San Diego’s Draft Airbnb Rules: Simply Explained

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November 14, 2015 by Omar Passons

The listing of the original Airbnb unit in SF

The listing of the original Airbnb unit in SF

I found myself in a conversation with a friend of mine in which we disagreed on whether the proposed rules for home sharing and vacation rental in the city of San Diego could be explained in some simple, straight forward way. My chief complaint is that our city leaders – and those running for office to be city leaders – are not meeting a basic obligation to explain to the general public the proposed rules for these services. Although I agree with my friend that there are many complicated questions about what rights people have and why/whether we should regulate and what issues the rules address, none of these things impacts the ability to tell a basic story about what the proposed rules are. To make my point, here is a very simple bullet list of some of the more important rules that would go into effect if the city approved the current draft law. This is not legal advice, it’s a note I originally posted on my Facebook page.
  1. The new rules would apply to home swapping, Airbnb, VRBO, couchsurfing.com and, technically, paying someone to house sit (yes, I only included the house sitting example to show how silly I think the rule is, not to mention hard to enforce).
  2. If you rent space in your home for less than 30 days you have to “remain present” the entire time the person is there. I can’t explain what this means because I have no idea and there is nothing in the law that explains it. I include it here because whatever it means, it’s a rule you would have to follow to avoid hefty code enforcement fines.
  3. It is ILLEGAL to use more than 25% of the total space in your home for home sharing (note: if you have a small home, you are likely out of luck)
  4. You MUST have one extra parking space for every two people if you home share. If you only have one parking space for yourself, it is ILLEGAL to home share.
  5. If you rent to people with different rental accounts (e.g. two friends – or strangers – with their own Airbnb accounts), you MUST obtain a $5,000 – $10,000 bed and breakfast permit first. (Note: if the same two people use one rental account, then no need for the expensive permit. No, you aren’t imagining things, that doesn’t make any sense at all)
  6. If you are renting out a second home as a vacation rental, you must have 200 square feet per occupant. (Note: If you have a 3 bedroom, 800 square foot home, for example, you are limited to four people even though the place has 3 bedrooms.
  7. If you are renting out a second home as a vacation rental in a residential area, you would be limited to 21-day minimum stays and no more than 2 occupants per bedroom plus 2 additional people (e.g. if you have a 3 bedroom house you are limited to 8 people – not unreasonable, IMO)
  8. There would be no minimum stay requirement for home-sharing – renting out rooms or portions of your home.
So, these are the proposed rules explained in plain English. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether these rules are too complicated to be provided to all constituents so that any vote is based on a meaningful grasp of what’s expected. There are, of course, many aspects of these rules that I take issue with.  But even if you think they are fantastic, can we agree that the leaders of our city ought to be explaining them in ways that can be understood?
I’m usually not one to complain without offering solutions. So if you want a more detailed analysis of the proposed rules and some suggested policy alternatives, you can find those at this link. Cheers!
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