By Pete Fuentes
Over the course of the last several months, the COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally altered life across the United States. The economy, our healthcare system, and our view of the world have all evolved into something that was previously unimaginable.
The change has been challenging, but the pivot toward a new normal has also brought real and meaningful compromise and perspective. A recent announcement from City Councilmember Jennifer Campbell, representatives from UNITE HERE Local 30, and Expedia Group outlining new rules to regulate the short-term rental industry in San Diego is one shining example of that shift.
The virus has impacted the economy and tourism on a global scale; however, San Diego and its many beach communities have been hit especially hard. Short-term rentals are foundational elements of the city, annually contributing $32 million dollars to San Diego’s general fund through local taxes. Once enacted, the announcement will eliminate much of the regulatory limbo that continually hampered short-term rental owners—an unnecessary burden in already troubling times.
As an owner and operator of three vacation rentals in San Diego, I have experienced the economic ramifications brought on by COVID-19 and persistent regulatory hiccups. The momentous agreement forged by these parties will preserve the neighborhood quality of life intrinsic to this area, while also supporting private property rights that facilitate needed income for many short-term rental owners.
At a time when some of us needed it most, Campbell (who represents many of the beach communities, including Mission Beach, Pacific Beach and Ocean Beach), UNITE HERE, and Expedia Group came together to start an open dialogue and facilitate a compromise for the benefit of our community as a whole. I warmly and graciously welcome their recent announcement and proposal outlining a path forward by reducing the volume of whole-home STRs while creating legal inventory for STR platforms and local operators that comply with the rules.
As a result of the compromise forged in this proposal, San Diego is uniquely positioned to weather the economic storm, emerge safely into a new normal, and set a precedent that will allow other communities across the country to engage in a constructive discourse that best suits their specific and collective needs.
As an industry, we’ve implemented other policies to protect neighborhoods and travelers, including strict safety protocols for cleaning homes issued by Vrbo and the Vacation Rental Management Association. This includes wearing personal protective equipment, using recommended disinfectants, and adopting COVID-safe methods for changing linens and bedding. As we prepare for a future when we can reopen our communities to travelers from near and far, my short-term rental properties will be prepared to not only to ensure visitors have an enjoyable stay. but also to protect our local communities and visitors’ health and safety.
San Diego is my home and one of the most beautiful cities in the country. Pristine beaches, world-class restaurants, and a relaxed pace of life are but a few of the many attributes that make our city unique and draw tourists from all corners of the globe. Yet, much like other communities, the COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly impacted our way of life and our ability to make a living.
I again thank Campbell, UNITE HERE, and Expedia Group for recognizing the need to urgently address the regulatory hurdles facing the short-term rental community and propose a compromise that protects the needs of communities while supporting a healthy tourism ecosystem for when it is safe for people to travel again.
Pete Fuentes, a former television news reporter, owns and operates vacation rental properties in the San Diego area.
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