City Council members Barbara Bry (District 1) and Lorie Zapf (District 2) held a joint, grassroots-style press conference in the backyard of a Pacific Beach cottage on July 13, the Friday before Monday’s vote on short-term vacation rentals (STVR).
It was an attempt to stoke last-minute opposition to Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s STVR proposal that would allow any San Diego resident to operate both their primary and a secondary residence as STVRs, and places no limit on the number of permits obtainable every year.
Backed by community activists holding signs and wearing shirts with slogans such as “Neighborhoods Are For Neighbors,” Bry and Zapf attacked the proposal and the main vacation-rental organization lobbying for it.
“Airbnb started as a simple way for people to earn extra money by renting out your sofa or spare bedroom,” said Bry, who represents La Jolla and other beach communities. “It’s evolved into a multi-billion-dollar industry in which investors are snapping up homes, in beautiful neighborhoods like this … and turning them into mini hotels.
“It’s time for Airbnb to return to its roots of primary residents only,” she said.
Bry told supporters she was “optimistic” that she and Zapf could amend the Mayor’s proposal “and get five votes for something that will truly protect our precious housing stock.”
During her microphone time, Zapf (who represents Pacific Beach and Mission Beach) warned that passing the Mayor’s proposal would worsen the domino effect San Diego has seen “with skyrocketing rents, with prices for homes going up, with the demise of neighborhoods, which also then is the domino effect of (losing) school enrollment, churches, small businesses, volunteers in the community, people who would join civic groups.
“Eventually,” Zapf warned, “we won’t even be able to have Neighborhood Watch groups because there won’t be any neighbors to watch over each other.”
The conference was held in the backyard of 3515 Jewell St., the Pacific Beach residence of Elizabeth and Aaron Garcia. The young couple, who are raising two preschool-age children with a third on the way, have reported a cavalcade of problems with short-term renters next door at 3509 Jewell St. According to Elizabeth, the house was purchased a couple of years ago specifically as an STVR by a family living in London.
“It’s partying all day long,” Aaron said. “It’s playing beer pong, it’s music.”
When he calls the property manager to complain, Aaron said he gets told “there are no parties going on” because it’s only a family renting the house.
“They try to get good people,” Elizabeth explained. “It’s probably one of the better vacation rentals you’re going to find. The problem is they don’t know who’s getting in there. So they think it’s a single family and it’s four families. They think it’s a family and it’s a 21st birthday party. They don’t have any way to monitor it.”
The Light rang the bell and knocked on the door of 3509 Jewell St. but no one answered.
No representatives of Airbnb attended the press conference, presumably because they were not invited and could not intrude on private property. However, a paid public affairs rep for the company e-mailed the Light just before the press conference, asking: “If you need any Airbnb hosts in reaction to Council members Barbara Bry and Lorie Zapf’s press conference today, please let me know.”