Locals in Mission Beach and Pacific Beach who say their neighborhoods are increasingly jammed full of unregulated mini-hotels are right, according to the city treasurer’s annual count of short-term rentals. But other neighborhoods — downtown and North Park among them — are also seeing an uptick in apartments, condos, and homes that are no longer places where families live.
Just more than 3300 homes are listed on the treasurer's transit occupancy tax rolls. That's somewhere between a half and a third of the estimated 6600 and 10,000 (Save San Diego Neighborhoods) short-term vacation rentals throughout the city. Both say their estimates are based on searches of sites including Airbnb, VRBO and FlipKey. The number registered with the treasurer is up between 15 and 25 percent from last year, according to the city's data, released in spreadsheet form.
Predictably, the majority of those rentals are in beach communities — there are more than 2600 in Mission Beach, Ocean Beach, La Jolla, and Pacific Beach. But there are also nearly 200 registered in North Park-Normal Heights, and downtown has 141 registered listings.
Among the downtown listings: five apartments in the Heritage Apartments and another four in the apartment building kitty-corner to the Heritage. Heritage has a no-vacation-rental policy, the management company said. Form 15, at 14th and Market streets, has 16 rental units registered. Form 15 declined to "participate" by articulating their policy.
In Mission Valley, five apartments at Aquatera are registered as short-term rentals named the Sunshine Suites, with other Sunshine Suites at three other locations.
Meanwhile, The city has two proposals afloat from two groups of city-council members.
Save San Diego Neighborhoods — an organization that emphasizes the problems in the beach areas — has been struggling with the issue of rentals for several years.
Tom Coats, the immediate past president of the group (he resigned this week) has lived next door to a short-term rental house in Pacific Beach for eight and a half years. He says the five-bedroom house is not one of the dreaded party houses in his neighborhood.
“It’s a house used for reunions and family gatherings, so the adults put the kids to bed and sit on the deck talking and drinking wine,” he said. “I lay in bed and hear them many nights a month.” Another nearby house is up for sale, Coats said. But not as a family home. “It’s being sold as an investment — the listing says the average monthly rent revenues are $9827. How can a family compete with that? We’ll get more and more investors until we’re a neighborhood without neighbors.”
(The treasurer’s office declined to provide answers to any questions regarding transient occupancy tax revenue totals, instead directing questions to the NextRequest system. Use of the system results in the questions being delivered to the same department staff that I queried. It does, however, add weeks of delay and layers of handling, and prohibits immediate clarification or additional questions.)
The city treasurer’s August 2017 spreadsheet listing rentals does not include comprehensive owner information and mailing addresses for property taxes, thus making it difficult to identify investors who have been buying homes and converting them to rentals.
The estimate of just a third of the owners registering is pretty consistent with what San Francisco found when the Office of Short Term Rentals began enforcing its 2014 ordinance, according to Omar Masry, acting director.
“No one wants a clown car house next door,” Masry said. “We’ve had people put 16 bunk beds in each room and create a de facto hostel….
“We tend to not get complaints about the registered rentals. The worst offenders we see do things like sign leases to rent from unsuspecting landlords and then set the premises up as short-term rentals,” he said. “Our ordinance is structured so the landlord is responsible — so we try to work with them to get the units into compliance.”
In San Francisco, horror stories abound. In a city where the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $4500, landlords have kicked out most or all of the rent-controlled tenants to turn apartment buildings into, well, unregulated hotels, he said. They’ve caught illegal entrepreneurs leasing industrial buildings, and there are even RVs and vans that are offered for overnight guests.
Like San Diego, the Bay Area has an “investor class," people who rent or buy multiple residences specifically to turn them into short-term rentals. Mission Beach has been inundated by the investor class, community members say: on October 19th, there were 35 rentals located on the 1.3-mile-long strand.