San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott reiterated that short-term rentals are illegal in San Diego through an official memo to the Mayor and City Council Wednesday afternoon. This is a major win for business leaders, housing advocates and the San Diego economy. For too long, more than 5,000 prime, entire-home housing units with over 10,000 bedrooms have been illegally repurposed as visitor accommodations on Airbnb alone (Airbnb is just one of 31 short-term rental sites in San Diego).  Experts place the total short-term rental market in San Diego at over 12,000 units and growing.  This makes San Diego’s housing crisis worse resulting in employee recruiting and retention issues. “We can’t overstate how much our housing affordability crisis is holding back our economy,” said Sean Karafin, executive director of policy and economic research at the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce (Times of San Diego 7/16/2016).
Meanwhile, the Airbnb’s spin masters jumped into action with their easily debunked set of alternative facts. Airbnb spokeswoman Jasmine Mora stated to the San Diego Union Tribune that “Thousands of San Diegans rely on home sharing to make ends meet and supplement their incomes.” To be clear, the majority of Airbnb’s revenue comes from whole house rentals and not home sharing where a person rents out a portion of the home they occupy. Further, half of the whole house revenue is from professional “hosts” that own multiple units (
Peter Cohen, Co-director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations said “Affordable housing advocates from coast to coast agree: Airbnb in particular and the short-term-rental industry in general is facilitating a housing crisis by incentivizing property investors to convert homes and apartments into illegal hotels, thus decreasing the available housing stock and driving rent prices up. This is clearly no longer a mom and pop “hosting” activity—it’s become a profitable commercial enterprise. Rather than rein in this “hotelization” of our housing, Airbnb lets them flourish – and everyday working families pay the price.”
Behind the scenes, Airbnb’s lobbyists are working at a frenzied pace to change San Diego laws through City Councilmembers willing to ignore the housing crisis. Rumor has it that Chris Cate, who represents some of the hardest hit neighborhoods, wants to make mini-hotels legal city wide. This despite the fact that his Mira Mesa, Sorrento Valley and Kearny Mesa neighborhoods have seen drastic rent increases and displacement of long-term residents caused by illegal short-term rentals. Beyond the hundreds of illegal rentals in his district, Chris’ constituents are suffering housing pressure from the influx of renters that previously lived along the coast and transit corridors where short-term rental density is higher.
Because voters negatively impacted by short-term rentals citywide greatly outnumber those that benefit from the illegal conversion of homes into hotels, we at expect future elections to mirror the last where all three pro-housing and neighborhood candidates beat the Airbnb-backed candidates. Congratulations again to Mara Elliot, Barbara Bry and Georgette Gomez.