District 8 City Council Candidate Vivian Moreno Is Backed by Short-Term Vacation Rental Industry

by on October 29, 2018 · 1 comment

in Ocean Beach, San Diego

While many eyes in District 2 are focused on the intense campaign between Democratic challenger Dr Jen Campbell and incumbent Republican Lorie Zapf, we ought to take notice of what’s going on over in District 8. Because whichever of the two candidates running in that district wins, the victor will definitely have an impact on residents at the coast.

District 8 includes the neighborhoods of Barrio Logan, Egger Highlands, Grant Hill, Logan Heights, Memorial, Nestor, Ocean View Hills, Otay Mesa East, Otay Mesa West, San Ysidro, Shelltown, Sherman Heights, Stockton, and Tijuana River Valley. The district is also bisected by National City and Chula Vista, with the north and south ends having a majority Latino population in common.

It’s a largely Democratic district and that’s why two Democrats are running against each other for November’s general election. Antonio Martinez and Vivian Moreno are battling it out for the soul of the district. (Here’s the backstory.)

But it seems Moreno has a leg up on Martinez on money and that’s partially due to the fact the short-term vacation rental industry is backing her.

According to Save San Diego Neighborhoods, over the last two years short-term vacation rental hosts and managers gave Moreno at least $8,700 (it’s probably even more) which was 4.5% of her campaign contributions. Combine that with with Airbnb lobbyists, she took in at least $12,550 due to her support for Airbnb and other host platforms, with many of them giving her the maximum contribution of $550. (Recall that many of the city council campaigns began in 2017.)

For example, a year ago, Paul Becker, president of Bluewater Vacation Homes, gave Moreno the full $550.

That same time, Nancy Kramer – well-known advocate of STVRs and owner of Nancy’s Rentals – also contributed $550. We got to know Nancy last summer. As she mobilized STVR supporters to a City Council meeting for August in an email blast out to her customers and fellow investors, Kramer called for a “firestorm of anger” to be unleashed at the City Council meeting. In her email blast, Kramer declared:

“There is NOTHING more important than this,” she incites, while criticizing those STVR advocates who didn’t attend the July 16 hearing and complaining how at the last Council hearing “the other side continued talking for an hour after we ran out of people.”

Then Kramer lets slip a little clue of just whom she’s trying to rally and bring the firestorm, when she instructs her email recipients to “Buy your airline ticket right now ….”

Another key organizer of STVR supporters is Jonah Mechanic. He was very visible and vocal at the July 16 Council meeting where regulations on STVRs were hammered out (but later to be rescinded) by a Council majority. He is the founder of a major STVR network in San Diego, called SeaBreeze Vacation Rentals. He also is a contributor to Moreno’s campaign, giving her the full $550 last year. A relative of Jonah’s, Steve Mechanic, also gave $550; he is an attorney and lives in Florida.

Alison and Lucas Murdoc – each listed as the Chief Marketing Officer for SeaBreeze – both gave Moreno $550 in 2017. And again this year, both gave her another $550.

Now, why would all these people give money to Moreno?

Is it because she’ll vote to allow unlimited short term vacation rentals in every neighborhood in the City?

Just because Airbnb’s front organization, Share San Diego, is running outrageously false attack ads against Moreno’s opponent, how could anyone assume she’s in Airbnb’s pocket? Could it be these ads are a direct result of Martinez’s firm position that housing for residents is more important than illegal vacation rentals?

Or perhaps Airbnb – the $31 billion eviction machine – just really doesn’t care about Martinez?

But probably it’s because Moreno really just likes short term vacation rentals. In an interview published May 15, 2018 by the San Diego Union-Tribune she was asked, “How specifically should the city regulate short term vacation rentals?”

In her response, Moreno said:

“… any new regulation must also include two key components. First, there should be a fee to support affordable housing on all whole-home short-term vacation rentals. … Second, there should be a signed agreement with the vacation rental platforms where they agree to ban any rental that doesn’t comply with our regulations. I am concerned that if we rely on city staff only to enforce new regulations it could take years just to hire enough staff to begin real enforcement.”

Here, she suggested that the host platforms actually monitor and enforce themselves.

That was for the June Primary. More recently the U-T did another interview with her and published it on October 4, 2018 after the July and August Council votes establishing STVR regulations. Once again she was asked about her policies toward short-term vacation rentals. Here is some of the interview:

Union-Tribune: Short-term vacation rentals, your council boss [Councilmen David Alvarez] famously wavered on what to do about it. What was your view on how that debate evolved and do you think the council ended up at the right place?

MORENO: I can say that I don’t know how it’s enforced… enforceable. I don’t see how the city of San Diego is going to enforce vacation rentals without working with the platforms, so we’re probably going to have very angry people in about a year.

Union-Tribune: Other cities seem confident that they can enforce San Diego-style rules. San Francisco and Santa Monica, for example. So why is it a… why is their perception different than your perception about enforceability?

MORENO: Well because we need more personnel in [Development Services Department], plain and simple. I mean we need more personnel in DSD to help push… remember the housing units we were talking about… the 17,000 units? We’re going to need a lot of DSD personnel to help, you know, push that and I think that it’s a matter of priority, right?

… I guess that’s my answer to that… is I don’t think we have the staff to enforce the ruling that just passed.

Union-Tribune: Would you have voted against that proposal?

MORENO: I didn’t have… once again, we go back to things that council members have available to them, first one being the city attorney. You know, I wasn’t privy to the closed session discussions. I will say for the record that I use Airbnb. My family and us, we… you know, when we go to Baja we use Airbnb.

It’s a great way to… you know, to stay all together and I would be a hypocrite to not support short-term vacation rentals, to be honest with you. I would be a complete hypocrite to not support them. So I believe there are 11,000 units that are in question… 11,000 vacation units that are in question and I think that we need to make sure that they’re able to perform in the city of San Diego. [Our emphasis.] San Diego Union-Tribune

By the way, the U-T came out and endorsed her.

Moreno supports short-term vacation rentals, all 11,000 that are in San Diego. That’s why the hosting platforms give her money – so she can be elected to the City Council and represent their views. Airbnb is buying its way onto the Council.

Voters in District 8 – be forewarned.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Avatar Willard hornby October 30, 2018 at 1:20 pm

Both candidates have a few skeletons in the closet. Martinez’ record on the SY school board isn’t exactly gold standard either. I’ll take honesty and transparency over corruption and Kasparian-vassel any day of the week.

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