Thursday, March 26, 2015

Short Term Rentals: A Policy Proposal From Councilmember Chris Cate

by Chris Cate

Innovation and cutting-edge technologies have resulted in new companies and services we have grown to rely upon each day. After 100 days in office, it has become evident that our City’s laws have become inefficient in keeping up with our evolving economy.

In the first week of my term as Councilmember, I was contacted by a constituent who expressed concerns about the lack of clarity in our municipal code regarding short-term vacation rentals. He is a “host” who rents out a room in his home for a few days at a time. A cursory review revealed that those individuals wishing to rent out their property for a period of 30 days or less do not have clear laws by which to abide. The ambiguity of San Diego’s regulations surrounding short-term vacation rentals became immediately apparent.

I began researching relevant regulations and ordinances implemented by other municipalities within and outside the State of California. That research, coupled with engaging stakeholders from the community and City departments led me to develop a balanced proposal that supports economic growth while maintaining the quality of life in our neighborhoods.

The proposal I have presented (click link to read it in full) starts with simply defining a short-term rental as the occupancy of a residence for a period of less than 30 days. I feel that every property owner should have the option to rent all or a portion of their home on a short-term basis if they comply with the following criteria: adhere to reasonable occupancy standards to avoid large parties and disrupting neighborhoods, post a 24/7 local contact person responsible for the conduct on the property, and display the required registration certificate number on all online advertisements.

While our current code is unclear on whom, other than operators of hotels, motels and Bed & Breakfasts may rent on a short-term basis, the requirement that any entity engaging in this service must apply for a registration certificate and pay the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT), the Tourism Marketing District assessment, and the Rental Unit Tax is mandated. The City has room for improvement when educating San Diegans on these obligations and my proposal upholds current statutes while clearing a path for hosting platforms to collect and remit these taxes and fees, simplifying the process for many hosts.

While unfortunate, we do recognize that there are bad actors that will not operate in good faith, and the final portion of my proposal addresses these instances of non-compliance. Should there be documentation of violations; the hosts will be subject to fines and penalties through a process already established within our City’s municipal code. Our local police do a wonderful job of responding to quality of life disturbance calls and working with City departments to ensure safe and peaceful neighborhoods. My proposal maintains enforcement under this partnership.

The diversity of our neighborhoods should be celebrated and promoted. Platforms such as AirBnB, HomeAway, VBRO, and others allow residents to showcase their community, but it’s also important that the City’s rules be clear.

Councilman Chris Cate, District 6
As the innovation and sharing economy continues to grow and thrive, it is incumbent upon us as policy makers to ensure that we are promoting an environment that fosters development and economic growth, while balancing the quality of life we all enjoy in San Diego.

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