City Spotlight: San Diego

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by Asif Lakhani

Of all the major cities in the United States, few come close to the uniqueness of San Diego. Surrounded by water, San Diego combines the attractiveness and relaxation offered in a beach town with big-city amenities. The weather is ideal year round, the quality of life is top notch, and its natural scenery is postcard worthy.

According to the San Diego Tourism Authority (SDTA), the city welcomed 35 million total visitors in 2017. An overwhelming majority (85 percent) of those visitors were in town for leisure. Approximately half stayed overnight, which means 17.4 million hotel room nights (of the 22.4 million available) were sold in 2017, according to SDTA.

Despite being such a popular vacation destination, however, the city is currently in limbo on how to handle short-term rentals for secondary homes (i.e., rental properties that aren’t lived in throughout most of the year).

In the summer of 2018, the San Diego City Council voted to restrict vacation rentals to just one primary property. The intent was twofold: to maintain a steady supply of affordable long-term housing (instead of allowing investors to continue renting) and to limit the amount of superfluous activity that comes with visitors, according to the San Diego Tribune.

The ordinance was set to kick in in July of this year, but in October of 2018, the City Council voted to repeal the regulations it agreed to just a few months prior. Now, the city is required to come up with a new plan that is drastically different than the previous one; otherwise, the issue will have to be voted on by residents during the 2020 election.

Regardless of the uncertainty surrounding short-term rentals, there is no shortage of things to do in San Diego. The most popular destination in the city is the 1,200-acre urban paradise known as Balboa Park. Home to the city’s world-renowned zoo and botanical gardens (plus theatres and art museums), Balboa Park is as great a tourist attraction as it is a historic relic.

Other areas of the city hold jewels of a different kind – whether it’s a harbor cruise, whale watching, La Jolla Cove, Sunset Cliffs Natural Park, or beaches for days and much, much more. Essentially, the natural scenery of San Diego is enough to warrant a visit by itself. But just a few miles away from the coast sits a bustling city where events of all kinds take place.

The biggest event of every year is Comic-Con International. Billed as “The largest pop-culture event in the United Sates,” Comic-Con takes over San Diego Convention Center every summer and brings a flock of artists, celebrities, and visitors. Comic-Con weekend events include panels, movie screenings, meetups, workshops, and more. Unless you plan on attending Comic-Con, it’s best to avoid San Diego July 18-21 of this year.

Sports play a huge role in San Diego’s identity as well. With the bolting (pun intended) of the Chargers from San Diego to Los Angeles, the MLB’s Padres are now the only major sports team in town, although there are several other professional teams – including the San Diego Fleet (football), San Diego Leigon (rugby), San Diego Seals (lacrosse) and the brand new San Diego 1904 FC (soccer), the latter of which is set to begin play this year – that call the city home.

The Padres’ home stadium, Petco Park, is an ideal location to spend an afternoon or evening as there is much more to see and do there than simply watch baseball. Another big attraction for sports fans is the legendary Torrey Pines Golf Course. The city is home to 97 golf courses, according to SDTA, but Torrey Pines is where the professionals play, often as part of a PGA Tour stop.

Aside from these and many other major attractions, San Diego is an ideal convention hub. With its plentiful beaches, natural scenery, and major airport, convincing people to visit San Diego isn’t difficult at all. AAHOA will be visiting the city this month for its 2019 Convention & Trade Show on April 24-27. We hope to see you there!

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