La Jolla Vacation Rental Update

La Jolla Community Planners support permit fees for short-term stays

Representatives of the short-term vacation rental (STVR) industry showed up en masse to support their livelihoods when the La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) took up the issue again during its Nov. 6 meeting, and ultimately voted 7-3-1 to recommend the city impose a permit fee to fund increased enforcement of existing STVR regulations.

After hearing some 40 people speak, including several opposed to vacation rentals, LJCPA trustees weighed in on the recommendations of an ad hoc committee it formed this year to explore the issue.

Opponents of STVRs, including a group organized as the “30 Day Club,” believe establishing a minimum allowable time for vacation rentals would prevent homeowners or property management companies from renting homes for weddings or other private parties of one or two nights — the most common source of noise, parking and trash complaints.

LJCPA board President Joe LaCava said that while San Diego’s municipal code gets “thicker and thicker … staff needed for enforcement” is dwindling.

Many argue that San Diego Police’s Community Assisted Party Program (CAPP) — which allows police to establish a zero tolerance policy for chronically reported party houses, resulting in fines, arrests and other penalties — is ineffective due to a paucity of officers to handle the volume of complaints.

In addition, police note that complaints from problem rentals typically occur on busy weekends, and are viewed as a lower priority.

SDPD Community Relations Officer Larry Hesselgesser said during the last six months SDPD had an average of four to five complaints about party houses in La Jolla on Friday and Saturday nights, in comparison with Pacific Beach, which had an average of 11 on Friday nights and 16 on a Saturday nights. “It’s not something where (officers) are there for five minutes,” he said. “If they need backup, it could be a half hour or even longer that they’re taking to clear that party out.”

LJCPA trustee Helen Boyden added residents are often reticent to phone police in the first place, and urged them to report party houses and get an incident number so that police statistics accurately reflect the problem.

STVR opponent and LJCPA trustee Mike Costello said regulations such as CAPP are a “paper tiger” in the absence of adequate enforcement.

Costello stressed his belief the San Diego’s zoning laws need to be strengthened to prevent STVRs as they currently exist in residential neighborhoods.

LJCPA board vice president Bob Steck, who served on the group’s STVR ad hoc committee, noted that the City of Coronado has a 30-day minimum established for vacation rentals, though when tested, most of those advertising their homes for rent online agreed to rent for a shorter duration, thwarting Coronado’s mandate.

Although STVR industry spokesperson Johan Mechanic suggested to the ad hoc committee that a minimum stay of three nights be established for STVRs, trustees felt the duration too short.

A motion to impose a minimum rental of seven days failed to garner enough support from LJCPA trustees, as well as one made by Costello to impose a 30-day minimum (garnering a round of applause from STVR owners and industry representatives in attendance).

In addition, a motion to pass several of the ad hoc committee’s recommendations — including substantially increased fines for CAPP violators and requiring the owners of such homes to place a deposit in escrow with the city to be forfeited upon subsequent violations — failed to garner enough trustee support to be adopted by the board.

“All these (ad hoc) recommendations are way too many and just not relevant,” trustee Fran Zimmerman said.

Should the city adopt the LJCPA’s suggested permit fee to increase enforcement of existing STVR regulations, city staff would determine the fee amount. LJCPA trustee Robert Mapes noted that Austin, Texas has a STVR fee of $283, though Costello said with approximately 450 identified STVRs in La Jolla, the city would have about $126,000 to fund increased enforcement, which he said would not suffice.

LaCava suggested the industry be more sympathetic overall to those living next door to STVRs. “Self regulation, I’ll say it over and over again,” he stressed.

In Other LJCPA News

Requests to write city officials: During the meeting two individuals requested that the LJCPA write the city to address specific concerns.

Shores resident Peggie Davis suggested a letter address environmental documents that project applicants are required to generate. Davis said such documents, which are lengthy and require time to review, are often not submitted to the LJCPA or its subcommittees in a timely manner, resulting in projects that don’t conform to San Diego Municipal Code, the La Jolla Community Plan and Planned District Ordinances for La Jolla and the Shores. She suggested all documents be submitted within 10 business days prior to community review, and that any changes made to a permit application after initial LJCPA approval be submitted to the group for review.

Representing the La Jolla Historical Society’s (LJHS) preservation committee, Bird Rock resident Don Schmidt asked that a letter be drafted requiring the city’s Historical Resources Board (HRB) staff to provide, upon request, electronic or print copies of historical reports issued when a property is being evaluated for a potential historic designation. Schmidt said the city provides the public copies of almost all other public documents, including permit applications, environmental documents and project status reports, many via the Development Services Department’s new OpenDSD website. He said the LJHS has worked with the office of District 1 City Councilmember Sherri Lightner on this request for more than five years, to no avail.

City of San Diego spokesperson Lynda Pfeifer told La Jolla Light reports associated with properties reviewed by the HRB are available online through the California Historic Resources Inventory Database (CHRID, bit.ly/HistoricalInventory), searchable by community planning area, address or other fields.

“They can then view the ‘Full Nomination,’ staff report and resolution (if applicable) in PDF form,” Pfeifer replied, via e-mail. “If a historic report was required as part of a project application but was not forwarded to the (HRB) due to lack of significance, it is not posted to the CHRID.” She said the public may review reports for free at the HRB offices, or make copies at 25 cents per page.

Cramped residential corner: Trustee Zimmerman complained that an 855-square-foot home addition under construction at the corner of Olivetas Avenue and Marine Street on a .05-acre site — approved by LJCPA trustees in March 2013 — sets a bad precedent for future development. The LJCPA voted 8-6-2 to approve a variance for a four-foot, side-yard setback from the street, where 10 feet is required per the La Jolla Community Plan.

“It appears to be built out to the sidewalk (and) dwarves its neighbors on the east and on the north,” Zimmerman said. “I would urge this body to very cautiously approve variances to setbacks and to doubling the size of buildings left and right all over town.”

n Minutes online: LaCava noted that the mayor-appointed La Jolla Shores Planned District Advisory Board is now under the auspices of La Jolla’s new community planner, Karen Bucey, and the city is now publishing its meeting minutes online. Visit bit.ly/LJSPlannedDistrictAdvisory

Election committee: LaCava also appointed an election committee to organize and oversee the LJCPA’s March 2015 election consisting of trustees Cindy Greatrex (as chair), Nancy Manno, Bob Steck and Patrick Ahern.

Infrastructure suit dismissed: Justin Garver, a representative for District 1 City Councilmember Sherri Lightner, noted a superior court judge has rejected a lawsuit filed by San Diegans for Open Government challenging the city’s right to use a $120 million infrastructure bond to pay for public projects. He said the suit had delayed various capital improvement projects around town and in La Jolla, including a portion of the Cove lifeguard tower rebuild and repairs needed to stablize a coastal bluff at the foot of Midway Drive in Bird Rock.

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