A 10-page memorandum written by Deputy City Attorney Shannon Thomas and released this week concludes that irate neighbors are mistaken in arguing that city ordinances prohibit weekly or weekend rentals of homes in single-family zones.
It adds, however, that San Diego could amend its codes to ban or regulate that practice, as other coastal cities and counties have done. But any such change in beach communities would require approval of the California Coastal Commission, which emphasizes open access to the beaches and coast.
In tourist-popular Pacific Beach, homeowners and community leaders have been complaining for months about neighborhood homes being rented out by the week or weekend. Critics say scores of such rentals are occurring throughout the city.
Pacific Beach homeowner Jennifer Sprofera, a stay-at-home mom, and other neighbors persuaded the local planning committee chairwoman to send a letter in May to City Attorney Mike Aguirre, Mayor Jerry Sanders and City Councilman Kevin Faulconer. The letter urged a crackdown, calling short-term home rentals "a serious threat to our community."
Sprofera, who lives next to a vacation rental, says that in addition to noise and other nuisances, visitors coming and going destroy the essence of a single-family neighborhood.
"It's not being able to know my neighbor, that's what bothers me," she said Thursday. "You remove the housing stock from the citizens of San Diego who would rent here full-time or live here full-time."
Owners of vacation homes say they rent mostly to families, screen visitors and take other steps to be good neighbors.
Faulconer, who requested the city attorney's opinion, said he isn't sure whether the council should move to ban or regulate short-term rentals. He said he would ask the Pacific Beach Community Planning Committee to put the issue on its agenda within two months, hopefully with Aguirre or Thomas there to answer questions.
Faulconer said the advisory committee could serve as a forum for all sides of the debate.
"I'm not advocating a course of action on vacation rentals," he said. "I simply thought it was important to start the discussion."
Concern over short-term vacation rentals has grown in cities across the country. Locally, Solana Beach and Encinitas have enacted ordinances regulating rentals of single-family homes of less than a month.
Coronado prohibits rentals of less than 26 days in any residential neighborhood, single-or multifamily. Imperial Beach bars short-term rentals of single-family homes and requires permits for week-to-week rentals of beachfront apartments and condos.