Oceanside squeezes short-term rentals inland – but what about the beach? – San Diego Reader

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Bob Weatherston

Beachfront in Oceanside north of pier

Oceanside has approved a moratorium on new short term rentals in all residential zoning districts outside the city’s coastal zone.

It’s only the start, as the city tries to tame what has in some cases morphed into 12-bedroom venues that lure crowds of over 35 people at a time. The inland areas targeted hold 283 vacation rentals, while the beach is where over 70 percent of them cluster.

“We’re spending all this time on an ordinance that frankly does nothing for nobody,” said attorney Marco Gonzalez. “The issue is the coastal zone.”

It’s where the complaints about loud parties and “commercialized homes” are worst. And despite multiple complaints at some addresses, not once has the city ever pulled anyone’s permit.

“This is no longer a mom and pop business,” said Jay Goldberg, who runs Nice Neighbors San Diego, which analyzes data on short-term rental licenses and has gotten hundreds of unlawful STRS removed from the city of San Diego. 

In Oceanside, 84 percent of listings in the coastal zone are by AirBnB hosts with more than one listing, he said.

Longtime resident Matt Caulfield said 40 percent of homes along South Pacific Street are corporate short term rentals, a quarter of them owned by a single investor. “That owner operates more rooms than the Seabird Hotel.”

The city now has 1,002 short-term rentals, which it defines as a rental of any legally permitted rooms or dwelling units for less than 30 consecutive days.

In fiscal year 2022/2023, the city collected about $8 million dollars in hotel room taxes from vacation units. The moratorium will likely decrease such revenue over time, city staff said. 

Current short-term rentals are allowed to continue, as long as their permit stays up to date. If a permit lapses, the operator will no longer be eligible to operate a vacation rental. And permits don’t run with the land, should a  property be sold.

When Oceanside adopted its ordinance to regulate short-term rentals in 2019, it required annual inspections, set occupancy limits and required owners to collect the hotel room tax.

Since then the city has received 967 complaints that have been corrected; closed 293 where no violation was observed; and now has 106 verified complaints in progress.

Noise and high occupancy are the most common complaints, said city planner Sergio Madera. 

Gary Brown, who rents out short term at the beach, countered that there were a total of four complaints about high occupancy over the last two years out of 1,000 permitted units. That, he said, should not be used to infringe on the property rights of homeowners.

Others spoke of lax enforcement and problems due to absent owners.

Kirk Mundt, code enforcement officer, explained that unhosted rentals are inspected by the fire department and code enforcement staff. The city monitors the addresses of the rentals and works with Oceanside police. If a complaint is at night, police respond, and at the end of each month, complaints at addresses being monitored are sent back to code enforcement.

When it comes to repeat offenders, the city code has a provision to revoke permits for multiple violations, although officials said no permits have ever been revoked.

The moratorium approved on new inland short-term units will be effective in 30 days. It will take longer to include the coastal zone, which requires an amendment of the city’s Local Coastal Program and approval from the California Coastal Commission. 

That zone spans neighborhoods west of Coast Highway, where city officials said homes were originally built as modest 3-4 bedrooms.

The code amendment springs from a housing workshop last summer. Short-term rentals are definitely impacting housing availability, said mayor Esther Sanchez. Not just the beach areas, but the east side and Crown Heights and the valley. 

“We have a one percent vacancy in rentals. I’ve never seen that in Oceanside, ever.” 

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