FAQs about the 2020 MOU
What is an MOU?
A memorandum of understanding (MOU or MoU) is an agreement between two or more parties outlined in a formal document. It is not legally binding but signals the willingness of the parties to move forward with a contract.
What is being proposed?
- At the request of District 2 City Councilmember Dr. Jen Campbell, Expedia Group and Unite Here Local 30 negotiated and eventually proposed a set of STR regulations in the form of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
- View Expedia Group and Unite Here’s proposal here.
- View an explanation of the proposal here.
Why is Share San Diego supporting these regulations?
- The choice is not between no regulations and what has been proposed by Expedia Group and Unite Here, it is between the possibility of being regulated out of existence and what has been proposed by Expedia Group and Unite Here.
- For years, Share San Diego has fought for common sense laws that protect the property rights of our members and allow STRs to continue to operate. Despite our advocacy, the only proposal to have been approved by the City Council essentially banned STRs in San Diego. We fought with Expedia Group and Airbnb to force the Council to rescind their the ban, spending close to $1 million collectively. This is not a sustainable strategy.
- Expedia Group and Unite Here’s proposal is not a perfect solution but represents a fair compromise for all of San Diego and the best opportunity to ensure the stability of our industry.
How is any regulation of STRs acceptable?
- STR regulations are coming whether we want them or not. Several candidates for office have advocated for outlawing the industry all together despite the fact that San Diego collects $32 million a year from STRs and supports thousands of local jobs.
- Share San Diego supports reasonable regulations that removes the few bad actors from our neighborhoods while offering incremental STR growth.
The proposed regulations caps STRs at 0.7% of the City’s housing stock, does that mean there will be a reduction in total STR inventory?
- The City Auditor has said there are 16,000 STRs in San Diego, but does not distinguish between a STR where the owner lives onsite, a STR that is rented less than 30-day a year or STRs in Mission Beach.
- Expedia Group and Unite Here smartly proposed a Four-Tiered permitting system so that not all STRs are treated the same. Only full-time whole home STRs are subject to the 0.7% cap.
- This proposal will give us a starting point for regulating STRs.
Why are there different rules for Mission Beach?
- Mission Beach is unique in that vacation rentals have existed in this community for nearly one hundred years, and leaders from the community have proposed allowing more STRs in this area to support local businesses.
- For this reason, Mission Beach would not be counted in the 0.7% permit cap. Instead, Expedia Group and Unite Here have proposed adopting the Mission Beach Town Council’s proposal to allow up to 30% of the community’s housing stock as full-time whole home STRs.
How would I get a STR permit?
- Expedia Group and Unite Here provide a detailed framework for regulating STRs, but there are still some areas ,such as permitting, that must be worked out by the City Attorney to ensure what goes to the Council for a vote is legal and enforceable.
- Share San Diego continues to advocate for responsible STR operators who have paid their taxes to be given first priority.
The City Attorney will use the MOU and feedback from the community to draft a STR ordinance that can be voted on by the City Council.
Setting the record straight on Short Term Rentals in San Diego
There are some misconceptions about short-term rentals that have created false narratives. We think it’s important to set the record straight so that San Diegans have all the facts about the importance of short-term vacation rentals in our City.
FALSE: San Diego zoning already prohibits whole-house vacation rentals in residential neighborhoods. The City must enforce the existing law.
This is a summary of former City Attorney Jan Goldsmith’s position on why we cannot use a permissive interpretation of existing law to conclude that short term rentals are prohibited just because they are not expressly permitted:
- Current language in the Municipal Code also doesn’t explicitly permit long-term rentals, OR owner-occupied either, OR even guests, so would they also be illegal occupants?
- Current zoning ordinance calls for ‘single-family dwelling unit only’, no language covering legal basis for occupancy
- Permissive zoning ordinances has to fit within RS zone definitions and the current definition is vague.
Because this language is too vague, it would never hold up in court.
This is why Share San Diego advocates for a fair and reasonable ordinance that does clarify the zoning language so that it is no longer vague. We do want regulations around STR’s, just one that strikes a reasonable compromise that protect private property rights, stops out of town investors and creates a streamlined registration process for second home vacation rentals.
FALSE: Short-term vacation rentals (STVRs) are Visitor Accommodations and are prohibited in residential zones.
The “visitor accommodations” ordinance adopted in 1997 bars residential uses that “provide lodging… primarily to visitors and tourists.”
The following is a summary of former San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith’s stance on this topic:
- Investigators can’t determine what constitutes what ‘primarily’ means. Let’s say we interpret it to mean ‘more than 50% of the time’. But over what period does that include? One year? Two years?
- Also ‘visitor’ is not clearly defined. Is someone coming from Mira Mesa to rent a house for a family reunion in Mission Beach considered a visitor?
In summary, if zoning enforcement officers were to try to enforce the code ‘as it’s written’, they will have to know where occupants renting a home come from, what they are doing, and why they are there. These would be very long, complicated cases that would require them to stake out a house for a long time, get search warrants, etc. wasting tax dollars.
As a result, it’s no surprise that there have been no cases brought to city attorney office since the adoption of the visitor accommodations ordinance.
FALSE: We must stop big corporations from buying out apartment buildings and converting them to illegal hotels.
We agree that out of town investors and bad actors should be banned in San Diego. That’s why we support fair, reasonable regulations that protect private property and ensure that the city continues to benefit from the millions of dollars in tourism taxes and visitor spend that short-term rentals bring each year. Moreover, we think that a process which includes enforcement funding and streamlined registration is essential to success in regulating short-term rentals.
There are already rules and regulations against this notion of buying out an apartment building to convert into a hotel (San Diego Municipal Code §113.0103, which defines when a short-term rental would be officially considered a hotel), so there is no need to define new regulations to ‘stop’ this from happening. Existing code already prohibits this, and we do not support anyone, whether it’s a corporation or an individual, engaging in this activity illegally.
FALSE: Operating a short-term rental is a business activity that should be outlawed in a residential zone.
The current commonly-accepted definition of a short-term rental is one that accommodates stays of less than 30 days. Meanwhile, a long-term rental is 30 days or more. A short term rental is no more a business activity than a long-term rental if the only difference is 29 vs. 30 days.
But a short-term rental is something that a teacher could rent out for most of the summer if they travel, a retired couple could rent out for a few weekends a year to supplement a fixed income, or people with an inherited home like to keep flexible for family and friends who visit throughout the year.
That’s why we strive to strike a reasonable compromise to create a fair and balanced ordinance for the coexistence of both short-term and long-term rentals in the City of San Diego.
FALSE: Short-term rentals are primarily responsible for the current housing crisis in San Diego
San Diego is an increasingly expensive city and the housing affordability crisis has been building up for years as a result of several factors, including lack of new development and halting of development underway.
In reality, short-term rentals are what help many long time San Diego residents stay in the city because they’ve come to rely on the important income generated by sharing their homes.
This recent article from the San Diego Union Tribune shows new housing unit development by decade in San Diego. It’s clear that the reason we have a shortage of housing stock currently is due to the City of San Diego’s failure to approve an adequate amount of development over the past decade. According to the article, we are currently about ~80,000 units behind where we need to be to keep up with demand.
The real culprit here are the ‘not-in-my-backyard’ constituents such as Save San Diego Neighborhoods, who have done everything they can to stop the increase of height limits on buildings for example.
FALSE: Banning short-term rentals will make homes and rents more affordable again in San Diego
While it’s easy and convenient to jump to this conclusion, there has been no evidence supporting this hypothesis in any other city. Housing affordability is a very complex issue that does not have a simple answer.
We understand concerns around housing affordability and homeless in San Diego – and want to play a part in finding a solution. That’s why we support reasonable regulations that would include funding for affordable housing and would stop out of town investors.