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.

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