On Tuesday night, in a 7-2 vote, the City Council voted to reject an ordinance proposed by Council President Sherri Lightner, which would have clarified the definition of a short-term rental. Lightner’s proposal was intended to clarify ambiguity in the current law which applies to short-term rentals. Specifically, the City Attorney’s office address three primary areas of ambiguity in a memorandum prepared last December. The proposal would have restricted short-term rentals to some commercial zones, two multi-family zones, and a handful of San Diego neighborhoods with their own zoning regulations (e.g., Mission Beach, La Jolla). Further, Lightner claims that her proposal wouldn’t affect the home sharing services (e.g., renting a room instead of an entire house) of vacation rental platforms like Airbnb. However, like many aspects of the proposed ordinance, this assertion was also challenged by her opponents.
The driving force behind Lightner’s proposal was the fact that the city’s code enforcement director told the City Council that his staff is unable to pursue land use violations at vacation rentals under the current city regulations. At the council meeting, Councilman Todd Gloria inquired regarding the additional cost of enforcement and made a motion to direct city staff to prepare regulations to allow for enforcement. Gloria’s motion was approved on a 7-2 vote.
Like many cities dealing with similar ambiguity, the City of San Diego surely has not seen the last of the short-term rental issue. In fact, Councilman Chris Cate released a competing plan on Monday evening, which would permit vacation rentals citywide but would highten enforcement on troublesome properties. While this issue is anything but resolved, property owners who utilize such vacation rental services for their property should be sure to stay tuned as these new proposals wind their way through the bureaucratic process.
Ben Schwefel is an Associate Attorney at The Loftin Firm. For questions relating to a business, nonprofit, or estate planning matter, contact Ben at 760-814-9649.