Panel advances home-sharing,

declines on whole-home rentals


MARCH 24, 2017 - In a victory for opponents of short-term vacation rentals, San Diego's Smart Growth and Land Use Committee today agreed that only a proposal regulating home-sharing should go before the entire City Council with its recommendation. At the same time, the panel declined to push for any of three options brought by the Development Services Department (DSD) dealing with whole-home rentals.


The decision of the committee has the effect of separating home-sharing - where owners are present and rent out rooms - from whole-home rentals, where no owners are on site. And, because today's three draft proposals were considered by a three-person panel that included the two staunchest supporters of vacation rentals on the City Council, the decision may mean more restrictive action on whole-home rentals is possible when the issue goes before a more-balanced full City Council.


The full City Council will likely next take up the vacation rental issue in late August or early September, when DSD staff said it could come back with more details.


After hours of testimony today, Councilmember Chris Cate quickly made a motion to adopt Option 3 offered by the DSD. The plan was the most lenient of three options regarding whole-house rentals and closely mirrored a plan offered by Cate himself. Smart Growth Chair Scott Sherman seconded the Cate's proposal. However, the third member of the panel, Councilmember Georgette Gomez, said that while she could support the home-sharing part of the DSD Option 3 plan, she would not support the part of the plan dealing with whole-home rentals. So, the vote was 2-1. However, because only three members of the panel were present, a unanimous vote was needed for passage.


Gomez then made a motion to recommend the home-sharing part of Option 3, but not recommend any option for whole-home rentals. Cate seconded the motion. It passed 3-0.


"I feel there's a big difference between owner-occupied home-sharing and whole-home rentals where the owner is not around when issues potentially arise, especially at night and on weekends," said Gomez. "Particularly, I feel there is a difference between investor-owned whole-home rentals and those simply trying to make ends meet. It is primarily these properties that are not owner-occupied that seem to be contributing to negative impacts, whose effects are being felt throughout neighborhoods, primarily in single-family neighborhoods. For those reasons, I feel this issue should be addressed separately."


Gomez also said Councilmembers Barbara Bry (District 1) and Lorie Zapf (District 2) should have significant input on any vacation rental proposals because their districts are the most affected by the issue.


Quotes from the Smart Growth

hearing on vacation rentals


  • "They talk about the sharing economy. We do not get shared with. We do not get any benefit at all for having our peace and quiet destroyed." - Carolyn Marsden

  • "It's (STVR) much more than noise. It's a matter of community. The first sentence in the zoning code is that residential zones are for providing housing for the citizens of San Diego. If it doesn't provide housing for a citizen of San Diego, it shouldn't be in a residential zone." - Bill Vail

  • "Tourists are being treated as first-class citizens. It's time residents are treated the same way, not as second-class citizens." - Gary Reese

  • "(STVR are) causing an escalation in housing prices, which is pricing out of the market people who would like to buy property to either live with their family or rent on a long-term basis." - Gary Klein

  • "The creators of San Diego's Municipal Code knew they couldn't anticipate every change to come. So, like the creators of the U.S. Constitution, they made their intentions crystal clear. 'The purpose of RS Zones,' they wrote, 'is to ... promote neighborhood quality, character and livability." - Tom Coat

City Attorney: STVR prohibited

under City's Municipal Code


San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott has issued a memorandum of law advising the City Council and Mayor that short-term vacation rentals (STVR) are illegal in the city's residential zones.


"The City has a "permissive zoning ordinance." This means that any use that is not listed in the City's zoning ordinance is prohibited. Short-term vacation rentals are not specifically defined, expressly permitted, or listed in any of the zone use categories, including residential or commercial," Elliott said in her memo, issued on March 15.


The memo is a game-changer in a struggle begun by citizens in 2007 to regulate STVR. Save San Diego Neighborhoods and others have long argued that the San Diego Municipal Code prohibits owner-unoccupied vacation rentals in residential zones. The memo confirms that view is, and has been, correct.


In the wake of Elliott's memo, Bry issued the following statement:


"I was pleased to read the memo issued by City Attorney Mara Elliott confirming that short-term vacation rentals do not fall under any permissible use in the Municipal Code and are therefore prohibited in the City of San Diego. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Council to determine the best way to allow property owners to participate in home sharing, while also enforcing existing City Code to protect residential communities from the proliferation of mini-hotels."


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Save San Diego Neighborhoods is 401-C non-profit that relies on your support. Please donate. Even $5 will help. Thank you. Contact us at

Save San Diego Neighborhoods is 401-C non-profit that relies on your support. Please donate. Even $5 will help. Thank you. Contact us at

The City Attorney's memo is available

on the desktop version of this website.

Save San Diego Neighborhoods is 401-C non-profit that relies on your support. Please donate. Even $5 will help. Thank you. Contact us at