City moves to shut down La Jolla Farms rental, citing ‘nuisance activities’ and large parties
San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott filed a civil enforcement action Oct. 23 to shut down a La Jolla Farms short-term vacation rental property where she said parties have resulted in at least 30 calls to San Diego police to investigate “nuisance activities.”
“Most of the incidents involved raucous parties, some of which had up to 300 attendees,” the city attorney’s office said in a news release. “About a dozen of the party complaints came during the COVID-19 pandemic while public health orders prohibit large gatherings.”
“Shutting down dangerous party houses protects the public health by preventing COVID super-spreader events and other illegal behavior,” Elliott said in a statement.
During one of the parties at the mansion at 9660 Black Gold Road, party-goers questioned by police said gunshots were fired during a fight, according to the city attorney’s office. Police found shell casings outside the property, and a neighbor found an additional casing the next day, the office said.
Some of the parties led to reports of assault, underage drinking and theft, the city attorney said.
Inspectors also found violations of health and safety, building and fire codes, and “defendants have been operating a business without the required business tax license in violation of the San Diego municipal code,” according to the release.
The city is seeking civil penalties of at least $1 million and a permanent injunction against property owners Mousa Hussain Mushkor and Zahra Ali Kasim, property manager Nital Meshkoor, and Steven Barbarich, who leased the property from Mushkor and subleased it as a short-term rental.
The defendants could not immediately be reached for comment. The city also accused them of engaging in unfair competition, including false advertising for using photos showing the property in pristine condition.
The online Airbnb listing for the property has been taken down. Airbnb said Oct. 23 that it had removed the listing from its site “while we investigate further.”
The property listed for around $900 a night (the city attorney’s office said it found it listed at $952 per night; the La Jolla Light found it for $861 per night), with discounts for longer stays. The house rules indicated “No smoking. No pets. No parties or events.”
Concerns about the property were brought to the city attorney’s office by neighbors and the San Diego Police Department, whose officers expended more than 173 hours at the property investigating the activity, according to the release.
The city attorney’s office said it assembled evidence from investigations by the Police Department, the code enforcement division of the city Development Services Department, the San Diego County Health & Human Services Agency and the city fire marshal.
The action comes as the city considers a proposed ordinance presented by Councilwoman Jennifer Campbell to regulate short-term vacation rentals. The proposal went before the Planning Commission this month, with commissioners asking that it be refined. It is scheduled to return in December for a vote and proceed to the City Council from there.
The commission sends a draft ordinance back for more work and declines to forward it to the City Council.
According to a city report, the ordinance proposes to define short-term rental occupancy as a stay of less than a month. The regulations would require a license to operate a short-term rental unit, put limits on the number of licenses a host may obtain, create caps on the total number of whole-house short-term rental units and create a process to track, manage and enforce such rentals.
The ordinance would group short-term vacation rentals into a four-tier licensing system, ranging from home sharing to whole-house rentals.
The regulations also would establish a mechanism to cite hosts or suspend or revoke the licenses of those who don’t follow the rules.
Also, in recent months Airbnb has highlighted its efforts to crack down on so-called party houses. Airbnb last year instituted a worldwide prohibition of homes that it said had become persistent neighborhood nuisances and more recently announced it would start banning all parties and events in homes listed on its website.
It has so far suspended or removed 17 listings throughout San Diego County that generated complaints or violated its policies on parties and events.
San Diego Union-Tribune staff writer Lori Weisberg contributed to this report. ◆
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