Proponents of Over-Turning City Council Vote on Short Term Vacation Rentals Turn Signatures into County Registrar

by on September 1, 2018 · 3 comments

in Ocean Beach

Short term vacation rentals in Ocean Beach. Will San Diegans allow a return to the “wild west”?

On Thursday, August 30, proponents of over-turning last month’s San Diego City Council vote establishing limits on short term vacation rentals turned in – what they say – is more than 62,000 signatures to the county Registrar of Voters.

In order to force a public vote on the restrictions, Airbnb and Homeaway representatives need 36,000 valid signatures of registered voters. They and their consultant, PCI Consultants, employed an army of signature gatherers across the city who in turn employed aggressive tactics to wrest signatures from unwary residents. They have been documented deliberately misrepresenting the petitions – some even claiming they were for affordable housing (which is the exact opposite of the effects of STVRs on the rental market).

It got so bad in front of some markets, that Trader Joe’s in San Diego filed suit last week against the signature gatherers after numerous complaints by customers at their stores. The mega-store was requesting a preliminary injunction, but a Superior Court judge removed their motion from the calendar, as Airbnb informed the court they were no longer sending signature-gatherers out in a Thursday morning court hearing.

If the Registrar of Voters determines there are sufficient valid signatures, the City Council’s options include withdrawing its vote – unlikely since it was a 6 to 3 vote – or placing the measure on a future ballot, most likely in 2020.

The other grievous effect of the referendum having enough signatures is that it puts the new ordinance that restricts STVRs to primary residence and one accompanying unit on hold until a public vote. Which will throw the coastal neighborhoods back into the wild west that has existed up to now in terms of out-of-town investors buying up needed housing stock and turning them into mini-hotels for visitors.

This would be disastrous.

As the new law stands right now, restrictions will go into effect July 1, 2019, and would allow one’s primary residence to be a STVR for no more than six months out of the year with stays of under 30 days – plus it allows a secondary unit on the property to be a STVR year-round. Opponents – like the signature gatherers – claimed the new law “banned” short term rentals, which is obviously not true.

To the applause of residents across the coastal communities, the new ordinance will prohibit out-of-town non-residents from buying up properties through out the city – especially Mission Beach (which Mayor Faulconer wanted to allow no-restrictions) in order to create new STVRs.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports Airbnb and Expedia, which owns HomeAway, have already raised nearly $1 million in support of the referendum.

Yet, critics of Airbnb are not going away. La Jolla Town Council President Ann Kerr-Bache, also the head of the short-term vacation rental working group representing a number of residential communities, told the U-T:

“It is a very safe bet that Airbnb’s motivation behind this referendum is to simply stall the ordinances that the city approved and allow investors to get as big a footprint in San Diego as possible. By the time the 2020 election is here, they’ll have reached out to so many people they could easily double or triple their footprint.”

 Kerr-Bache also said informal discussions are taking place among community members about possibly launching their own referendum.

In addition, due to the verified claims that Airbnb’s paid circulators were deliberately misleading people about the new ordinance passed by the City Council in order to hoodwink them into signing, Kerr-Bache filed a complaint with the California Secretary of State’s office asking for an investigation into the fraudulent marketing of the petition drive. She filed it on behalf of a number of community groups and town councils, in a letter.

One of the leading ground operators of the campaign for the signature gathering, Jonah Mechanic – who manages hundreds of rental units – dismissed these accusations of fraudulent tactics, called it hearsay, and told the U-T:

“If we had seen any proof of this, we would have brought signature gatherers in and trained them as to what is correct.”

This is laughable – if it wasn’t so sad.

Mechanic heads Share San Diego, which represents some of the larger vacation rental companies in San Diego. One of his cohorts, Philip Minardi, spokesman for HomeAway, said:

“Despite the City’s flawed process and policy, it is clear that San Diegans care about vacation rentals and the value they provide to the broader tourism economy.”

We shall see if San Diegans are willing to give up their name-sake.

But there still could be rough seas for Ocean Beach, PB, Mission Beach, Point Loma and La Jolla. Put on your lifevest and hang on.

San Diego Union-Tribune

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar Lyle September 1, 2018 at 1:05 pm

Can the City Council require the Mayor to enforce the existing law (per City Attorney) until the public vote says otherwise ?

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Avatar kh September 4, 2018 at 11:28 am

No, they don’t have the authority.

But it would be smart to have a moratorium. At the current growth rate, there will be twice as many vacation rentals in 2 years.

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Avatar kh September 4, 2018 at 11:22 am

There’s a typo in the headline…. should read:

“Out-of-town petition company paid by Airbnb turns in fraudulently collected signatures to override will of the people”

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