By Scott Gruby.
Websites like Airbnb and VRBO have given rise to the so-called sharing economy, where people “share” an extra room or a week at their house with complete strangers.
While the legalities of this may be questionable, many people don’t seem to mind a neighbor renting out a room for a few weeks, or even an entire house while the owner is away.
Some property owners, however, are exploiting the sudden popularity of the sharing economy to turn their properties into mini-hotels where they are only rented out on a short-term basis, with rentals as short as two days. Renters can use these for bachelor/bachelorette parties or other types of noisy events, with no respect for the neighborhoods. They can bring noise, parking problems and trash, as well as increased crime.
These mini-hotels in residential neighborhoods go against the intent of residential zones and need to be eliminated. They are being operated as businesses, and should be treated as such.
Are short-term rentals businesses or are they something else? If they’re businesses, the city has regulations about them in residential neighborhoods. If they’re hotels, they should abide by the same health and safety regulations.
Some point out that guests save money by staying in a short-term rental of someone’s house. These savings can be directly attributed to the corners that owners cut. The properties should carry commercial liability insurance, and undergo regular inspections. If they have a pool or hot tub, those facilities need the proper safety equipment that’s mandated in hotels.
This issue doesn’t affect most San Diego residents, so why should they care? If the trend of turning houses into full-time vacation rentals continues, entire neighborhoods could be turned into rows and rows of mini-hotels. With our current housing crisis in San Diego, it doesn’t make sense to turn houses that permanent San Diego residents could call home into short-term rentals, just to benefit the property owners.
Banning short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods isn’t the only answer. Indeed, the City Council has mostly ignored calls for an outright ban. So it’s time to think about a compromise.
To meet the needs of all the residents, members of City Council should consider only allowing short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods as accessory uses of a property, with a minimum rental period of, say, seven days. Home-based businesses are considered an accessory use of a property; putting short-term rentals into this category would make sense.
Doing so would allow property owners to participate in the sharing economy while preserving our neighborhoods.
Scott Gruby lives in San Diego’s West Clairemont and has advocated to ban short-term rentals in residential areas. Gruby’s commentary has been edited for style and clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.