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Let Inga Tell You

Let Inga Tell You: Assault on family neighborhoods

A woman holds up two signs protesting short-term vacation rentals during a San Diego City Council meeting last summer.
A woman holds up two signs protesting short-term vacation rentals during a San Diego City Council meeting last summer.
(John Gibbins / San Diego Union-Tribune)

LET INGA TELL YOU:

Every day when I pick up my San Diego Union-Tribune, it seems that the City fathers (and mothers) have voted in another assault on single family neighborhoods, particularly those near the beach.

First, there was the flip-flop vote on short-term vacation rentals (now, apparently, in flop mode again).

Then, in a City with an extreme shortage of parking, the powers-that-be want to stop requiring builders to put in parking in new multi-family housing projects that are near what is loosely referred to as public transit.

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Now, I read that to deal with a general housing shortage, “granny flats” should be encouraged.

And finally, the City Council has voted to repeal a law that prevents people from living in their vehicles on the street.

As for the recentlypassed City Council regulation that would not require parking in new multi-family units that are “near” (1/2 mile) current or planned public transit, I think they’ve lost their minds. Our public transit system doesn’t even access large sections of the City, has little or no service late at night, and very limited hours on the weekends. Given that buses are mired in the same traffic as cars, there is no hope that they can run even remotely on time. Young families and older people would only rely on mass transit if that were truly the only option they had.

This new regulation also assumes, of course, that none of the residents of these new multi-family units ever has visitors — grandchildren? Elderly parents? Or even friends for whom walking a half mile (is the terrain flat?) late at night after a dinner gathering is no big deal.

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When my husband and I lived in Sweden for two years in 2005 and 2006, we never had a car. That’s because, like many European cities, Stockholm has a finely tuned bus, train, and subway system that runs to the minute even in the worst weather. If we had a system like that, I’d sell my car in a heartbeat. But we don’t have anything close to that in San Diego.

Moving on to short-term vacation rentals, I think it should be a requirement that any City Council member who voted to allow these motels in single-family neighborhoods has to live next door to one for a year. I know people who do, and the constant noise, trash, parking problems, and partying have truly ruined their quality of life — and lowered their property values considerably.

I’ve lived in my current home for 45 years. Ironically, in the early years I lived here, there was a crusade against the proliferation of granny flats, which were frequently not built to code or with permits. The prevailing feeling was that they reduced the quality and aesthetics of the housing in the neighborhood that was intended to be for single families. Adding additional residents in these illegal units also brought more cars and made scarce parking even scarcer.

But the story that officially crushed my soul was the recent decision by the City Council to stop enforcing the law that people can’t live in their vehicles. This is hugely bad news to people in the beach communities. I’ve been fighting the issue of people living in front of my home in RVs and camper shell trucks for as long as I’ve lived here.

In my 12 years of single parenthood, it really unnerved me to know that the kids’ and my comings and goings could be closely observed by “neighbors” we didn’t know — guys (always adult men) who felt free to urinate and defecate on the sidewalk, to get wildly drunk and scream obscenities at my house, and to leave trash all over. A high presence of camper shell vehicles always seemed to be correlated with more vehicle break-ins as well.

Fortunately, the City did at least start cracking down on vehicles being on the street for more than 72 hours, so that helped rid us of our live-in camper population. Even more fortunately, Mayor Faulconer seems to be reconsidering the non-enforcement of living in cars decision after an outpouring of protest from residents.

I really like to think that self-driving Uber and Lyft cars will ultimately solve a lot of parking problems if more people decide to simply not own a car. I like to think that public transit in this City will be expanded enough that people could actually manage without a car. But that’s not the situation now — nor will it be for a long time to come.

Meanwhile, the camper population could show up again any day, along with short-term vacation rental next door increasing the density of my neighborhood even without a proliferation of granny flats that would suck up our non-existent parking.

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Thanks, City Council! Our tax dollars at work!

Inga’s lighthearted looks at life appear regularly in La Jolla Light. Reach her at inga47@san.rr.com


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