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Airbnb Regulation: San Diego City Council Finds Solution

Author: Jeff Powers
Created: 16 July, 2018
Updated: 21 November, 2022
3 min read

San Diego, CA. - By a vote of 6-3, the San Diego City Council passed a regulation plan for short-term vacation rentals, an issue that had vexed city leaders for at least 11 years.

The endorsed plan was put forward by Council President Pro Tem Barbara Bry and councilmember Lorie Zapf. It's a primary-residence only solution to what had become a controversial practice of short-term rentals within city limits. Under their plan, primary residents may use their residence for a limited time so it retains its residential use.

Councilmen Chris Cate, Scott Sherman and David Alvarez all voted no on the plan.

Following the vote, Councilman Cate expressed his disappointment over twitter:



Prior to the Bry/Zapf vote, the city council voted down Mayor Faulconer's plan by that same vote count 6-3. Although Mayor Faulconer tweeted a more congratulatory message following the vote:


Short-term vacation rentals has been a source of many public meetings, hearings and amendments over the last few years. But finally, after a marathon city council session, an agreement was reached and the short-term rental plan is likely to go into effect in July 2019.

Mission Beach Carve Out

One of the biggest issues for the community was Mayor Faulconer's original plan to exempt Mission Beach from airbnb restrictions.

Then his office noted before the meeting that he agreed the community should be bound by the same regulations he is proposing for the entire city. His office, did recommend that existing rentals in Mission Beach be grandfathered in and only if they had already registered to pay the city’s transient occupancy tax.

The concerns about Mission Beach was part of a conversation City Councilman Mark Kersey and I had on IVN San Diego back in June where Kersey noted, "I certainly want to hear the public testimony on that side of it because I do think having a carve out for Mission Beach, which historically has been a huge vacation rental community is a good thing, but whether it’s exactly what the mayor offered or a modification on that I think is a good discussion to have.”

Plenty of Opinions

Here is a sample of the community concerns raised at the hearing:

"The municipal code was simple, elegant and fair and was written with residents in mind, not out-of-town interests."

"Neighborhoods are not commercial enterprise zones and should not be regulated in such a way. This will not be a solution for our homeless crisis, it will only exacerbate that as well as affordable housing issues."

Those in favor of the mayor's plan included Stephen Puetz, Kevin Faulconer's former chief of staff:

"Until I moved to district 2 in point loma I didn't understand the gravity of the situation. The mayor has a very good proposal before you, I like primary but it would be ashame if we didn't support what the mayor has proposed."

And Haney Hong, President of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association:

"We expect you the City Council to lead and bring certainty to the community. The guidelines before you represent an important compromise, these short term rentals bring in almost 20 million to the city's coffers. Is this perfect no, but we shouldn't let that be an impediment to progress. Let's get some regulations moving and if things need to be changed we can do so with more data."

Reaction included this statement sent to IVN San Diego from HomeAway/VRBO:

“HomeAway is extremely disappointed in the City Council’s decision to ignore the Mayor’s compromise and effectively ban short-term rentals in the City of San Diego. This outcome will not only negatively impact the local economy but will deny many San Diegans of their private property rights. We plan to evaluate next steps in the coming days to determine an appropriate path forward.”