Updated: Aug 8, 2020
Dennis Schaal , Skift - Jul 31, 2020 1:01 pm Room for a compromise seems to have emerged between Expedia, Airbnb, a hotel union, and the city council over short-term rental limitations in San Diego although bad blood looks to exist between Airbnb and Unite Here Local 30. Going it alone with a referendum doesn’t seem like a viable stance for Airbnb.— Dennis Schaal
Airbnb conducted a Zoom meeting with San Diego hosts about a potentially precedent-setting agreement to limit the number of legal rentals there, and told them it plans on lobbying the city council to raise the number of allowed properties, Skift has learned. Facing an outright ban from the city a couple of years ago, Expedia Group and a hotel union, United Here Local 30, signed a memorandum of understand that would allow for around 4,836 properties and permits. That would mean around 70 percent of the estimated 16,000 short-term rentals in the city would be barred in exchange for obtaining legal status for the rest.
But in the virtual meeting Thursday, John Choi, an Airbnb policy manager, told the hosts that Airbnb will lobby the council to accept 8,000 permits, or properties, which would be only a 50 percent reduction in the number of allowable short-term rentals in the city. “So you can imagine how many people would be left out,” Choi told the hosts, referring to the Expedia-United Here agreement that would limit short-term rentals to 0.7 percent of the city’s overall housing stock.
Airbnb intends to advocate for allowing a higher percentage, 1.2 percent of the city’s housing stock, or about 8,000 rentals than Expedia supported. Airbnb, which urged hosts to support its efforts, will also lobby the city council for lower permit fees, and intends to argue that the city’s tax coffers from short-term rentals would be greatly reduced if the city eventually adopts the Expedia-Unite Here limits.
Choi praised the framework of the deal, however, despite the alleged flaws on the number of allowable properties and the high permit fees.
He wouldn’t rule out Airbnb eventually taking the issue to a public referendum if the city council doesn’t make concessions.
“We’ll see where things land,” Choi told the hosts.
HOTEL UNION DENOUNCES AIRBNB When Skift told Unite Here Local 30 about Airbnb’s stance, the local denounced it. “Airbnb continues to demonstrate bad faith discussions and actions when related to short-term vacation rentals in our community,” said Brigette Browning, president of Unite Here Local 30. “Our MOU with Expedia is fair, finally establishes regulations, and allows for appropriate growth in a transparent manner. We will not support Airbnb’s attempt to hijack this process.” Philip Minardi, an Expedia Group spokesman on public policy, didn’t respond directly when asked about Airbnb’s effort to change the Expedia-hotel union pact, but said Expedia is resolute about the agreement.
“Expedia Group remains fully committed to this settlement and the collaboration with Dr. Campbell (Council member Jennifer Campbell) and Unite Here that got us to this point,” Minardi said. “We are encouraged by the growing industry and community support for the proposal and look forward to seeing it move quickly through council.”
Expedia Group had its own meeting with San Diego hosts Wednesday, and noted that Share San Diego, an association for short-term rental managers, backs the agreement. “We hope all stakeholders see this agreement for what it is — a compromise that provides much needed certainty for short-term rental operators, neighbors, and the city,” Minardi said Friday. “We’ve heard from hundreds of local partners and neighbors over the last week who understand this framework, while far from perfect, is a fair path forward for San Diego.
The backdrop to the tussle is that the San Diego city council approved an outright ban of vacation rentals in July 2018, but took removed it after an Airbnb-Expedia/HomeAway, and Share San Diego coalition began organizing a referendum to opposite the ban. Choi of Airbnb said Thursday that the company will get six weeks’ notice before the city council takes up the matter.
Airbnb also wants to ensure the opponents of short-term rentals don’t obtain any of the limited number of permits as a way to further limit rentals in the city. “We are recommending that the council create an equitable process,” Choi told the hosts. “We think that responsible hosts who have not had violations of city code, who have been showing that they have been actively booking, perhaps by showing that they’ve been remitting taxes, are some of the ways that the city could set up a process to give priority to folks.”