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A proposal before the San Diego City Council on Tuesday would ban short-term vacation rentals like the ones that have been in our family for more than half a century. While versions of this same proposal have failed before, it’s more important than ever to understand what’s at stake.
Vacation rentals have long provided an opportunity for families to visit San Diego affordably, and properties owners like us, who have contributed to our community and helped steer business toward our local shops and restaurants — as well as tax dollars toward the city — deserve a fair resolution.
No one seems to be thinking about the real people behind the rentals or their guests.
San Diego is our home. It’s where we met, where we had our children, where our children had their children, and where we’re looking forward to growing old. But as much as we love the city, it’s no secret that living in such a beautiful place has grown increasingly expensive over the last several decades.
In the early 2000s, we assumed ownership of two small homes in Ocean Beach, both on the same property, both owned by Dennis’ father. Someday they’ll go to our son. Dennis’ grandmother also lived in Ocean Beach, in the area called Wonderland, a vacation rental destination as early as 1913.
Ocean Beach has that quintessential Southern California vibe that so many travelers come here to find. It’s part of what has made San Diego such a sought-after destination for so many years. To be able to share that feeling and that community with people from all over is one of the greatest joys, and I have the comfort of knowing it’s what our family would want for our property now. We are a part of this community and take actions such as cleaning up graffiti, painting a neighbor’s fence, and removing debris from the streets.
In 2003, we invested in major upgrades to the houses so that visitors coming to San Diego could make their own memories in the home that has been in our family. We considered turning our house into a long-term rental, but with so many family members and friends coming to San Diego throughout the year, we wanted them to have an option that was comfortable and close.
Our family has been enriched by the depth and breadth of people who have come into our homes — visitors from Canada, China, Japan, Australia, Mexico and across the U.S. Whether they come for family reunions, sharing the beach with their kids, or recuperating from cancer treatments at UCSD Medical center, they all have had a positive impact on our family as well as the San Diego economy. We have guests that have been coming to stay with us for over nine years in a row, and many extend their stays to multiple weeks at a time.
Renting our home has never been about taking any housing unit off the market; it’s been about keeping in our family something that was handed down to us without worrying about how we can afford it.
Before the internet was so widely used to advertise vacation rentals, we advertised locally, developed our own website, relied on word of mouth or friends of friends, and returning guests to rent our home. Most of the time, that worked just fine. But there would be times when we’d have fewer bookings than others and wonder if we could pay the bills to keep it. Airbnb and other online rental platforms have changed that and allowed us to keep our property while giving travelers an affordable option to stay by the coast and experience weird and wonderful OB when they visit San Diego.
Since Dennis retired in 2005, he’s been able to dedicate his time to managing the property, welcoming guests and taking care of any needs that may arise during their stay. With Julie hoping to retire soon and Dennis on a fixed income, our vacation rental gives us the extra cushion we need so that we can worry less about what our future holds.
If we were to lose the income on our vacation rental, Julie would need to postpone her retirement and Dennis would have to go back to work part-time to ensure we weren’t dipping into our retirement savings too soon.
We hope that others will join us in opposing City Councilwoman Barbara Bry’s proposal to ban vacation rentals like ours and instead look toward a more reasonable approach to regulating short-term rentals offered by Councilmembers Ward, Kersey, Sherman and Alvarez. For far too long, this debate has been muddied by political interests.
Dennis and Julie Richardson are both native-born San Diegans. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.