San Diego city council voted 8 – 1 today to rescind the short-term rental ordinance passed in July that banned second-home rentals in the city. The vote followed a referendum petition led by Share San Diego, HomeAway, and Airbnb that collected more than 62,000 signatures.
Among other requirements, the ordinance would have limited owners to one short-term residential occupancy license for the host’s primary residence and one additional license for an accessory dwelling unit on the same lot as the primary residence, effectively banning traditional second-home vacation rentals.
The successful petition forced the city council to either rescind the ordinance or place the measure on the ballot for a public vote in 2020 (or possibly as early as 2019 with an approved special election.) Ahead of the council vote, both opponents and proponents of the ordinance called for rescinding it and starting over.
In his testimony, Jonah Mechanic of SeaBreeze Vacation Rentals and president of Share San Diego shared the stories of second-home owners in his program, stressed that owning a vacation home is not a profit-generating endeavor, and echoed other speakers who pointed out that short-term rentals have been a part of the city since its beginning. “For the last 118 years, short-term rentals have been a foundation that our community has been built upon and have been woven into the fabric of our neighborhoods,” he said.
Proponents of the ordinance passed in July also called for rescinding it and instead enforcing the city’s zoning code, which does not permit short-term rentals in any zone.
Matt Valenti from Save San Diego Neighborhoods, which opposes short-term rentals in residential areas, was one such proponent. “You can’t operate a tannery in a cul de sac, you can’t start a macaroni factory next to my house, you can’t open a marijuana dispensary in a residential zone,” he said. “None of those things are listed in our code, but it’s very clear and it’s very common sense that you can’t operate a business like that in a residential zone.”
Valenti is running for the San Diego city council seat for district 6.
Councilmember Scott Sherman made the motion to rescind the ordinance. “What the council passed here a little while ago was obvious[ly] an overreach,” he said. “We also have to understand that a ban on one side isn’t going to work, and an unlimited wild, wild west on the other side isn’t going to work.”
Council president pro tem Barbara Bry, who proposed the July ordinance, issued a much sharper response, calling the vote a sad day for the city. “It was not a de-facto ban,” she repeated. “I am disappointed that a corporation reportedly valued at $31 billion descended upon our city with its unlimited millions of dollars and used deceptive tactics to force us to where we are today,” she said, referring to Airbnb and claims made that it, Share San Diego, and HomeAway were using paid signature gatherers who were misleading voters to get signatures.
She ultimately supported repealing the ordinance to prevent that corporation (Airbnb) from spending millions more leading up to a 2020 vote and freezing any progress. She then requested that the mayor enforce the existing code that does not allow short-term rentals.
Other councilmembers, including Chris Cate and David Alvarez, supported code enforcement as well but acknowledged that the city needed clarity on the rules from city attorney Mara Elliott and the mayor’s office.
Councilmember Lorie Zapf was the only councilmember to vote against rescinding the ordinance, expressing her frustration at reaching this point. “I’m not supporting rescinding today,” she said. “But I do want, whatever way this goes, for enforcement to begin robustly and in earnest immediately.”