Ocean Beach Planning Board Refuses to Endorse Councilwoman Campbell’s Short Term Vacation Rental ‘Compromise’

by on August 11, 2020 · 7 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Geoff Page

One of the advantages of on-line community planning board meetings is that they are not constrained by the time requirements that owners of brick and mortar meeting facilities have set.  The OB Planning Board meets in the OB Rec Center and has the room for a set period of time.  As the three-hour OBPB meeting on August 5 demonstrated, the on-line venue easily allows for as long a meeting as needed.

Jen Campbell and Short-Term Vacation Rentals

The cause of the unusually long meeting was a discussion of short-term vacation rentals (STVRs). The discussion began with an appearance by District 2 council person, Jennifer Campbell. Appearing with Campbell was her chief of staff, Venus Molina, who did most of the heavy lifting.  Campbell herself seems to have retreated to two talking points saying she wanted to create more housing for San Diegans and ensure that San Diegans have peace and tranquility in their neighborhoods. This was repeated several times.

What Campbell was referring to about creating more housing is a sleight of hand trick.  According to Campbell, there are more than 16,000 existing STVRs.  Her office, and it appears actually her chief of staff, helped “broker” a deal between $13 billion Expedia and the local union of hotel workers.  And the result was that the number of STVRs would be reduced form 16,000 plus to 3,750, thus returning 12,000 plus homes back to the rental or purchase market. That was the increasing housing part.

What this deal actually would do, would be to legalize STVRs because, as of today, STVRs are all illegal. It was pointed out to Campbell that enforcing the current law would return all 16,000 plus homes to the rental or purchase market.

Campbell has been convinced that the city cannot ban STVRs and that the city must make a deal.  Cory Briggs, who is running for the office of City Attorney, was in attendance and said that is not so and that Campbell is getting bad advice because she is listening to City Attorney Mara Elliott.  It was Elliott who clarified that STVRs were not legal in March of 2017.

The basic argument is that the city has been allowing illegal STVRs and has been collecting taxes from some and now cannot go back and enforce a prohibition.  Briggs and others have said this is not a good legal argument. Campbell also insisted that the Coastal Commission simply will not allow banning STVRs.  It was pointed out to Campbell that other California cities have done this, and the Coastal Commission has raised no objections.

When questioned about the details of the new “plan,” virtually none were forthcoming. The first question was about how the 3,750 licenses for legal STVRs would be distributed.  The answer was the same as the one given the Ocean Beach Town Council during their meeting with Campbell. There might be a lottery. There might be some grand-fathered in. The “best actors” might get permits.

When questioned about enforcement, there were no answers.  Campbell and Molina got very vague at this point, perhaps because of the incredulity with which her explanation of enforcement was met when she explained it to the OBTC.  Campbell had offered more detail to the OBTC such as the fees that would be charged licensees and how that money would be used to form a 24-hour, fast-moving enforcement strike team downtown managed by the Department of Development Services.  With cool uniforms.

The OB planning board was much more congenial with Campbell than the buzz saw she ran into at the OBTC.  But, as the session wore on, the mood got a bit darker. This happened when she was questioned how this all came about and why the OB community was not consulted. Board member Kevin Hastings recounted that he participated in a meeting with Campbell to provide some of OB’s viewpoint only to find out that the deal between the two private parties was signed the day before the meeting with Campbell

Hastings, and others, complained that the city had not done anything to solicit community input. Campbell said they had met with OB people for the last year and a half. When she made this claim before the OBTC, she was repeatedly asked who she met with and never provided an answer.

Campbell’s representative, Teddy Martinez, as much as called Hastings a liar, but used the euphemism “disingenuous.”  Martinez replaced the former representative to OB who was moved to Mission Beach.  This was not the first time that Martinez has taken a hard line with the OBPB.  During a past discussion of the million-dollar ADA ramp and sidewalk at Dog Beach, he lectured the board as if they were bunch of children who needed to stop questioning the city.

Earlier in the meeting, board member Tracy Dezenzo commented to Martinez that a District 2 Facebook post appeared to blame the large problem crowd down at the drum circle, at Newport and Abbott Wednesday nights, on the Farmer’s Market. Dezenzo explained why this was not true based on several factors and was clearly unhappy that District 2 made this connection.

Instead of being sympathetic to the concern, Martinez supported the claim, only yielding eventual to “well its and chicken and an egg thing.” In other words, an agreement to disagree saying that Campbell and her people believe the people of OB are wrong, and that she, Campbell and her people, know better. Martinez does not exhibit the personality of a public servant but rather seems to have a top down attitude with little patience for dissent.

For most of the interview, Campbell sounded tired and a little lost, causing Molina to jump in repeatedly.  Campbell did not use the video feature as she did for the OBTC and as Molina did.  She was a disembodied voice that seemed to show the effects of the criticisms her supposedly great deal has had on her.

After Campbell was gone, an OBPB ad hoc subcommittee that had studied the “deal,” spoke about the various recommendations they had come up with, if this were to go forward.  This was a list of ten things that would need to be agreed on before the board would be able to support anything. The list became moot based on the eventual motion that was passed.  The recommendations included things like a requirement for 100 feet of separation between STVRs and several tied to how the licenses would be handled.  In other words, the details that are clearly missing in Campbell’s deal .

After a lot of discussion, the mood turned against the Campbell deal entirely.  The board passed the following motion:

“The OBPB refuses to support the MOU or anything permitting whole home rentals until the existing code enforceability is settled, and until the mayoral election, and until the communities are given a seat at the table with competing interests such as vacation rental platforms.”

The first point was the key to the opposition, whether or not the city can enforce its current Municipal Code and close down the existing STVRs.  That argument needs to be settled and, at the moment, the mayor and Elliott say one thing and several private attorneys are certain they are wrong. If it develops, based on a legal opinion, that the city cannot now get rid of STVRs as the city is contending, then the discussion of how to allow them can go forward.

The OBPB wants this to wait until after the mayoral election when the new mayor in office, believing it is not something to be hastily pushed forward when the mayor has only a few months left in office. The final point was that community input, so far lacking, must be included in the discussion.

Spray Street “Park”

The meeting opened on an entirely different subject, park property in OB that the board has some ideas for.  The park is called Spray Street.  It consists of the grassy areas to the left and right as you enter the Dog Beach parking lot from Voltaire Street.  It also includes the grassy area that sweeps south as a car moves through the lot to the left toward the exit, the ocean being on the right. A strung-together collection of grassy park land that the board is looking at.

The conceptual plan so far leaves lots of open grass but also has a center section proposed as a circuit fitness track.  In that section, the grass would be replaced with poured rubber.  There are ideas about art work and picnic tables.  Possibly gazebos.

One item generated some discussion having to do with over-sized vehicles.  There is an idea to put up a low-hanging barrier at the parking lot entrance to prevent tall vehicles from entering.  The real problem appeared to be large RVs backing into spots along the park and overhanging several feet into the grass.  There was opposition to the overhead barrier but support for some way to prevent the overhanging problem.

The board would welcome suggestions or opinions of the evolving plan.  Nicole Uneo is the ad hoc park subcommittee chair and can be contacted at the board’s website.

Roundabout at Bacon and West Point Loma?

At the end of the meeting, there was a presentation of a two-part project that was on the horizon.  The one that got the most discussion was a planned roundabout traffic circle at Bacon and West Point Loma Blvd., the entrance to Robb Field.

Steven Bliss, from the City of San Diego, presented the project.  Bliss said their study showed that it took 35 seconds on the average for a car to go through the current four-way stop and a roundabout would reduce that to seven seconds. To take 35 seconds to traverse a four-way stop, their study would have had to show the car starting from somewhere considerably back from the stop sign, but that was not explained. Along with the circle, there will be new walkways and other improvements.

Several people pointed out that the circle does not solve the biggest problem, that of backing up west from the light at West Point Loma and Sunset Cliffs. Traffic on peak days backs up all the way to Bacon Street mainly because the light at that intersection is badly timed.  It was pointed out that decreasing time through the intersection was meaningless with the backup.

There were complaints that the residences and businesses near the project were not informed.  Bliss said the city had sent notices out twice to make sure everyone got one.  But, board members who live near-by said neither they nor their neighbors got mailings.  Bliss appeared sincerely surprised to hear this and promised to look into what happened.

Later, after a description of the second part of the two-part project, Bliss said that work in both locations was the result of ADA complaints. It was not clear what the ADA issues were at Bacon but surely correcting those problems would be less expensive than the traffic circle. The other criticism of the roundabout was that, where these are used, they are used in a series and that having just one will cause confusion. This was an important point.

For anyone who has had to drive through traffic circles for the first time, the experience can be disorienting.  After using these for some time, a person comes to appreciate the efficiency of the designs.  On La Jolla Blvd. in Bird Rock, there is a series of these circles giving drivers a chance to figure them out and handling each successive one better.  To just have one all by itself seems like a recipe for accidents and lawsuits.

The second part of the project involves intersection improvements at Nimitz and West Point Loma, largely about improving pedestrian movement.  This project was also the result of ADA complaints.

Bliss sated that the project will go out to bid this month or next with construction starting in March 2021. The planned completion is December 2021 or January 2022.

Lastly some legislative items.  It was mentioned that Tod Gloria was proposing something in regard to the NAVFAC facility on Pacific Highway but nothing more has been found on this.

A listing of bills working their way along in the California Senate might be interesting:

  • SB 899 – Affordable Housing for property owned by religious organizations or colleges
  • SB 90 – Zoning ordinance
  • SB 99 – Extends AB 900
  • SB 1085- Enhances density bonus
  • SB 1120 – Prevents ADU’c from being used as STVRs
  • SB1385 – Allowing residential use in commercial areas
  • SB 1410 – Further avoidance of evictions and foreclosures.


{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

TWH August 11, 2020 at 1:22 pm

I think Campbell’s suggestion to limit the STRV’s to 3,750 is a good, BUT there needs to be included a provision to stop the congestion in the beach communities. Does her suggestion prevent all 3,750 from being in OB and PB? I think that currently 90% of all STVR are in beach communities. If there’s a city wide vote on her ‘compromise’, the non-affected communities will vote for it because they will not be impacted.

Her suggestion that there be held a lottery to decide gets the stvr licenses is okay, but I’d suggest that a new lottery be held each year so that each licensed property will not forever be deemed a stvr.


Richard August 11, 2020 at 4:50 pm

STVR’s are illegal in the city of SanDiego. Zero STVR’s is the right number. Why can’t people accept that fact! STVR’s have no legal standing in San Diego. Since when does a hotel union and internet platform in collusion with a politician decide what’s good for our communities. Recall Jen Campbell is the real solution.

Thank You


tld August 11, 2020 at 10:39 pm

couple of corrections. tracy is spelled with a y and not an i. and tracy is not the chair of the park sad hoc, nicole ueno is.


Frank Gormlie August 12, 2020 at 9:00 am

Thanks Tracy, made the corrections to Geoff’s post.


Geoff Page August 12, 2020 at 9:27 am

Sorry about that Tracy. I actually went to the website to make sure I had your last name correct, I didn’t even notice the error in your first name. I also went there to verify if you were the chair of the ad hoc subcommittee and looked at the three meeting agenda and the minutes and there was no information as to who was the chair. I made the assumption you were since you presented the information at the meeting. Seemed like a safe assumption. It might be a good idea to identify the committee members of the various committees on the web site as the PCPB does. Again, sorry for the confusion.


korla eaquinta August 13, 2020 at 11:43 am

Thanks Geoff for another great report! STVRs have been ruled illegal! I thought the PCPB was included as a last minute “meeting” with Dr. Jen about STVRs was on June 26. Short notice allowed only 2 of us to participate. I looked up the MOU and it was dated June 24. :( Draw your own conclusion.

And don’t forget Wiener’s SB 902, allows a simple majority on any city council to overturn voter-approved citizen initiatives. I am unhappy how these bills were rushed through approvals while public attention was focused on the protests and pandemic.

The City is trying to do the same while our attention has been elsewhere.


DrTom August 15, 2020 at 7:16 pm

Now more than ever, “Impeach Jen Campbell.”
Get rid of Teddy Martinez.


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