Signs in Crown Point protest the proliferation of short-term vacation rentals. / Photo by Dustin Michelson

Vacation rentals are not a polite dinner table topic in San Diego. The issue has provoked some intense, bitter disputes. Some people want an outright ban. Some want strict regulation. And others think homeowners should mostly be able to do what they want.

Folks in the ban camp often float all sorts of different numbers to bolster their arguments. A popular claim is that vacation rentals are worsening the housing crisis because so many homes have been taken off the market and turned into vacation rentals since the launch of home-sharing sites like Airbnb.

Pinning down the actual number of short-term vacation rentals and how much they’ve increased, though, has been difficult. In a new piece, VOSD’s Lisa Halverstadt finally gives us some clarity.

According to data from a new analysis by Host Compliance, a San Francisco-based company that’s provided rental data to dozens of other cities, owners of nearly 9,000 homes in the city of San Diego are renting them out to visitors, but just 22 percent of the homes are being rented more than 90 days of the year. Halverstadt also break downs the city’s vacation rental hot spots, looks into how much the number of vacation rentals in the city has shot up in recent years and more.

Host Compliance scraped data from two dozen rental sites after a request from Voice of San Diego. The company removed duplicate listings and then analyzed it to determine how much of the year the homes stayed on the short-term rental market.

The story was updated to correct a minor flaw in the measurement of how many homes had been rented out to different visitors for more than 90 days.

• City staff is proposing a new $912 vacation rental permit fee to help cover administration and enforcement costs.

AP Digs in on San Diego Homelessness

The Associated Press is out with a big story titled “Most vulnerable dying in ‘America’s Finest City’” about San Diego’s exploding homeless problem and the outbreak of hepatitis A.

“In a place that bills itself as ‘America’s Finest City,’ renowned for its sunny weather, surfing and fish tacos, spiraling real estate values have contributed to spiraling homelessness, leaving more than 3,200 people living on the streets or in their cars,” the story reads. Writer Julie Watson surveyed the problem, the growth of the homeless population and spoke with families.

Voice of San Diego readers will know most of the facts but it’s a powerful read and it is something to see all the parts of the story collected in one place for a national audience.

• There’s more: Thanks to West Coast cities like San Diego, national homeless numbers rose for the first time in seven years. Citing new federal data, the Associated Press reports that there are nearly 554,000 homeless people across the country, about a third of whom had no access to nightly shelter and instead were staying in vehicles, tents, the streets and other places considered uninhabitable. San Diego continues to have the fourth largest homeless population in the nation.

City Won’t Be Tracking Commuting Behavior

San Diego plans to get half of city residents who live near a transit stations out of their cars and commuting by transit, biking or walking by 2035. It’s part of the city’s plan to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half, a figure isn’t just a lofty goal, but is legally required as part of the city’s Climate Action Plan.

But, as Andrew Keatts reports, a tool the city is about to give its planners to help determine whether development decisions comply with the climate plan won’t pay any attention to how people commute. Instead, it’ll focus entirely on whether a project results in the typical person driving fewer miles on an average day.

The city says focusing on vehicle miles traveled instead of the share of people commuting by specific types of transportation makes more sense because it is a more direct measure for greenhouse gas reductions.

But the change also comes after the city adopted new community development plans in Uptown, North Park, Golden Hill and San Ysidro that each failed to meet the city’s ambitious goals for how people will get around. New development proposals have routinely failed to meet the Climate Action Plan challenge for one reason or another.

Lifeguards Vote to Split From Fire

The San Diego lifeguards union voted Wednesday night to break away from the city’s Fire-Rescue Department.

The vote is largely symbolic, but lifeguard union leaders see the outcome as a mandate to push for a split in favor of a new city “marine safety department,” and will seek the support of the mayor and City Council to make it happen.

A whopping 76 of 95 lifeguards who took part in Wednesday’s vote opted to leave the Fire Department.

“Fire is a very important large department. The lifeguards are a very important small department. We are experts, and should be led by experts. This is a win-win for everyone,” said lifeguard union steward Ed Harris.

The vote follows mounting tensions between Harris and fire Chief Brian Fennessy, who clashed multiple times in the last year. In September, Fennessy said he opposed removing lifeguards from his department, and called the current structure “a natural fit.” Harris called it a poor fit.

— Ashly McGlone

Tax Bill Could End Housing Credit Used Heavily in North County

As Congress hashes out two versions of the Republican tax bill, the fate of an incentive to build affordable housing is in jeopardy. And if it goes, the funding mechanism behind nearly one-third of North County’s affordable housing projects last year would dry up, Ruarri Serpa reports in this week’s North County Report.

Serpa also rounds up a KPBS report citing homeless shelters in Escondido, Vista and Carlsbad that are operating year-round this winter, and a U-T report that Lake San Marcos is inching closer to a cleanup plan.

From a Garage in El Cajon to National Prominence

Paul Russell started Christian Youth Theater as a side gig. He said that in the beginning, he never imagined the after-school youth theater program would eventually grow to become so big.

On a new episode of I Made it in San Diego, Voice of San Diego’s podcast about the region’s businesses and the people behind them, Russell talks to VOSD contributor Dallas McLaughlin about how he took Christian Youth Theater from his garage in El Cajon to the national stage.

The nonprofit is now in over 28 cities across the nation, averages 20,000 students every semester and produces over 100 shows a year. Russell said there were several times he thought he’d have to throw in the towel, but that the nonprofit has always found ways to keep going.

Opinion: Community Choice Is Key to Meeting Ambitious Climate Goals

In a commentary, San Diego City Councilwoman Barbara Bry and two members of her staff write that establishing an organization to purchase clean energy on behalf of residents is the most efficient and cost-effective way of meeting ambitious climate goals by 2035. And it’s in everyone’s interest to pursue – including SDG&E’s, they write.

“It is a collaborative partnership between the city and the utility,” they argue. “The city would be responsible for energy generation, while SDG&E would be responsible for energy distribution and customer billing, and would continue to get paid for providing these services.”

More Restaurants Decide Straws Suck

People don’t actually need to use straws to sip drinks, which is why more and more restaurants in San Diego are banning them (pssst: has anyone tried talking to the Corvette Diner about all the straws they put in people’s hair and otherwise toss around carelessly?)

Meanwhile, Imperial Beach could become the latest California city to ban plastic foam food containers. Earlier this year, our Ry Rivard wrote about the city of San Diego’s new program to recycle Styrofoam, and explained why the city doesn’t want a lot of people actually doing it.

Quick News Hits

• A woman from Mission Beach who is married to former mayor and talk show host Roger Hedgecock won a suit against the city after she tripped on a sidewalk and her breast implant leaked. (Union-Tribune)

• The number of confirmed influenza cases is on the rise, according to a Union-Tribune summary of a recent report. The good news: No new flu-related deaths were reported in the last week, and there were fewer cases of visits to local emergency rooms.

• After informing tenants in April 2016 of plans to demolish homes and build new ones, developers in Rancho Peñasquitos have agreed to pay for relocation expenses as well as moving boxes and packing tape, KPBS reports. The developers also agreed in their new plans to reserve 60 of the 600 homes in Pacific Village for low-income residents, and to charge them below-market rents, satisfying the city’s affordable housing rules.

• KCET’s got a roundup of cool murals in San Diego.

Social San Diego

• Even the local weather writers are freaking about the predicted gusty, fire-fueling wind headed for our region.

• Union-Tribune reporter Kate Morrissey‏ shows us what testing the border wall prototypes looks like by standing in Tijuana and pointing her camera through a hole in the border fence.

Correction: An earlier version of this post said the city was legally bound to change commuting behavior by 2035; the city has committed only to cutting its greenhouse gas emissions in half by that year. 

Kinsee Morlan

Kinsee Morlan was formerly the Engagement Editor at Voice of San Diego and author of the Culture...

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