Police chief engaging, short-term rentals enraging, at Town Council

More than 80 members of the public crammed the La Jolla Recreation Center, Nov. 9, for a mammoth two-and-a-half-hour Town Council meeting that roller-coastered from expressions of gratitude for a retiring hometown hero to suggestions of a sit-in at the Mayor’s office.

After receiving a plaque from Town Council president Ann Kerr Bache, retiring police chief Shelley Zimmerman — who once served as La Jolla’s police captain — answered questions from the public, most of which concerned La Jolla’s growing homeless scourge. Zimmerman said she spends much of her week talking to homeless people, telling them she has a bed for them immediately. In the past three months, Zimmerman said, “I’ve only had one person take me up on that offer.”

Zimmerman said there was no easy solution, but advised residents never to give money directly to homeless people. “It makes you feel good to do that, we all understand,” Zimmerman said. “But if you want to give, my suggestion is to give to one of the charities where you know where the money is going to, because if you give to that individual, they may end up buying drugs or alcohol.”

In her direct, matter-of-fact way, Zimmermann said she’s “as frustrated as you are” that cops can’t respond more quickly to non-emergency calls. She blamed low police pay for the current shortage of 249 officers, adding that she’s grateful for a new pay-increase package introduced by Mayor Kevin Faulconer and urged residents to ask their Council members to pass it when it comes up.

Zimmerman’s remarks, videotaped by a TV news camera, were punctuated by applause and expressions of gratitude for her service that caused a delay of an hour and necessitated bumping several agenda items.

Short-term vacation rentals

Next up was a forum charged with formulating strategies for challenging short-term vacation rentals. Panelists included the presidents of the Pacific Beach and Mission Beach town councils and two activist organizations.

One point, the panelists repeatedly stressed, was how organized, relentless and clandestine their opposition is. While they don’t come to La Jolla Town Council meetings, they do send an army of persistent lobbyists to visit City Council members, according to the panelists, representing interests including Airbnb and SeaBreeze Vacation Rentals, on a daily basis.

On Dec. 12, the City Council is scheduled to vote for either a proposal by Council member Barbara Bry that limits rental days in a year, or a proposal by Council member Chris Ward that limits the number of properties one can rent. Suggestions for combating these efforts ranged from writing to Council members to a lawsuit to a sit-in in Mayor Faulconer’s office.

Two women who would not give their names — one of whom explained she was “afraid to” — offered the closest thing to an opposing viewpoint. They said “not everybody is doing (vacation rentals) the wrong way,” pointing out that their neighbors have told them they love their vacation renters. The women were greeted by hostility and left the forum early, mumbling to one another.

Following the forum, the Town Council passed a motion to “create a community-wide coalition to protect our residents from the harms of the expansion of short-term vacation rentals.”

In other Town Council news

Also at the meeting, Monarch Cottages’ Sam Baum received a plaque for joining as a gold member and La Jolla contractor Tom Grunow introduced himself and his plan to design a parking structure underneath the Rec Center that would take parking off the surrounding streets. No motion could be proposed because he was speaking as a member of the public, but Kerr Bache invited Grunow back at a future date to formally present his plan.

— The next La Jolla Town Council meeting will be held 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 14 at La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St. lajollatowncouncil.org

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