Guest Commentary: My perspective on the short-term vacation rental ordinance

Karl Rand is chair of the Pacific Beach Planning Group.

Many coastal residents are shocked, frustrated and angry that so many investor-owned (Tier 3) short-term vacation rentals will be permitted under the ordinance approved Feb. 23 by the San Diego City Council. At the same time, most non-coastal residents are probably viewing the ordinance as a good thing overall, as reflected by the votes of their councilmembers.

This is not surprising to me. I believe a sharp coastal versus non-coastal split of perspectives among San Diego residents has always existed on this issue, as it does on some other issues too. The undeniable fact is STVRs in San Diego are very heavily concentrated along the coast (Districts 1 and 2) and also around Balboa Park (District 3). The different perspectives on STVRs, and on the ordinance, flow largely from this fact.

The heavy concentration of STVRs causes many coastal neighborhoods to suffer a loss of residential feel in a way that other areas simply do not experience. So, instead of pushing for a lower citywide cap on Tier 3 STVRs, the Pacific Beach Planning Group pushed hard for the “Cap by District” approach that would have significantly shifted the concentration of STVRs away from the coastal areas and into other areas where the tourist dollars brought by STVRs might be considered more of a welcome thing.

The Cap by District approach would have aligned the interests of all districts so that each could get closer to its own proper balance. We are deeply disappointed that Councilmember Jennifer Campbell (District 2) declined to include the Cap by District in her proposal (or alternatively, required distance separations between STVRs), and we had hoped Councilmember Joe LaCava (District 1) would introduce an amendment to implement it, but he did not.

As I see it, this new ordinance should help address two of the three main problems associated with STVRs: First is the nuisance issues like noise and trash. Second is the increasing loss of housing stock. These first two problems have existed citywide, and the ordinance should help with them.

However, the third problem, the loss of residential neighborhood feel mentioned above, will continue to exist in many coastal neighborhoods as residents will see their neighborhoods continue to function, in part, as tourist zones. Their frustration is understandable.

As an optimist, I personally believe this problem can be viewed as an outgrowth of the overall amazingly good fortune of most coastal residents, who are able to live where so many other people wish to live or even just visit for a short period. The goal should be to achieve a complete and balanced perspective.

Karl Rand, chair of the Pacific Beach Planning Group