Opponents and supporters of vacation rentals voice their concerns at a San Diego City Council meeting. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Take a look at news articles, message boards or social media posts from the last four years and you’ll see San Diego is fed up with the inaction surrounding short-term vacation rentals. That’s basically the only thing both opponents and proponents can agree on.

Short-term rental owners say renting out your home is a fundamental property right that helps families make ends meet, creates thousands of jobs and contributes millions of dollars in taxes and economic activity for the city.

Opponents of the industry say vacation rentals are the scourge of San Diego, destroying neighborhoods and taking away housing stock.

I think there is a middle ground where the majority of San Diegans stand.

In years past, we’ve seen polling that shows upward of 66 percent of San Diegans support short-term vacation rentals, and although the only ordinance addressing them ever passed by the City Council essentially banned the industry, it was quickly rescinded after tens of thousands of signatures were collected in opposition.

As president of the Mission Beach Town Council, I’ve had first-hand experience trying to find consensus on this issue, and what I’ve found is that the best path forward rests somewhere in the middle.

In 2019, my fellow board members and I convened a committee made up of long-term Mission Beach residents who have diverse perspectives and experiences with short-term vacation rentals. Collectively, the committee proposed an array of regulations for Mission Beach, and while the extremists might not have been satisfied, our full board voted overwhelmingly to support the proposal.

My experience working through the many nuisances associated with vacation rentals has shown me that a compromise was the best approach for Mission Beach and is likely the best approach for San Diego. For this reason, I commend Councilwoman Jennifer Campbell for bringing together Expedia Group and Unite Here. These two organizations have very different interests when it comes to the issue, but I believe Campbell recognized that the status quo hasn’t benefited anyone.

Although Campbell has publicly opposed short-term rentals in the past, she seems to understand that a compromise is the only way to get something passed at the City Council, where proposal after proposal has died on the dais.

After years of hearings, and by my unofficial count, five short-term vacation rental proposals, we finally have an opportunity to pass reasonable regulations that deliver 90 percent of what both sides are looking for.

Certainly, what is being proposed does not give either side a big win, but will give both sides a good amount of concessions that advocate for their positions. That is the hallmark of a fair compromise.

For opponents of the industry, the proposed regulations would reduce short-term rentals by more than 70 percent, establish a good neighbor code of conduct for things like noise, trash and parking, and expand the city’s code enforcement program to respond to community nuisance issues that have otherwise been ignored, all of which would be funded by permits and fines at no cost to taxpayers.

For owners and operators, these regulations would eliminate the poor activities that bad actors bring to this industry’s reputation by establishing clear rules that protect property rights while also stopping unfair harassment from vacation rental opponents.

These regulations also adopt key components proposed by the Mission Beach Town Council that will preserve the balance between short-term rentals and housing stock, which was voted on by our community.

Finally, after years of inaction, San Diego’s leaders have the opportunity to pass reasonable short-term vacation rental regulations. I encourage the Council to quickly adopt Expedia Group and Unite Here’s proposal and not squander this opportunity by making small changes to appease the extremes at the cost of losing the majority of us in the middle.

Matt Gardner is president of the Mission Beach Town Council and the owner of Cheap Rentals, which provides bike, surfboard and other active gear rentals. He does not own or operate a vacation rental.

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