The ad hoc group, a subcommittee of the La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA), which makes land-use recommendations to the city, has been charged with vetting the increasingly troublesome issue of short-term vacation rentals that often disturb residents. The subcommittee will ultimately report back to the LJCPA with a list of recommendations for alleviating the situation.
Complaints by some neighbors of problems with mostly high-end, short-term vacation rentals have been increasing.
One high-profile example in 2011 was the “MTV House” in Bird Rock. Producers of the “The Real World” reality show rented an oceanfront single-family home there in the short term, unbeknownst to local residents, setting off a groundswell of public opposition.
District 1 City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner stepped in to help broker concessions by MTV producers to compensate neighbors for traffic, noise, lighting, security and safety problems caused by the show.
Late parties, loud noise, traffic congestion and a general lack of politeness from vacationing tenants are among the laundry list of complaints frequently registered by permanent residents near short-term vacation renters.
Patrick Ahern, a La Jolla Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, chairs the vacation rental subcommittee.
Subcommittee member Mike Costello challenged Ahern’s objectivity on Feb. 3, noting some of his colleagues sell vacation rentals.
“Might not that influence your decisions one way or another?” asked Costello.
“We’re (Realtors) independent contractors,” said Ahern, adding he “didn’t stand to gain financially” from the outcome of the subcommittee’s deliberations, whatever the result.
A robust discussion followed with several residents telling their own stories of how they’ve felt victimized by short-term renters and their property managers, who they argued have been largely unresponsive to their pleas to curb noise, late-night partying or other excesses by short-term vacationers.
Lynn Reineman of Sea Ridge in Bird Rock said residents have a tool they can use to curb short-term renter excess — the Community Assisted Party Program (CAPP), offered by the San Diego Police Department, which fines owners of such rental properties for repeated problems caused by tenants necessitating police response.
Jonah Mechanic, who works for a company that handles short-term vacation rentals, defended the industry. He argued that only a handful of the approximately 450 rental properties in the La Jolla market are troublesome.
“Our goal here is to first come together as a community, and then adopt common-sense regulations that we can enforce so the community gets a sense of what expectations they want from their neighbors,” Mechanic said. “We need to come up with enforceable regulations that solve the big picture, as opposed to just a small slice of the picture.”
Architect Mark Bucon suggested one recommendation by the ad hoc group should be that short-term rentals be required to be owner-occupied and rented for a duration of at least 30 days.
Others liked his suggested but felt a 30-day minimum should be longer.
“The purpose of this group is to come up with solutions that really focus on what we’d like to see done differently with short-term rentals,” said subcommittee member Jim Fitzgerald. “The real focus should be on looking for what tools we have as citizens to curb the abuses.”
Ahern asked subcommittee members to return with a list of recommendations for the group to vote on prior to submittal to the LJCPA at the group’s next meeting on Feb. 26.