Residents Rally Against Short Term Vacation Rentals in Heart of Ocean Beach Airbnb Empire

by on November 27, 2017 · 0 comments

in Ocean Beach

Another stop along the “Walk of Shame” – where short term rentals dominate 3 sides of the intersection at Abbott and Saratoga. Photo by Michael Herndon

By Nick Karma

Dozens of residents of the beach communities rallied in Ocean Beach on Saturday, November 25th in the first of its kind for San Diego – a protest demonstration against short term vacation rentals.

Corner of Abbott and Brighton. Gormlie addresses crowd on building behind them, recently rehabbed and turned into short term rentals. Photo by Bob Edwards

Sponsored by the OB Rag and Save San Diego Neighborhoods, the rally kicked off with a few speeches at the corner of Voltaire and Abbott, in front of what was called “the poster boy of short term vacation rentals” – a lot filled with three 2-story modular units. Once the speeches were over, the crowd, which reached its peak of 80 protesters, proceeded on a “Walk of Shame” where vacation rentals were pointed out.

Residents watch Walk of Shame going south on Abbott. Foto by Bob Edwards.

Called the “heart of the Airbnb empire”, this section of OB certainly has its share, as the Walk illustrated. Many in the crowd – which had many residents of Pacific Beach – called out “enforce the code!” during the walk down Abbott Street, advocating the city enforce the Municipal Code, which does not allow STVRs.

Frank Gormlie, editor of the OB Rag, began the spiels, and said the rally is meant “to focus public outage, anger and concerns” on what he called “the devastation by short term rentals on OB and other beach communities.” He iterated that the Rag and SSDN wish to mobilize beach residents to the City Council hearing on December 12th.

Gormlie cautioned that they weren’t there to harass the tourists and guests but to make a political expression against these type of rentals. He spoke of the “loss of housing stock” and of a “loss of community” with the unfettered explosion of short termers. “It’s more than the noise and disturbances of these mini-hotels,” he said, but when “there’s no residents left in the community” due to STVRs, “there’s no community left.”

The crowd walks past a whole bunch of vacation rentals on the 5100 block of Brighton. Photo by Bob Edwards.

Others who spoke included John Thickstun, board member of SSDN, who reminded everyone the City Attorney called STVRs illegal; Ronan Gray, CEO of SSDN, who told the crowd his group stands with people in Ocean Beach; and Brian Curry, past chair of the PB Planning committee. Also, Gary Wonacott, president of the Mission Beach Town Council, said a few words.

Gormlie also talked about how “the numbers don’t look pretty for OB,” that there are many, many STVRs in the community. Between Airbnb and VRBO, he said, there’s a total of 550 whole unit listings in OB. This makes up at least 4% of the total housing units here. He had other numbers but this reporter couldn’t jot them down fast enough.

Save San Diego Neighbors brought their trucks and banners. Photo by Bob Edwards.

Once the short speeches concluded, Gormlie led the group on a “Walk of Shame” down Abbott Street, stopping at key locations and pointing the vacation rentals. Another short rally was held at the intersection of Abbott and Brighton, where a two-story, 4 unit building was recently rehabbed and turned into vacation rentals.

“There used to be residents in those units, people who care about the community. They were all evicted – and now its owned by investors only in it for profit, profit, profit.”

At another halt in the walk, OBcean Mercy Baron spoke to those assembled on how she fought a vacation rental next door – and won after taking it to the OB Planning Board.

At Abbott and Saratoga – which Gormlie called “the heart of the heart of the heart of the Airbnb empire” – the tour illuminated the units at the northwest corner were all short term rentals, as were 6 of the 10 million dollar condos across the street, as well as a whole string of properties to the east on Saratoga.

Photo by Dave Rice

Scott Therkalsen also spoke of how he worries that his 2 year old daughter no longer has neighbor kids to play with, as 3 properties to the east of his house are all vacation rentals. Therkalsen is a former member of the OB Planning Board.

Photo by Michael Herndon

There were at least 3 TV crews following the rally and walk.

Here’s 7SanDiego; abc10News , 8CBS , Fox5 , and Dave Rice’s piece at San Diego Reader.

Photo by Michael Herndon


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