City Attorney Declares Short Term Rentals Not Permitted in San Diego

On March 15, 2017,San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott issued a memorandum of law declaring that short term vacation rentals in single family residences are not permitted under the Municipal Code. The basis for her position is that the City has a “permissive zoning ordinance” which means that if a particular use is not listed, it is not permitted. Currently the Municipal Code does not include any express provisions related to short term rentals, and in fact, prior to this memorandum, opponents of short term rentals have claimed that vacation rentals would qualify as a “visitor accommodation” which was not permitted under the zoning code. Attorney Elliott’s position is a complete 180 from the prior City Attorneys who have issued memorandums of law stating that there is no express restriction against conducting short term rentals in single family zones, and that the municipal code as currently written is vague and unenforceable with regards to short term rentals. Multi-family zoned units will continue to have a minimum 7 night stay as currently required under the code. It is apparent that the City will need to amend their Municipal Code to explicitly address this short term rental issue, but until that happens, it sounds like the City Attorney is gearing up to start enforcing violations which will include penalizing owners of single family homes if they are conducting short term rentals in the City. The Planning Commission met last week to discuss proposed amendments to the Municipal Code to incorporate restrictions on short term rentals and home sharing, however any amendments will require a vote by the City Council before they become law.

Comments 2

  1. Currently living at a home my wife purchased in 1985. We moved to Europe for 12 years as I was employed by an American Tech firm to start and run.
    We moved back to San Diego to our home in N. Clairemont. Over the years we saw the Neighborhood is for Neighbors signs but short term rentals did not effect us.
    Starting three months ago, our neighbors who had only lived in their home for four years, suddenly moved and left no forwarding address.
    Within one week of their move out, people from Washington, LA, New Mexico started staying from 1 day to 1 week.
    We complained about the noise to the renters,, they cared less. They blocked our driveway and the driveway of the rental home thus making local residents get off the sidewalk into the street.
    I called parking enforcement and they ticketed the renters.
    About 1..5 weeks ago, 10 young people stayed at the home for 4 days. Noise and music until 3am. We had no telephont number of our former neighbor, thus we called the police. They are too busy of course to come out for a complaint of noise but at least my wife and I felt we were being proactive.
    Soon after the 10 young people left, my wife politely asked the Air Bnb manager to whom she could complain too. He was aggressive and at first denied he worked for Airbnb but then admitted they paid him to manage the property. At this point my wife stated she only had the alternative to call the police when rude tenants show up. He got mad and asked if she was threatening her. At this point she said nothing.
    Soon after I found the association that produces the Neighborhoods are for Neighbors association and placed a sign in our front yard.
    A day later the owner showed up, a young lawyer and stared at the sign and drove off.
    He did speak with my wife before coming out to his house and made accusations that I jumped the fence into his yard and made threats against his tenants, a lie. Then he lied about he had spoken with neighbors on both sides of our house,
    Yesterday, I received a call from a director of the Neighborhood for Neighbors association and was asked did my wife order four signs for my neighbors address?
    I was surprised as I asked, why would we and secondly how did she get my wife’s name?
    The tenant, the lawyer made a false statement that it was my wife Claire.
    Last point, we have a neighbor on our other side, another lawyer who attended Call Western in San Diego and are putting up a very large granny flat and I suspect it will be use for short term rentals. Already the wife of the lawyer asked the last tenants who recently stayed at the Airbnb house what was with the sign. I believe she is panicked as they want to rent out their space and not really have Grandma move in.
    My question, what rights do my wife and I have for a property we owned for over 30 years on a canyon. Do we need to suffer nightly worrying whether we can sleep at night?

    1. Post

      Thank you for your comment. Unfortunately the City of San Diego has not officially enacted any new laws restricting or permitting short term rentals. For this reason the City is also not enforcing any restrictions. Homeowners are within their rights to do short term rentals for now provided they pay the TOT taxes and register with the city and get a transient occupancy certificate. Other than what you are currently doing, there is unfortunately not much you can do about a noisy neighbor or Airbnb guest. Other cities have requirements that a 24 hour call number be posted for noise complaints and provide a number at the city that you can call to alert them to violations. San Diego does not have this yet, but you could try calling the city code enforcement line as a long shot. I doubt they will be able to do anything but they may at least send someone out to the house to inspect or require the owner to register with the city as a rental property if they haven’t already.

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