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La Jolla Town Council’s working groups putting focus on short-term rentals, public safety

La Jolla Town Council President Ann Kerr Bache
(File)

As the La Jolla Town Council gears up to take on 2021, its president, Ann Kerr Bache, looked back on the progress of its various working groups.

The Town Council, established in 1950 as “a communitywide resource to highlight and debate important community issues, problems and opportunities,” has four subgroups to further its work, though only two are currently active.

“I don’t believe in having meetings just to talk,” Kerr Bache said. “These working groups are very targeted; they have a very specific agenda.”

The community working group on short-term rentals, formed at the end of 2017, “is the hottest group right now,” she said. The group, with Kerr Bache as chairwoman, meets to highlight local concerns about short-term vacation rentals and incorporates members from several groups throughout San Diego.

Kerr Bache invited groups from adjoining neighborhoods, most of them coastal, to “develop recommendations based on good neighbor principles and procedures.” Recommendations and all working documents for the group are on LJTC’s website, lajollatowncouncil.org.

Getting ideas from several communities is important to Kerr Bache, who said “we need to have a consensus opinion, and we can’t do that if we’re operating under a ‘not under any circumstances’ [approach]. The reality is we’re living in a home-sharing economy and the question is, how do we keep it integrated and still have good neighbor policies? That’s what’s going on now — people who are running these are not accountable and only attract attention when there’s a shooting or a heavy party.”

Kerr Bache said the current STVR issues “involve a plan to vote on the Campbell plan,” a proposed ordinance for short-term vacation rental regulation that has been sent to the San Diego City Council for review. The proposal sprung from an agreement brokered by District 2 Councilwoman Jennifer Campbell between Expedia, which owns two online platforms for renting STVRs, and Unite Here Local 30, a hospitality workers union.

The agreement, Kerr Bache said, “unfortunately was drafted without interaction with the working group, which includes town councils and community organizations from Sorrento Valley to the South Bay. We have held preliminary discussions and raised some concerns documented on our website.”

She said the STVR working group hopes to meet with Campbell’s office “to suggest improvements and refinements to include strong enforcement and adequate budget needed to address the many concerns and problems being faced today.”

Also working under the Town Council umbrella is the Community Public Safety Standing Committee, which Kerr Bache said “works with the San Diego Police Department to address crime, public health and safety problems. It took on the Neighborhood Watch program and expanded tenfold the number of Neighborhood Watch organizations.”

The public safety committee, she said, was created in response to “an issue down at the Barber Tract” involving minors drinking alcohol. “We got police to ticket for minors in possession, which took care of a lot of the drinking problem right away,” she said.

LJTC also has a transportation working group, formed a few years ago to “examine the impacts of the new trolley station and recommend ways to improve traffic flow to and from The Village to attract tourists and alleviate traffic problems for residents,” Kerr Bache said.

“The main thing that came out of that is the fact that no funds were provided at all to get anybody into The Village,” she said. Without a clearer financial direction, the transportation working group stopped meeting, Kerr Bache said.

The La Jolla and San Diego Community Task Force on Sea Lions, created in response to “requests from the community due to the public health and safety issues being caused by [the sea lions’] presence,” also ceased meetings, she said.

“That was the busiest forum we had,” she said. “We came up with some novel ideas and all that, [but] there wasn’t much we could do about it. ... I don’t just want to sit around and complain.”

Kerr Bache said she hopes in 2021 to “get more resources dedicated to La Jolla” and is planning to invite newly elected District 1 City Councilman Joe LaCava for a briefing “on what’s happening and what are the key issues.”

“The bigger issue,” she said, “is restoring ‘The Jewel’ as it should be.”

The La Jolla Town Council next meets Thursday, Feb. 11. Working group agendas and information can be found under the “Hot topics” tab on the Town Council website. ◆