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In recent months, certain elected officials in San Diego have consistently called for rules to regulate vacation rentals. After years of debate, it’s time for city leaders to put politics aside and work with short-term rental platforms to iron out a regulatory compromise that preserves the benefits these rentals provide to residents, small businesses and the local economy.
The city’s last attempt at enacting short-term rental regulations was tantamount to a ban, and would have severely restricted property rights. Our group Share San Diego, a coalition of San Diegans who support protecting our fundamental property rights and the economic benefits short-term rentals brings to the city, helped collect nearly 62,000 signatures in less than 30 days to referend the Council’s actions. The referendum was a clear message from voters who realized the city’s regulations unjustly restricted property rights and would have been a detriment to the thousands of jobs short-term rentals support.
After the City Council rescinded its vote, several members said they intended to work with stakeholders to find a long-term solution. Those efforts have been partially hindered by a false claim by opponents that short-term rental platforms and San Diego’s host community does not want a compromise. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Share San Diego, Airbnb, Vrbo and other members of the short-term rental community stand ready to meet with city leaders and other stakeholders to address the issue and work toward a reasonable set of regulations.
I believe there is a path for hosts, short-term rental platforms and the city to come up with a regulatory proposal that captures San Diego’s 100-year short-term rental history as a vacation destination. In that time, the city has benefited from the jobs, tax dollars and economic expansion this industry has created, including more than $26 million annually in transient occupancy taxes, which goes to the city’s general fund to pay for road repairs, public safety, homelessness programs, libraries and more. With the city facing an ongoing and significant budget shortfall, these tax dollars, paid by visitors to our city, are more important than ever.
A September 2018 poll conducted by the Union-Tribune and 10News found that 66 percent of San Diego residents support allowing owners of a second home to rent it out on a short-term basis.
The strong support does not preclude us from working with the city to ensure that any final short-term rental ordinance includes provisions that also address neighborhood nuisance issues, such as increased and fully funded enforcement for noise and parking and trash violations with no additional taxpayer money. In the past, some lawmakers arguing against short-term rentals have favored broad, severe restrictions that punish San Diego’s entire short-term rental community over commonsense targeted solutions that penalize the small subset of bad actors. There is a better way that includes permits, good neighbor policies and strong fines for non-compliance. In short, we want to work with city leaders to pull together a strong but reasonable regulatory program that doesn’t harm property rights, respects neighborhoods and continues to provide short-term rental accommodations that support the city’s visitor industry and local economy.
With so many local businesses, individuals, homeowners, families and others dependent on short-term rentals, we ask the City Council to meet with us, Airbnb and Vrbo to forge a path forward on this issue and create the long-needed certainty our community deserves.
Jonah Mechanic is a resident of La Jolla and president of Share San Diego, a collection of homeowners, property rights advocates and rental managers.