San Diego settles with owners of La Jolla short-term rental that city attorney cited as a party house

This La Jolla Farms mansion, now listed for sale, was the target of multiple complaints about loud, raucous parties.
This La Jolla Farms mansion, now listed for sale, had been rented out on Airbnb and was the target of multiple complaints about loud, raucous parties.
(Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty)

The owners of a La Jolla vacation rental home that was alleged to host large, raucous parties amid the COVID-19 pandemic have reached a settlement with the city of San Diego, which took steps last year to shut down the rental.

The final legal agreement worked out by the San Diego city attorney’s office stipulates that the homeowners, Mousa Hussain Mushkor and Zahra Ali Kasim, be barred from “maintaining, causing or permitting” a public nuisance or allowing large gatherings in violation of public health orders related to COVID-19. The owners also are required to pay fines of more than $30,000 and to address multiple building code violations on the property.

At the time City Attorney Mara Elliott filed the original civil action last year, her office was seeking penalties of at least $1 million.

The owners did not admit to any of the allegations in the original complaint.

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.”

“Irresponsible landlords who put profit before the public’s health, especially during a pandemic, must be held accountable,” Elliott said in a statement. “Strong laws with clear consequences are the best deterrent, which is why I look forward to the city’s first short-term rental regulations taking effect next year.”

The settlement, signed off by a San Diego County Superior Court judge, culminates months of talks following a civil suit filed by Elliott against the owners of the six-bedroom ocean-view mansion on Black Gold Road in La Jolla Farms. The home was taken off Airbnb’s platform last year, and it is barred from hosting any overnight stays of less than 30 days.

The city attorney’s office demanded that condition because it was especially concerned about police reports of parties at the home that sometimes drew more than 100 people late into the night and early morning and occasionally involved instances of underage drinking and violence. The result was many noise complaints from neighbors that consumed considerable Police Department time over several years, said city attorney spokeswoman Hilary Nemchik. Many of the complaints came at a time when public health orders barred large gatherings due to COVID-19.

“In order to ensure the dangerous conduct stopped immediately, we settled with the owners, who agreed to stipulations, including only renting the property for periods longer than 30 days,” Nemchik said.

The condition may soon be moot, as Mushkor and Kasim have listed the 1-acre property for sale for $9,999,999. Amber Anderson, one of the listing agents with Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty, said the various building code violations cited in the agreement have already been addressed, as required by the city.

In the original complaint filed by Elliott’s office, the owners were named, along with their property manager, Nital Meshkoor, and Steven Barbarich, who was leasing the home and listing it on Airbnb as a short-term rental.

“My clients were not kept abreast of these police calls,” said attorney William Pettersen, who represented the owners. “They’re not the evil-doers. If they could have thrown Mr. Barbarich out on his ear, they would have, but he took advantage of COVID protections [for renters]. It was a commercial rental for him.

“My clients are in their 90s and in very poor health. They don’t want to suffer any more difficulties like this, so they are putting it up for sale.”

Attorney Joseph Miskabi, who is representing Barbarich, said his client has yet to settle with the city attorney’s office. He said there have been some discussions and it’s possible a settlement could be reached.

Airbnb said in a statement that “we support local officials in their efforts to address this issue and have strict rules in place which prohibit parties, as well as ‘party houses’ that cause repeated nuisance.”

Mayor Todd Gloria has signed into law new regulations governing the operation of vacation rentals, though they will not go into effect until July 2022. The new ordinance not only caps how many whole-home rentals can operate in the city but puts in place a system for licensing them and enforcing public nuisance laws. ◆