Photo by Save San Diego Neighborhoods
"What happens when an entire block has nobody living there?"
A meeting turned testy Wednesday night as leaders of three different groups vied for the support of the Pacific Beach Planning Group on their concerns with and opposition to the new plan for short term vacation rentals proposed by the mayor June 14.
Tom Coats, who has lived next door to a house for years that he calls a mini-hotel, brought a chart of the mayor’s plan and the changes he’d like to see and reviewed it with the planning group – to the dismay of Brian Curry and Scott Chipman, who came from other groups.
Coats founded the group Save Our Neighborhoods (now headed by Curry) but resigned after it became apparent its members believe they can slam the door on vacation rentals. Coats doesn’t believe that’s realistic and he has worked to get to compromises. He has formed the Working Group on Short Term Vacation Rentals.
“The mayor’s office has been very responsive. They have heard and they’ve taken some of our suggestions,” Coats explained. “If the cooperation is not forthcoming, we do have a hardball approach we, as citizens, will go forward with.”
Coats says he has the support of the Coalition of Town Councils’ working group on short-term vacation rentals.
After Coats was allowed more than a half hour to speak, Curry demanded the same amount of time for his presentation and Chipman’s, since the group had limited public comment to two minutes. Curry wrapped his up in four minutes – timed by Chipman.
The mayor’s plan now refers to the rentals as "short term residence occupancy" and sets out rules that limit rentals and set conditions including an affordable housing impact fee along with minimum stays and maximum days.
Council members Barbara Bry and Lori Zapf have already indicated they don’t like the proposal as laid out, and there are intense negotiations going on now before the city council’s July 16 hearing.
Bry and Zapf represent the beach areas most affected including PB, Mission Beach, Ocean Beach and La Jolla. Of the more than 3,000 rental residences that have registered with the city and are paying Transient Occupancy Taxes, at least 80 percent are in the coastal areas.
Other estimates, based on searches of Airbnb and other such sites suggest there are as many as 11,000 residences – from apartments to oceanfront mansions – being rented to vacationers.
Some requirements – like length of stay and number of days the residence is a rental – would require that someone monitor them.
“What it would take to enforce it is really the crux of the matter,” said Robert Kunysz. “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.”
Curry agreed. His group’s position is simple. The city attorney says vacation rentals are not legal. Enforce that.
“The city isn’t going to monitor how many days you’ve been in your house, how many days you’ve rented it, if it’s primary residence or not, how many bedrooms, forget it,“ Curry said. “The code enforcement can’t enforce any code in the neighborhoods.”
“Anything else makes it legal… and if you take a position on this, you’re making it legal,” he added.
Chipman has his own ideas. He says the city should freeze the number of rental residences to the current number of registered, tax-paying rentals. Permits should include the cost of inspections and the city should do the inspections. He’d like to see the permits made non-transferable and he’d like limits to how close the rental residences can be.
“Right now, we’re calling the police and that’s wrong. We need code compliance to respond,” Chipman said.
The planning group voted 6 to 2 to support Coats’s proposals and 6-2 to support his group in negotiations with the city.
City officials say they’re fearful that any policy they enact will be revoked by the California Coastal Commission because one of commission’s central missions is to encourage affordable lodging near the coast.
“The coastal commission gets used as a bogey man by the city council and mayor to keep people from going into issues (city officials) don’t want to go,” Coats said.