La Jollans fear permanent change amid short-term rental flap
by DAVE SCHWAB
Published - 04/23/15 - 02:11 PM | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Those for and against the idea of short-term vacation rentals (STVRs) testified April 22 before the city’s Smart Growth and Land Use Committee, which took no action and continued the hearing to Friday, May 29. Meanwhile, the meeting had to be moved to Council chambers amid a huge turnout.

“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.

Following the meeting, Council President and District 1 Councilwoman Sherri Lightner said she was “glad to hear that both sides of the issue were being heard.” Lightner added she’s looking forward to “finding a solution that works for all parties, including the City.”

La Jollan Jon Mangerich, a member of a grass-roots group seeking STVR reform with a website at SaveSanDiegoNeighborhoods.org, said after the meeting that the attendance indicates just “how wide ranging” the issue is.

“Going forward,” Mangerich said, “the concern we have is trying to get the city just to enforce what they have (codes), and that can be done quickly and take care of this chaos. Unfortunately, that’s not where the city (apparently) wants to go.”

Mangerich pointed out that residents from everywhere along the beachfront were represented at the hearing.

“PB is fearful they may end up like Mission Beach (saturated by rentals),” he said. “La Jolla is fearful it’s going to end up looking like PB (proliferating rentals). It’s (STVRs) migrating very quickly.”

Mangerich drew a distinction between problematic STVRs, in which landlords are not physically present, and Airbnbs, wherein on-site landlords rent out their facilities to guests short-term. This, he noted, has proven to be far less troublesome.

Ultimately, Mangerich said, “We’d like to see rentals in residential or single-family zones of no less than 30 days.”

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.  “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. How can that be? It’s time to evolve the (municipal) code and provide good enforcement.”

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.”

Emlaw warned that the continuing proliferation of STVRs could forever change the character of communities.

“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.

Belinda Smith, representing the Short Term Vacation Rental Alliance of San Diego, urged the growth 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.”
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