alvarez proposed a plan to regulate short-term vacation rentals. It’s the result of years of discussion, debate and analysis, and represents a true compromise.
Critics claim that vacation rentals are worsening the housing crisis, but there’s no evidence to support that claim. A recent report on San Diego’s housing crisis from the San Diego Housing Commission covered many points, but short-term rentals were noticeably absent because the commission realizes that banning them would have no appreciable impact on San Diego’s housing crisis.
There is no doubt that affordable housing is an issue in San Diego, but when people attempt to blame the crisis on vacation rentals, they do San Diegans who are actually affected by a lack of affordable housing a grave disservice.
Short-term rentals actually provide massive benefits to San Diego and its citizens. They produce hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for small businesses, serve as a lifeline to retirees and other San Diegans looking to augment their income by leveraging their property, their owners pay millions in taxes to the city and they provide service for short-term renters who don’t want to stay in tourist zones.
Many short-term renters aren’t vacationing at all. I personally have hosted a couple who came to San Diego for a number of weekends to visit the wife’s dying mother, who happened to live a couple of blocks from our rental. I’ve also hosted two new grandmothers whose children just had their first child down the street from our short-term rental.
People who oppose short-term vacation rentals claim there are more than 10,000 new vacation rentals in San Diego, but their numbers are highly inflated because they often double-count many units that might be listed on multiple sites. They count units that no longer operate as short-term rentals. And they count units that have been operating as short-term rentals for decades.
The best estimates put the number of active short-term rentals in the city at around 1 percent of the total housing stock in San Diego. Furthermore, the vast majority of short-term rentals in San Diego lay in California’s coveted coastal zone, which is governed by the California Coastal Commission, which has unequivocally told the city that it will not allow a ban on short-term rentals in coastal zones. So even if the City Council were to ban short-term rentals, the Coastal Commission would protect the right to rent them out in coastal zones while punishing neighborhoods that benefit heavily from the economic boon that short term-rentals bring.
Those against short-term rentals would have the city legislate based on emotion and polarization, rushing to ban a decades-old practice with no data to corroborate any adverse effects. Those of us in support of the sharing economy see the value that short-term rentals bring economically, the value in San Diegans retaining property rights and the value in compromise.
We live in such politically divided times, and we should encourage Ward, Alvarez, Sherman and Kersey for having the courage, fortitude and wisdom to do what good public servants do – compromise.
Austin Hong grew up in San Diego and is a vacation rental host living in the College Area. Hong’s commentary has been edited for style and clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.