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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;
• 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.