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Short-Term Residential Occupancy (STRO)

(Updated on July 18, 2022)

Status of California Coastal Commission (CCC) Review

On June 14, 2022, City Council approved the California Coastal Commission (CCC) recommended modifications to the STRO Ordinance. These modifications include the following additions:

  • Language regarding lottery stratification by Community Planning Area for Tier 3 licenses;
  • Editor's notes in various sections of the Ordinance identifying the relevant sections that are being added to the Local Coastal Program and the requirement of CCC approval; and
  • The Sunset Clause.

The recommended CCC modifications require Mayoral approval and subsequent full certification by the CCC.

 

Licensing Requirement Effective Date

The implementation timeline will depend on City Council and Mayoral approval of the Ordinance changes and subsequent full certification by CCC. Once the CCC unconditionally certifies the STRO ordinance as a local coastal program amendment, an ordinance implementation date will be set, including the requirement to obtain an STRO license & opening of the application process. The STRO webpage will be updated with more information regarding ordinance implementation as it becomes available.

 

The STRO Ordinance requires a license for all STRO of a dwelling unit, or part thereof, for less than one month within the City of San Diego. To determine if your property is located within the City of San Diego, reference the City of San Diego Council District Map. If your dwelling unit falls within the nine (9) Council Districts on the map, the STRO Ordinance will apply. There are four (4) license types with varying requirements on the number of days and type of dwelling available for the STRO. A host may only hold one license and may not operate more than one dwelling unit for STRO at a time; licenses are not transferrable between ownership or location/dwelling unit.

A host may obtain a maximum of one license at a time in one of the following four (4) STRO license tiers:

Tier 1
Part-Time

Tier 2
Home Sharing
Tier 3
Whole Home
(excluding Mission Beach)
Tier 4
Mission Beach Whole Home

Rented for an aggregate of 20 days or less per year

The owner or permanent resident does not need to reside onsite during the STRO

Renting a room or rooms in the home for more than 20 days per year so long as the owner or permanent resident resides onsite

The owner or permanent resident may be absent from the permanent residence during the STRO for up to 90 days per calendar year

Home sharing includes duplex properties and eligible accessory dwelling units  when the host resides onsite

Rentals for more than 20 days per year where the owner or permanent resident does not reside onsite.   To determine your dwelling unit's Community Planning Area (CPA), reference the City of San Diego Community Plans Map.

If your dwelling unit is within the Mission Beach CPA, you would fall into Tier 4 Mission Beach Whole Home. Any other CPA would fall into Tier 3 Whole Home (excluding Mission Beach).

The number of licenses issued will not exceed 1% of San Diego's total housing units outside the Mission Beach Community Planning Area*

Guest two-night minimum stay required

The number of licenses issued will not exceed 30% of the Mission Beach Community Planning Area*

Guest two-night minimum stay required

*Based on the most recent Demographic and Socioeconomic Housing estimates issued by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) rounded up to the nearest whole number

Application Process

Application Submission and Lottery Dates

The license application period has not opened yet and is expected to open in the Fall of 2022. The license application period and lottery dates will be determined once the Ordinance is unconditionally certified by the CCC. The following documents/links provide information that will be necessary to complete the online application for an STRO license once the application period opens:

PDF icon STRO Application Checklist

PDF icon STRO Application Information Sheet

OpenData Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) Information

OpenData Rental Unit Business Tax (RUBT) Information

The Office of the City Treasurer will establish a lottery application process; this webpage will be updated as more information becomes available. If the total number of Tier 3 and/or Tier 4 applications received is greater than the number of licenses available, applications will be chosen via a lottery. Prioritization will be given to "good actors" as outlined in this PDF icon Tier 3 and Tier 4 Good Actor Prioritization memo issued January 7, 2022, and further clarified in the PDF icon Tier 3 and Tier 4 Good Actor Prioritization Clarification memo issued July 13, 2022, to City Council.

Additionally, City Council has approved the following application and license fees:

  Application Fee License Fee
Tier  1 

$           25   

$           100   
Tier  2 

$           25   

$           225   
Tier  3 

$           70   

$         1000   
Tier  4 

$           70   

$         1000   

Note that application fees are non-refundable, and licenses expire two (2) years from the date of issuance and may be renewed in accordance with section 510.0106(d) of the Ordinance.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The City of San Diego Office of the City Treasurer provides this information as general guidance on the City’s Short-Term Residential Occupancy Ordinance. This information is provided as a public service and should not be construed or relied upon in any way as legal advice or a legal opinion. Although all efforts are taken to keep content timely and accurate, there may be a delay in the time it takes to correct any errors brought to our attention. Please refer directly to the full text of the PDF icon Ordinance.

General Questions

1. What is Short-term Residential Occupancy (STRO)?

STRO means the occupancy of a dwelling unit or part thereof for less than one month. The STRO ordinance defines a month as a period of consecutive days from the first calendar day of occupancy in any month to the same calendar day in the next month following, or the last day of the next month following if no corresponding calendar day exists. For example, a check-in on January 31 and check out on February 28 would be a month stay, whereas a check-in on February 1 and check out on February 28 would not be a month.

2. Does the STRO Ordinance apply to all zones?

Yes, the Ordinance applies to all dwelling units used for short-term residential occupancy in the City of San Diego regardless of base zoning designation.

3. What do I need to do to legally operate an STRO property?

If your property is located in the City of San Diego and is rented out for less than one month per guest stay, you must obtain a Transient Occupancy Tax Certificate and collect and remit Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT). This applies to STRO properties of any kind (i.e. houses, condos, rooms, or spaces) rented directly by the owner/operator, by property management companies or via internet travel services.
If you are renting property for less than a month at a time in the City of San Diego and do not have a TOT Certificate, you are not in compliance with the San Diego Municipal Code (SDMC); there are no exceptions.

Additionally, property owners who rent out all or a portion of their property for more than 6 days in a calendar year are responsible for remitting Rental Unit Business Tax to the City of San Diego. For questions regarding TOT and/or Rental Unit Business Tax, please visit the following web pages:

Once the California Coastal Commission unconditionally certifies the STRO ordinance as a
local coastal program amendment, an ordinance implementation date will be set, including the requirement to obtain an STRO license. This page will be updated with more information regarding ordinance implementation as it becomes available.

4. Can I rent out my Accessory Dwelling Unit (aka “granny flat”) as an STRO?

No, San Diego Municipal Code prohibits using ADUs for short-term rental and will result in a Code violation. Only permitted companion units in existence before the September 2017 prohibition may be used as an STRO.

5. What types of units are prohibited as STRO units?

The following are prohibited for use as STRO:

  • Income-restricted affordable housing units;
  • Student housing, dormitories and Single-Room-Occupancy (SRO) buildings;
  • Legally established Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs); which are a specific type of "inlaw" or "granny flat" approved by the Development Services Department;
  • Sleeping quarters in most shipping containers and outdoor areas, including tipis (teepees) and tree houses;
  • Sleeping quarters in vans or recreational vehicles (RVs). RVs are not considered residential units;
  • Non-residential areas within buildings, such as living/sleeping quarters added in garages without proper permits;
  • Commercial office/retail or industrial (warehouse) spaces; and
  • Boats or similar watercraft.

6. Can a Live/Work unit be used for STRO?

You can host short-term rentals in the residential portion of a live/work unit or "artist live/work unit," if you are a permanent resident of that unit and both live in AND host short-term rental guests exclusively in the "live" area of the unit. Short-term residential occupancy (e.g. sleeping, lounging/resting, or cooking areas) is NOT allowed in the "work" portion of the live/work or artist live/work unit. Additionally, you may not reside in the "work" area and use the "live" area of the live/work or artist live/work unit for STRO.

7. Can my commercial or industrial building be used for STRO?

No, STRO may only be hosted in areas permitted for residential use. For example, short-term rentals may not be held in an institutional, commercial or industrial building unless a specific portion of the building is authorized as a residential dwelling unit.

8. Can I use my recreational vehicle, camper, or a temporary structure on my property for STRO?

No. Vehicles (including RVs and Camper Vans) and temporary structures (such as tents,
sheds, tree houses, etc.) may not be used for STRO. 

9. What if I operate my dwelling unit as a STRO and do not have a license after the implementation date?

Using a dwelling unit for STRO without a license after the implementation date is a
violation of the STRO ordinance and will likely result in regulatory actions. The actions may include the issuance of a Notice of Violation with an assessment of penalties. Operating an STRO without a license will jeopardize a host’s ability to obtain an STRO license in the future.

10. The Office of the City Treasurer may require proof that my dwelling unit is the host’s primary residence for a Tier 2 Homeshare license. What is considered acceptable proof of residence?

Proof of residence may be any of the following, provided that it shows the host name and dwelling unit address as the host mailing address: mailing label from a magazine, DMV registration, payment coupon (return portion) from any of the following SDG&E, phone, cable, water and sewer bill etc.

11. What is my platform doing to comply with the new regulations?

It is recommended you discuss with the platform(s) you use about available assistance and requirements for continued use of their websites. 

License Tier Scenarios

1. What is the difference between home share and a whole home short-term residential occupancy?

Home share means the short-term residential occupancy occurs in either the host’s primary residence or a separate dwelling unit on the same premises as the host’s primary residence. This may include duplex, triplex, or quadplex properties as well as eligible accessory dwelling units when the host resides on-site.

Whole home means short-term residential occupancy of the host’s entire dwelling unit while the host is not physically present and residing in the dwelling unit.

2. What if I plan to home share in my permanent residence but do whole-home rentals during the summer months when I am away; what type of license should I apply for?

If you are the permanent resident, reside onsite and are absent for 90 days or less per
calendar year, you would apply for a Tier 2 license. 

3. As part of home share, can I rent out several rooms separately?

Yes, if you are renting the room(s) for more than 20 days per year and are the permanent resident that is absent no more than 90 days per calendar year, you would obtain a Tier 2 license for the dwelling unit.

4. If I were to rent my house to college students during the school year and plan to STRO my home during the summer months; what type of license should I apply for? 

Tier 3 (outside Mission Beach) or Tier 4 (within Mission Beach) license depending on where your property is located as the host does not reside onsite for at least 275 days per calendar year. 

If the college student met the requirements of a host, the college student could apply as the host. In this case, a Tier 2 license would apply if the college student resided onsite at least 275 days per year. With a Tier 2 license, the STRO Could be rented as a whole home STRO for up to 90 days per calendar year when the host does not reside onsite. 

If the host was planning on operating an STRO for 20 days or less per year, a Tier 1 license would be applicable. A host does not need to reside onsite with a Tier 1 license. 

Application Process

1. When can I apply for an STRO license?

The application period is expected to begin in Fall 2022, and licenses will be issued before the implementation date. This page will be updated as soon as additional information is available. You should sign up to receive STRO updates by entering your email address in the "Receive Email Updates" section on the top right side of this page.

2. Who can apply for an STRO license?

A host is defined as a natural person with the legal right to occupy the dwelling unit and allow short-term residential occupancy. A host may include the owner or a lessee if the lease allows for subleasing for less than one month. A host may only hold one license at a time, and a host may not operate more than one dwelling unit for STRO at a time within the City of San Diego.

3. What are the license application requirements?

All hosts must have a Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) certificate, a Rental Unit Business Tax account, if applicable, and must be in current compliance with the City’s TOT requirements (i.e., not owing back taxes for unpaid TOT). For a license application to home share, the host must also provide proof that the dwelling unit is the host’s primary residence.

License applications will not be processed for dwelling units with pending enforcement actions issued by the City for violations of any provision of the San Diego Municipal Code. Pending enforcement action includes, but is not limited to, violations of the City’s Land Development Code, TOT requirements, Tourism Marketing District assessments, and Rental Unit Business Tax requirements, including unpaid invoices that have been referred to the City Treasurer’s Delinquent Accounts Program.

4. What is the cost to obtain a Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) Certificate?

There is no cost to obtain a TOT Certificate. Please visit the TOT webpage for additional
information about TOT compliance.

5. The Operator's name on my TOT Certificate is an LLC; however, per the STRO Ordinance, a Host cannot be an LLC. Do I need to change the Operator name on my TOT Certificate to match the Host name on my STRO application/license? If the names differ, how will I receive priority points for TOT payments I have remitted in the past?

No; Operator has a different definition than a Host. For purposes of TOT, an Operator is
defined as the Person who is the proprietor of the Hotel, Recreational Vehicle Park, or Campground, whether in the capacity of owner, lessee, sublessee, mortgagee in possession, licensee, or any other capacity. “Operator” includes a managing agent, a resident manager, or a resident agent, of any type or character, other than an employee without management responsibility. (PDF icon SDMC §35.0102).

For purposes of STRO, a Host is defined as a natural person with the legal right to occupy the dwelling unit and allow short-term residential occupancy. (PDF icon SDMC §510.0102) A Host and Operator may be the same but are not required to be under the TOT or STRO requirements.

Under the TOT requirements, an Operator is required to maintain their records; this includes records of TOT remittance to the City. During the STRO license application process, Hosts/applicants will be required to upload these records to support the issuance of priority points for TOT past payments – only the Operator would have these records. Additionally, all Hosts/applicants will be required to certify under penalty of perjury that the information included in their STRO license application is accurate.

6. How much is the Rental Unit Business Tax?

Rental Unit Business Tax comprises a base fee and a per unit fee. The total Rental Unit
Business Tax for your property depends on the number of units. View the Rental Unit Business Tax fees table.

7. I am a property manager that manages multiple STROs in the City of San Diego. Can I be the host of them all or how would they need to be licensed?

No, a host may only hold one license at a time and may not operate more than one dwelling unit for short-term residential occupancy at a time within the City of San Diego. A host is defined as a natural person who has the legal right to occupy the dwelling unit and to allow short-term residential occupancy. A host could be the owner of the property or a lessee that has the legal right to occupy the dwelling unit and to allow subleasing for less than a month. Each dwelling unit used as an STRO requires its own license and its own host. 

The property manager can be designated the local contact who shall be responsible for actively discouraging and preventing any nuisance activity at the premises. The local contact shall respond to a complainant in person or by telephone within one hour for all reported complaints and shall take action to resolve the matter. 

8. If I own multiple dwelling units that I use as STROs, will one license be sufficient for all the properties or does each dwelling unit require its own license?

No. One license will not be sufficient for all owned properties operated as an STRO. An STRO license is required for each dwelling unit used for short-term residential occupancy. If an owner has multiple dwelling units used as STROs, the owner will need to designate a lessee as a host who has the legal right to occupy the dwelling unit and to allow subleasing for less than a month. This lessee will have to apply to be the host of an STRO. The owner can be the designated local contact who shall be responsible for actively discouraging and preventing any nuisance activity at the premises. The local contact shall respond to a complainant in person or by telephone within one hour for all reported complaints and shall take action to resolve the matter.

10. What is the fee to obtain an STRO license?

Application and License fees were approved by City Council in October 2021 and are as follows:

  Application Fee License Fee
Tier 1 $25.00 $100.00
Tier 2 $25.00 $225.00
Tier 3 $70.00 $1,000.00
Tier 4 $70.00 $1,000.00

Lottery

2. How will the lottery process work?

A lottery application submission date will be published on the Office of the City Treasurer’s webpage. After the passage of the published lottery application submission date, if the total number of Tier 3 or Tier 4 applications received is greater than the number of licenses available, completed applications will be weighted for “good actor” priority as outlined in this PDF icon memo.

3. If a hosting platform remits Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) on my behalf, how do I obtain proof of TOT payment?

City Staff is currently working with Air Bnb & VRBO on how to obtain this information. Once this information is available, it will be posted on this page.

4. If I apply for a Tier 3 or Tier 4 license and am not selected via the lottery, can I apply for a Tier 1 or Tier 2 license?

A host can only hold one license at a time. However, in the case a Tier 3 or Tier 4 host is not selected in the lottery, they can reapply for a Tier 1 or Tier 2 license pending their business model changes and meeting the requirements of the Tier they are applying for. A new application will need to be submitted, including payment of the Tier 1 or Tier 2 application and license fee. The Tier 3 or Tier 4 application fee is non-refundable.

5. To meet the criteria for lottery priority points as outlined in the Tier 3 or Tier 4 Good Actor Prioritization memo, does the proof of booking activity and proof of TOT payment need to be in the host’s name or just for the dwelling unit itself?

Proof of TOT and booking activity should be provided for the specific dwelling unit listed on the STRO application; it does not need to list the host’s/applicant’s name. Additionally, the Operator's name on the TOT certificate also does not need to match the Host’s name on the STRO application.