Short-term rental compromise short on support at La Jolla Town Council meeting

More than 50 audience members jammed the La Jolla Town Council meeting on Sept. 14 to hear a proposed City ordinance that would place limitations on short-term La Jolla rentals.

They did not like what they heard.

The proposal, from District 1 City Council member Barbara Bry’s office, would allow only resident owners to rent their homes for fewer than 30 days at a time, and would limit the number of short-term rental days to 90 per year. It’s a compromise between La Jolla homeowners with opposing interests — those who want the right to sublet their houses for extra income in the summer and those who want to prevent La Jolla from becoming the next Pacific Beach.

Speaking on behalf of Bry, communications director Hilary Nemchik said the goal of the ordinance is “to make sure that we do have affordable accommodations for San Diego’s visitors — we know our tourist industry is a thriving part of our economy — but also to protect the integrity and character of the residential communities.”

But the Rec Center audience — double the average monthly meeting size — fell squarely on one side of the issue. (A show of hands after the Q&A session with Nemchik revealed support for the proposal from only one audience member.) Objection after objection was raised to the proposal’s terms. Ninety was way too many days per year, audience members argued, and a seven-day rental minimum and $100 annual permit fee were unacceptably low.

Short-term, or vacation, rentals are a dire problem requiring zero tolerance, audience members said. They prevent families with children from finding long-term rentals, they prevent employers from recruiting top talent from other cities, and they lower both quality of life and property values.

Short-term rentals are already prohibited by a San Diego zoning ordinance, although that prohibition is not enforced. The message this audience wanted sent to City Council was clear: JUST ENFORCE IT.

Tom Coat, president of the non-profit called Save San Diego Neighborhoods, claimed that 1,045 single-family homes in Pacific Beach are vacation-rented, up from only 63 in 2007, which makes only 236 available to long-term renters.

“For every home available to a family or a worker who wants to become a resident, there are 4.5 homes available for tourists,” Coat said. “This vacation-rental crisis is nothing less than a fight for the soul of our neighborhoods.”

Nemchik thanked the audience for its feedback. “It says ‘draft’ on it,” she said, “and we’re still continuing to tweak.”

The San Diego City Council is scheduled to take up the issue on Oct. 23.

In other Town Council news:

• Also at the meeting, a case was made against the Federal Aviation Administration for seeming to ignore a petition signed by 300 La Jollans against increased plane noise since changes were made bringing many flights closer to La Jolla and lower in altitude.

“And that’s 24 hours a day, there’s no curfew on arrivals,” said cardiologist Matthew Price. “So if you’re waking up at 3 in the morning, wondering why you heard a noise, those are arrival paths over La Jolla Shores, over La Jolla Farms, over Mt. Soledad.”

No specific solution was suggested, although three were proposed: 1) filing an amicus brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit on current litigation; 2) challenging the FAA to perform an additional environmental review; and 3) applying political pressure on the airport to mitigate these impacts.

All three were under consideration, Price said.

• Usually a bill-topping topic, the La Jolla sea lions had to settle for third place on Thursday. Town Council president Ann Kerr Bache updated the audience on recommendations submitted by a Town Council task force to Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office in November, 2016. She said it received “no reply and no acknowledgment of it ...”

“But,” Bache said, “we’re not giving up on being in charge of what’s going on at our beaches. There’s basically two choices — move and exclude the California sea lions according to legal, humane prescriptions of the Marine Animals Protection Act, or move and exclude recreational users of our waters.”

— La Jolla Town Council next meets, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19 at the Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.