San Diego, California

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City Ordinance for Short Term Rentals in San Diego

Navigating the rules around short term and vacation rentals in San Diego

San Diego is one of the most polarizing cities when it comes to the short term rental debate. 
The tourist haven has gone from embracing short-term rentals and providing a relatively friendly regulatory climate, to holding city council meetings to discuss the possibility of banning short-term rentals all together.

Main Takeaways:

City Councilwoman, Barbara Bry, has a drafted ordinance on the table. Her proposed ordinance is as follows:

  • The owner of the property must be on site.
  • “Short-term occupancy” is now defined as any property leased or rented for less than 30 days.
  • Short term rentals will only be allowed to rent out their homes for an annual 90-day maximum.
  • Renters will have to apply for a permit, pay an undetermined fee, and make sure that their neighbors are aware that their property is being used as a short term rental.
  • You can find the seven page draft ordinance by clicking here.

Other ideas on the table:

  • Improved enforcement
  • “Three strikes” rule
  • A complete ban on STRs
  • What does the current legislation look like?
  • The city does not currently regulate full home rentals
  • If a room is rented in an occupied home, a homeowner must have a neighborhood use permit to act as a bed and breakfast
  • There is an 11% accommodations tax
  • There is a business tax of at least $50
  • Homeowners must be able to provide 2 parking spaces

Who is fighting against San Diego’s short term rentals?

Who is fighting for San Diego’s short term rentals?

 The conversation regarding regulating short term rentals in San Diego began back in December of 2015 when District 2 City Council member Lorie Zapf brought a short-term rental draft ordinance to the table. When the draft ordinance was heard, a six hour public testimony brought various concerns to light, mainly regarding the verbiage used in the ordinance. City planners determined that Zapf’s proposed ordinance needed to be heavily rewritten before they could support the ordinance.

 The short-term rental debate seemed to cool off up until November of 2016 when Barbara Bry hit the City Council campaign trail. Part of her campaign’s promise was to draft a short-term vacation rental ordinance that both city planners and community members could support. In order to do so, Bry asked that San Diego City Attorney, Mara Elliot, issue a legal opinion regarding STRs.

MARCH 15, 2017
: Elliot came back determining that the city of San Diego does not allow short-term vacation rentals in single-family residential zones. Elliot stated:

The City has a ‘permissive zoning ordinance’ … This means that any use that is not listed in the City’s zoning ordinance is prohibited. Short-term rentals are not specifically defined, expressly permitted, or listed in any of the zone use categories, including residential or commercial.

District 1 City Council member Barbara Bry introduces her draft ordinance on short-term vacation rentals on August, 30th.

AUGUST 30, 2017
: City Councilwoman Barbara Bry hosted a town hall meeting on STRs to collect feedback on her drafted Short-Term Occupancy and Home-Sharing Ordinance. During the course of an hour of public testimony and feedback, San Diegans shared STR horror stories, which included stories of “mini coachellas”, non-stop noise, and their worries about having new neighbors every weekend.

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At this town hall meeting, hosts using platforms such as HomeAway, Airbnb, and VRBO shared their stories of how these platforms have allowed them to pay for their mortgages, their children’s college tuition, and have allowed them to continue to live in San Diego, despite the city’s ever-rising rent rates. In San Diego city limits alone, 4,900 “hosts” rent out either a portion or their entire home.

Bry’s drafted ordinance would allow for home-sharing only if the owner is present on-site. Bry explained to those attending the public hearing that “this includes a room in your house or a granny flat if you are in the main house or if you are in the granny flat and they are in the main house”. Among this change are that the ordinance now defines a short-term rental as one whose leased residence is less than 30 days, there is now an annual maximum 90-day on STRs, a required permit and a $100 fee that all renters must pay, and their neighbors must be informed that the property next door is available for short-term renting. The seven-page draft ordinance can be found by clicking here. Bry explained to attendees that her “...draft ordinance prohibits investors (from) buying single-family homes in residential neighborhoods and turning them into de facto mini-hotels”.

The problem is enforcement. Currently, the San Diego Police Department is severely understaffed, meaning that responding to STR infractions is at the bottom of the chain. Also, Bry’s suggested 90-day STR rental maximum is a nightmare when it comes to enforcement.

September 19, 2017: San Diego City Council members David Alvarez, Mark Kersey, Chris Ward, and Scott Sherman released a new STR proposal in hopes of fairly regulating vacation rentals.

Their plan requires:

  • A minimum of three night stays
  • A system for enforcement and issuing permits
  • Everyone follow a state occupancy standard
  • All renters be provided with a code of conduct detailing issues such as noise, parking, trash, etc.

What can I do?

Bry’s Vacation Rental Ordinance is expected to be voted on by City Council on October 23rd. There is still plenty of time to let your voice be heard. Reach out to City Councilwoman Barbara Bry, contact STRACA and Share San Diego, take to social media, and make sure you stay up to date with Rent Responsibly.

Reach Out:

Barbara Bry


Phone Number: (619) 236-6611

David Alvarez


Phone Number: (619) 236-6688

Mark Kersey


Phone Number: (619) 236-6655

Scott Sherman


Phone Number: (619) 238-1360

Chris Ward


Phone Number: (619) 236-6633