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Neighbors worry about beach parties and lack of social distancing

Posted at 5:08 PM, May 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-11 21:48:35-04

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (KGTV) - People living in San Diego's beach communities are worried about visitors hosting large parties at vacation rental homes.

Greg Knight sent 10News video of the aftermath of a party after police broke it up over noise complaints Saturday night. Knight says there have been several large parties in his neighborhood on Isthmus and Island Court over the last few weeks.

"Mission Beach we are all right on top of each other, so you're telling people to stay home and here, all of a sudden, someone comes into town, has a party, and they're overflowing onto the sidewalks. It forces the people who don't want to be around people that want to maintain that social distancing; it forces them back into their homes and makes it so they don't even feel comfortable going on their patio," said Knight.

Knight points to listings for deeply discounted vacation rentals as part of the problem. The house next door to him is listed at 80% off. Under the description, it says it sleeps 16 and has three bedrooms.

"They've had cancellation after cancellation, they're lowering their prices and they're also willing to take people, maybe they wouldn't have even taken before," said Knight.

Knight would like to see a moratorium on short term vacation rentals while social distancing rules are still in place.

"We want them to manage the short term rentals just like they are trying to manage the rest of the opening up of the economy," said Knight.

When asked about concerns about vacation rentals at Monday's county news conference, Dr. Wilma Wooten said gatherings of any kind are still banned. Wooten said the only people who should be staying in vacation rentals or hotels are essential workers or people helping with the pandemic effort. She said the county would contact Airbnb to make sure the company is aware and to ask for help.

San Diego Police say enforcement of house parties related to social distancing rules is complicated. They'd have to determine who hosted the party and prove that person knew a large crowd was planning to attend.

Knight is worried the situation will get out of hand as the weather warms up, and COVID-19 restrictions are loosened.

"It's compact enough, and when you have all of a sudden, houses coming up with 20, 30 people, it's impossible to social distance," said Knight.

A spokeswoman with Airbnb shared the following information from a recent press release when contacted about the resident's concerns.

"Under typical circumstances, Airbnb empowers our hosts to set House Rules on events and parties that are appropriate for their communities. However, these are very different times, and public health must come first. To that end, we have previously announced that we will not allow for hosts to authorize parties and events [] in regions where current public health mandates prohibit events and gatherings. While Governor Newsom has announced that the state is entering Stage 2 of reopening, bans on gatherings and mandates on social distancing remain in effect, and therefore our new policy means we are not allowing any type of party in San Diego until further notice.

We want to be very clear -- not only will we ban guests who attempt to throw an unauthorized party in a San Diego Airbnb listing, we will be cooperating with local law enforcement in any investigations relating to parties and violations of public health mandates, consistent with our Terms of Service.

Additionally, we have reinforced this policy by temporarily disabling the “event-friendly” search filter [], which is typically used so that guests can seek out venues for responsible parties and gatherings. We continue to temporarily remove the "parties and events allowed” rule [] from the House Rules of any San Diego area listings that formerly authorized parties. And, of course, we maintain our rigorous work to prevent and address unauthorized parties [], which have always been forbidden and reflect particularly serious abuses of our rules during this public health crisis.

During this challenging time, our host community has stepped up in an extraordinary way by offering more than 200,000 places to stay globally for COVID-19 responders through Airbnb’s Frontline Stays program [], including in San Diego. We are incredibly proud of hosts in cities around the world who have offered their homes to those on the front lines and in need of shelter, and we thank them for providing this critical need for safe accommodations at such an important moment in history.

As government and health authorities relax mandates and guidance pertaining to social distancing, we will evaluate these policy adjustments and provide updates for our community. The safety of our hosts and guests is our priority, and we thank them for their understanding during this challenging time. "