The committee meeting had to be moved to Council chambers due to the huge crowd that turned out for the contentious issue.
“The purpose of this meeting is to come up with recommendations on how to change the city’s municipal code on STVRs,” said committee chair and District 2 Councilwoman Lorie Zapf.
Several residents in Pacific Beach, one of the areas most impacted by the recent proliferation of STVRs, turned out to speak.
Brian Curry, chair of Pacific Beach Planning Group, said he thinks the issue comes down to zoning and semantics.
“If it’s not in the code, then it’s permitted,” said Curry, noting STVRs should be classified as “visitor accommodations,” a category that includes hotels and motels.
Curry said he felt what needs to be done is to “change the wording” in the city’s municipal code to reflect that STVRs are actually “visitor accommodations,” defined as properties rented out for less than a month.
“The irony is, STVRs are included with visitor accommodations when it comes to taxes, but they are not included with visitor accommodations when it comes to zoning,” Curry said. “How can that be? It’s time to evolve the (municipal) code and provide good enforcement. Other than that, you don’t have to change a thing.”
A large number of perturbed residents paraded up to the mic reciting their “horror stories” of how noisy and problematic STVRs have diminished their quality of life.
Longtime PB resident Larry Emlaw noted STVRs are a “citywide issue.” He added some areas of the city, like PB, are “much more heavily impacted.”
Emlaw warned that the continuing proliferation of STVRs could forever change the community’s character.
“STVRs can cause the destruction of neighborhoods,” Emlaw said, adding, “This is not a police matter, it’s an incompatibility matter. If you live next door to an STVR, you will be forced to move. That property (hence) will not be able to be purchased by families raising children but will only be purchased by an STVR investor.”
Emlaw cited Mission Beach as a case in point – a community that once had a significant number of single-family households, but now largely is an enclave for STVRs. He pointed out that Mission Beach Elementary School had to be closed because of declining attendance as families were displaced by STVRs.
“We are approaching that tipping point in PB,” Emlaw cautioned, adding, “Once that point is passed, you can’t go back.”
PB resident Jennifer Tandy, a member of the Mission Bay School Cluster, agreed with Emlaw that STVRs have the potential to change the community’s character, including negatively impacting schools.
“The proliferation of STVRs in single-family zones in PB could destroy the schools in the community,” she said.
Belinda Smith, representing the Short Term Vacation Rental Alliance of San Diego (STRASD), urged the committee to come up with new regulations that are “sensible and enforceable.”
“There is no need to create new laws, just more efficiently use the laws in place,” Smith argued.
Several residents, many along the coast, testified that they were responsible STVR landlords. Many of them noted that was the only way they could continue to own their homes given today’s high cost of living.
Jonah Mechanic, of SeaBreaze Vacation Rentals, which operates in PB and La Jolla, said the STVR industry is growing but added it’s “actually a very small percentage of all rentals.”
Mechanic argued STVRs are good and necessary for the economy while providing an essential housing option for families and visiting business professionals alike.
The spirit of the meeting regarding STVRs was summed up by one person who testified that “The genie has been let out of the bottle — and there’s no going back.”