On a recent visit to San Diego, I was reminded why the city is often referred to as “America’s Finest City.” I spoke with Alicia, an Airbnb host from the southeastern neighborhood of Webster, who used home sharing to help pay for her cancer treatments. I met, John from North Park, who is staying home to raise his kids thanks to the supplemental income he makes renting his family’s inlaw unit. And I met Jo Ann, who rents her home in Barrio Logan to help support the nonprofit she started.

It was clear to me that San Diego is a prime example of a community where Airbnb has helped to democratize capitalism. Everyday San Diegans have been able to use their home to help pay for increasingly expensive everyday needs while welcoming visitors who otherwise might not have been able to afford a visit.

Home sharing is not a new concept, especially not in a city like San Diego where generations of families have come to visit the beaches, eat great food and learn the rich history of the city, often staying in vacation rentals. In fact, census data shows the number of vacation rentals in the city has remained relatively stable over the last decade, affirming that people sharing their homes is a time tested practice in San Diego. But home sharing over a digital platform is new, and just like technology had to adapt when we went from the horse and buggy to the car, we need new rules and regulations for today’s home sharing.

Airbnb fundamentally believes that to be regulated is to be recognized. Since we got started in 2008, we have learned a lot by working with hundreds of governments around the world to create clear, fair and practical rules around home sharing. Our company and our community are eager to put these lessons to work here in San Diego and create a regulatory framework that drives economic development, supports local families and protects neighborhood quality of life.

Here is what we believe could work in San Diego based on the lessons we’ve learned from other cities:

• Define Short-Term Rental: It seems simple, but it’s important for the city to define short-term rentals as the occupancy of a residence for some time less than 30 days;


We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?

• Being a Good Neighbor: Hosts who are renting their home – whether it’s the whole home or a room – should agree to adhere to good neighbor standards and be available when those neighbors or local law and code enforcement needs to reach them;

• Funding for Enforcement: A dedicated funding stream should be created that will ensure San Diego has the resources to investigate and enforce noise and nuisance related complaints

• Register Short-Term Rentals: Short-term rentals should be registered through permitting that could pay for the aforementioned enforcement efforts

This isn’t an exhaustive list and we’re hopeful we can continue conversations with the city. Unfortunately, Councilwoman Barbara Bry’s recently released proposal put forth limits thousands of hosts from using what is their biggest asset — their home — to help make ends meet.

A law like this would hurt San Diego families who rely on home sharing and the many neighborhood businesses who benefit from additional visitor spending. A typical host in San Diego earns about $6,000 a year using Airbnb and opens their space to visitors roughly 43 nights per year.

Just last year, Airbnb guests spent $71 million in San Diego’s restaurants and generated $282 million in economic activity for the city at large. For the neighborhoods outside of the traditional hotel districts, this is an important economic boost that allows many small businesses to keep their doors open. And while hotels continue to build up and out in San Diego, benefitting the tourist economy, we need to ensure that the neighborhoods and their residents continue to reap the benefits of extra dollars being spent at their local cafes, restaurants, shops and gas stations.

There is work to be done to improve the current regulatory environment for short-term rentals in San Diego, but policies that so significantly restrict whole home sharing just aren’t the right approach.

San Diego needs a comprehensive proposal that fosters community, economic empowerment and innovation. We look forward to working together with city officials and the San Diego community over the next several weeks and months to find the right solution.

Christopher Lehane is Airbnb’s head of global policy and public affairs.

    This article relates to: Opinion, Vacation Rentals

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    12 comments
    Bob Stein
    Bob Stein subscriber

    Cut through the gauzy imagery at work here of Airbnb’s contribution to cancer treatment, charitable nonprofits, even democracy, and what Lehane is really saying is that: Bry’s plan “significantly restrict[s] whole home sharing” and Airbnb won’t tolerate it.

    What he means in plain English is that Airbnb is against local government trying to limit absentee investors and landlords from operating within your neighborhood.Why?My guess is Airbnb needs “hosts” whose livelihood is dependent on turning single family neighborhood homes into full-time mini hotels in order to make its profit goals.

    It’s no mistake Lehane ignored this line of argument – corporations never want you to think they’re in business to make money, but only to help you live a better life -- and instead focuses you on dreamy, feel good ideals like “home sharing,” and “democratizing capitalism.”

    Remember those dreams when the weekend drunks next door wake you up at 4am; you’re hosing their vomit off your sidewalk; and the absentee “host” won’t return your calls.

    Keep up the fight Barbara.


    Hilary Nemchik
    Hilary Nemchik

    It is difficult to determine what exactly about Councilmember Bry’s proposal Mr. Lehane opposes here. Mr. Lehane highlights the importance of home sharing to both San Diego families and our overall economy, and under Bry’s proposal unlimited true home sharing is protected. In other words, anyone can rent out a room in their home or a guest unit for an unlimited number of days per year as long as the host lives on site. Alicia from Webster and John from North Park could continue to home share under this plan.

    In addition, Bry’s proposal allows homeowners to utilize their biggest asset by renting out their entire primary residence on a short-term basis (time period less than 30 days) for up to 90 days, which is more than double the number of days Mr. Lehane cites as the average (43). Residents who want to rent out their entire home for 30 days or more at a time would not be impacted by Bry’s proposal. This 90 day limit is meant to prevent investors from purchasing homes in residential neighborhoods and converting them to full-time mini-hotels. If Jo Ann from Barrio Logan rents her own primary residence on a short-term basis for fewer than 90 days per year, she would not be impacted by Councilmember Bry’s proposed regulations.

    Bry’s plan also includes all of the suggestions that Mr. Lehane makes for regulating STRs—defining them as any time period less than 30 days, requiring respectful and neighborly conduct on the part of hosts and guests, registering all STRs, and designating funding for enforcement (fees from registration permits).

    As we all know, San Diego is experiencing a severe housing shortage. A recent report by Professor Alan Gin for the USD Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate shows that short-term rentals currently contribute to the depletion of our housing stock. Councilmember Bry’s plan is a compromise that allows for unique and affordable accommodation options for visitors and also preserves our precious housing stock for San Diego families.

    Hilary Nemchik

    Communications Director

    Office of Councilmember Barbara Bry

    Al Allen
    Al Allen

    @Hilary Nemchik Of all the cities in our state, San Diego's so called "Housing Crisis" is the smaller of them all. Fact is our city has always had a housing shortage, always will. People want to live here. Problem is too many people. http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-sac-california-high-housing-prices-20160414-story.html


    No need to make up terms like "Crisis" when it really isn't. Politicians love to use "Crisis" to push their issues, failing to understand the definition "A time of intense difficulty, danger." Houston now has a housing crisis. New Orleans had a housing crisis after the hurricane hit. San Diego? Give me a break.


    Local news reports show 40% of an new homes cost is due to regulatory compliance. Payments for this, for that, environmental fees, on and on and on. Sad to say our elected politicians are directly to blame for all these extra fees, don't want to talk about it. 

    http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/business/growth-development/sdut-housing-regulation-cost-nazarene-2015apr29-htmlstory.html


    Every year politicians add more fees to the cost of home building when they should be doing just the opposite. Taking care of their constituents should be priority versus the special interest groups. 


    http://www.lao.ca.gov/reports/2015/finance/housing-costs/housing-costs.aspx


    https://www.cnbc.com/2016/05/18/for-homebuilders-new-regulations-mean-no-new-starter-homes.html


    We'll believe our elected politicians are serious about increasing affordable housing then they finally realize they are the problem and start reducing regulatory costs. 


    Until then, as they would say in Hawaii, all you are doing is talking shibai. 

    Don Wood
    Don Wood subscriber

    There should be no limit on local homeowners being able to rent their homes out while they are on vacation. What has really screwed up this business was the entry of corporate landlords, absentee landlords who buy up multiple homes then advertising them as rental party houses, with no consideration of that that causes for neighbors in the community. Homeowners live in their neighborhoods most of the year, and won't rent to crazies who are only interested in getting drunk and making too much noise. Most homeowners who rent their own homes out don't want to come home to a trashed house and pissed off neighbors. They have every incentive to limit their tenants to quiet, responsible old friends who they've been renting to for decades. They are the complete

    opposite of absentee corporate landlords who never live in the houses they rent out. City policy should treat these two groups of landlords differently. 

    Al Allen
    Al Allen

    Talk about a completely Fake News title, "Short-Term Rental Proposal Limits Homeowners’ Ability to Use Their Biggest Asset"


    These whiners forget one main point. Your area is Zoned "Residential" not commercial for hotels and motels, rental apartments. What part of this do you willfully fail to understand? All of it.


    As for using your biggest asset, the federal government lets you deduct all the mortgage interest for your primary residence. A real nice break for your "Asset."


    Lets not forget your "Asset" will usually appreciate in value better than most financial investments. Your "Asset" will be worth more. 


    If you can't live with these two massive "Asset" benefits, perhaps you need to buy and run a hotel/motel. 


    In my neighborhood where I grew up in the 60s, everyone owned their homes, took pride in them. Now several homes are rentals, you can see how they stand out from owner occupied. 


    Owners of rentals of any types have little concern for outside appearance. Just get their rent on time, do absolute minimum maintenance.


    Limit short term rentals to 90 days a year. Must be in full ADA compliance for access, doorways, handles, everything. Fire alarm and sprinkler system installed. Off street parking required. Subject to unannounced city health and safety inspections. Results posted online for all to see with pictures. Must pay all tourism and business related taxes. And for each month rented you lose 1/12th of your home mortgage interest deduction. Not a home, its a business.


    mike johnson
    mike johnson subscriber

    The police cannot take of problem houses at Mission Beach.  So why do you think they will be able to take care of problem short term rental all over the city.


    People who rent for a couple days are here most of the time to party. If there are 2000 rental on the weekend. If only 10% are bad.  That is 200 neighbors on both sides of the unit that are not happy with the partying.


    Lucky for me. Next door unit was purchased and he began short term rental. After getting his unit trashed a few times. He went to 9 months rentals and weekly rental during the summer. Problem solved for him and me.

    craig Nelson
    craig Nelson

    We will all soon be sending paint chips and photos of our pets to Ms. Bry at her La Jolla palace so she can determine if they are acceptable or if they should be banished from Eden. 

    Bry and the government need to get out of our lives and homes. I would suggest they tackle the homeless issue but they can't even fill a pothole so I'll happily settle for them just going away. 

    Steve Miller
    Steve Miller subscribermember

    The VoSD fact check of this opinion piece content is damning.

    http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/government/fact-check-just-strictly-brys-plan-limit-short-term-vacation-rentals/

    But, since Airbnb wants to give us information, I would like to learn from them...


    @Christopher Lehane We would not be debating how to limit short term occupancy if the rate of renter problems was not so high.  What does Airbnb do to tag and exclude from re-rental the problematic renters?  How does this corporation help its owners filter potential renters -- and why is it not effective in preventing these problems?  How have other communities effectively addressed these renter problems?  As of yet, you have offered nothing to address the real issues of the suffering neighbors of your rentals.


    Sean M
    Sean M subscriber

    Loud parties have been a problem before Airbnb existed, police used to come and issue fines and break parties up, but that doesn't happen so much anymore. Neighbors have to deal with loud disturbances because the SDPD takes an hour and a half to answer the non-emergency line, which isn't Airbnb's fault, but Airbnb still needs to find a way to deal with the party problem.

    Chris Brewster
    Chris Brewster subscribermember

    The online companies like Airbnb that facilitate vacation rentals have been hiding behind people like those mentioned in the first paragraph of this promotional piece. A cancer survivor, a nonprofit overseer. It’s quite sickening considering Airbnb and their ilk have no real altruistic intent, but are only aiming to maximize their corporate profits by turning residential neighborhoods into hotel zones.

    Ironically, Councilmember Bry’s proposal would allow the types of rentals that Mr. Lehane references in his piece. People could rent a room in their home all year. People could rent all of their primary residence, while they are absent, for 90 days a year. Presumably they would rent to responsible people because they will be living alongside their neighbors the rest of the year.

    Mr. Lehane states that, “Unfortunately, Councilwoman Barbara Bry’s recently released proposal put forth limits thousands of hosts from using what is their biggest asset — their home — to help make ends meet.” How so? Mr. Lehane states, “A typical host in San Diego … opens their space to visitors roughly 43 nights per year.” Ms. Bry’s proposal would allow 90 days of whole-home rentals a year, twice what Mr. Lehane purports to be the average.

    I live beside a three unit townhome that is eight feet from my single family home. The owners of two of the units are out of town (Northern California and Carlsbad) investors who rent their units (and others) as a business. Although my zoning area limits their rentals to a seven-day minimum, they advertise online for shorter stays and despite repeated complaints to Code Compliance, nothing happens. We thus live next door to a hotel in a residential area. Large groups come and go constantly, make noise late at night, etc.

    All that Ms. Bry’s proposal really prevents is people buying up residential properties and renting them out as hotels in residential areas, which is hollowing out neighborhoods throughout San Diego. 

    Ms. Bry’s proposal also does the things Mr. Lehane suggests in the bullets here. It defines short-term rentals as the occupancy of a residence for some time less than 30 days. It requires adherence to good neighbor standards such that people must be available when those neighbors or local law and code enforcement need to reach them. It requires people to register short-term rentals. 

    So yes, let people rent rooms and their primary residences, with reasonable limits; but let’s stop the insanity of residential neighborhood destruction.

    And let's recognize that this piece is pure propaganda from a corporate behemoth which cares nothing at all about San Diego.

    Steve Miller
    Steve Miller subscribermember

    @Chris Brewster If the city of SD will not enforce its laws and regulations, what about filing a civil suit -- perhaps in small claims court?  If I were an airbnb owner out of town, I would not want the hassle of being sued and would work harder to find non-problem renters.

    Chris Brewster
    Chris Brewster subscribermember

    Mr. Miller: Under the current regulations, it is very difficult to get redress in civil court. However, under Ms. Bry's proposal, it would be much less complicated and would obviate the need to rely on Code Compliance. Here's what her proposed ordinance states: "Violation of any provision of the SDMC related to a short term occupancy is a public nuisance. In addition to any other remedy set forth in SDMC, any person who has suffered, or alleges to have suffered damage to person or property because of a violation of the SDMC related to short term occupancy, may bring any action for money damages or any other appropriate relief in a court of competent jurisdiction against the party alleged to have violated the SDMC. A prevailing plaintiff may recover reasonable attorney’s fees in any such action. Nothing in this section shall be construed to create any right of action against the City."