The Views of Councilwoman Campbell’s Chief of Staff on Short-Term Vacation Rental ‘Compromise’

by on August 17, 2020 · 13 comments

in Ocean Beach

It’s been said that the main person behind the recent “compromise” on short-term vacation rentals being offered by Councilwoman Jen Campbell was her chief of staff, Venus Molina.

And via a recent San Diego Community Newspaper Group virtual interview with Molina, we can catch a glimpse into her thinking on one of the most controversial initiatives that has come out of Campbell’s office since her election in 2018.

First, Molina said Campbell’s office was not surprised at all by the adverse reaction to the proposal. They knew people “felt very strongly about the issue,” and they also knew “they wanted us to wait until after the election.” But other people, Molina claims, wanted Campbell’s office “to step up and take this issue on, …”

They did meet with “folks who came into our office over the last year,” she said. They met with Save San Diego Neighborhoods and the OB Town Council – despite claims to the contrary from those groups. OBceans they did meet with were actually surprised by the “compromise” when it was released, as they hadn’t known about it. The OB Planning Board publicly refused to endorse it. About OB, Molina said, “they don’t want them.”

Plus, obviously, Campbell’s office met with Expedia, worth $13 billion, and the union Unite HERE, the union of hotel workers, involved in the compromise. She also said, “The only people not willing to compromise are those belonging to Save San Diego Neighborhoods.” But it’s all good as “we have the union and two of the largest STR platforms on board, and the City Attorney is drafting a new ordinance trying to make everything very legal and equitable.”

How did it all come down? Molina explained that Expedia was (already?) working on a memorandum of understanding (MOU), when Campbell’s office decided “to hear from our constituents” in “another round of meetings.” This was all news to other beach residents in Pacific Beach and Mission Beach.

This statement reveals something important. ‘Expedia was working on their MOU.’ This sounds like the initiative came from one of the largest, international rental platforms in the world. Plus, it’s never been tried before anywhere else. The short-term vacation rental industry was and still is driving this project – and not Campbell’s constituents. The union and her members, although have their issues and they are important, they are not Campbell’s constituents. Yet, Campbell, we’re told, is a “coalition builder,” – just not a coalition builder among her own constituents.

But, why the rush? Why didn’t Campbell’s office wait until after the November election – she was asked (or until after the COVID-19 crisis – which she wasn’t asked.)

In Molina’s view, if they waited until after the election, there would be 5 new councilmembers, and because this is a very complex issue, the new councilmembers would “have to start over being educated on this …” This is a bad thing? The current members “understand the issues.” Okay. Do they understand the vehement opposition in a good chunk of Campbell’s District 2?

“We want to get this done now versus waiting for the new council, which would be another year. People want to see this now,” Molina said. Another vague reference to “people.” Which people? The Union members? The STVR industry? Definitely not her people, her constituents.

People have to remember this is a compromise, Molina said and will have to “give and take.” Molina is confident, however, about the proposal, as she said, “the largest parties are at the table,” – which reveals again, no sense or understanding that Campbell’s resident constituents are actually her “largest party” and they’re not at the table.

No sense of any issue with the initiative/ “compromise” being pushed during the pandemic raised either by the news group or Molina. This has been a constant complaint for the last 5 months or so, that the government is bulldozing things through a governmental process without public input because of the threats from the disease. No public input and insufficient transparency. Why not wait until next year?

So, why isn’t the current law against STVRs in residential neighborhoods being enforced, according to Molina? It’s not realistic right now, she said. “If we could do that, we would have,” is her incredulous response. Many know that City Attorney Mara Elliott declared STVRs illegal in residential neighborhoods years ago, but because of the strong-mayor government, it’s been up to Mayor Falconer to do so, to enforce the municipal code. Yet, he hasn’t – for political, partisan reasons perhaps?

Then, there’s the fear – the fear of being sued. Molina’s view: “You’ve seen the platforms come after the City and force the City to have a referendum and to rescind their last policy (on STR reform). So they’ll sue the City, and it will keep this issue in the courts forever. San Diego is one of the top STR markets. The STR industry would fight for this market.”

Molina also continued the narrative that has very shaky grounds; “you can’t take away from people something they’ve been doing for years, taking away their income.” If the city all of a sudden shuts the STVRs down “we would most likely get sued by the platforms and they would probably win. That’s what our attorneys have said it us.” This is an amazing claim. Who are these attorneys? Isn’t the City Attorney your attorney, Campbell?

This is not how the law works. Sure there are statutes of limitations, but if there’s an illegal money operation – and it continues – then sure as hell, law enforcement can break it up, even if they’ve been “doing for years” and even if its’ “taking away their income.” Like a serial bank robber; he or she has been doing it for years and it’s how they live – it’s their income. They can’t be busted and forced to give up the income they’ve stolen?

What about the loss of valuable housing stock – a key way STVRs damage communities -? The Campbell mantra was revealed again by Molina. The new law would actually increase housing stock by releasing 70 percent of the current, estimated 16,000 STVRs in San Diego, “back into the market for rental and for sale,” and “we would have more housing for permanent residents.” Oh, yes, and “reducing it by 70%, that’s a huge win.” Plus, Molina revealed, there’s some anxiety that the platforms may even change their mind – so we’ve got to rush this thing through before the $13 Billion Expedia just decides to say adios to the “compromise”, oh my.

Lastly, there’s been claims that Campbell – who once opposed STVRs during the election campaign – now has reversed her position. Molina’s simple answer? Campbell didn’t understand back then, when she was naive Molina implied, “why the municipal code could not be enforced.” Also, Campbell didn’t understand how the council could be sued by all these righteous rental platforms, presumably.

There you have it. The so-called compromise isn’t a compromise between the real parties to the issue. The whole proposal is being driven by the short-term vacation rental industry and Campbell’s District 2 constituents have been left out of the process. This is not a good thing. But, apparently Venus Molina – and Campbell – are oblivious to this fact. That’s also not a good thing. Not for the residents of District 2 – nor for Campbell’s future.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar retired botanist August 17, 2020 at 2:11 pm

Seriously? Pure bullshit. Get this woman out of the room!!! She almost sounds like Kayleigh for God’s sake, what a bunch of snake oil.
The current members “understand the issue” (= have been bought off and/or threatened?), new members ‘would not’ (= might be opposed)
“We want to get this done now” (= while no one is paying attention and there are multiple other crises, and before anyone insists on enforcing existing laws)
“Remember this is a compromise” (= its just breaking the law a little less)
“You can’t take away from people something they’ve been doing for years” (=they’ve been breaking the law for years, but we can’t be bothered with a potential pushback lawsuit, so we’re just going to go with continued breaking of the law)
“People want to see this now” (= Expedia and the big STVR lobbies)

Disgusting! What Campbell is brokering is LITERALLY CRIMINAL- what is wrong with these people?! How many times does it have to be said, worse, how much longer do we have to listen to them acknowledge that STVRs in residential areas are illegal?
If they want STVRs, they have to change the laws first. How hard is that to figure out? :(

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Avatar Paul Webb August 17, 2020 at 2:27 pm

So…Campbell didn’t understand the issues when she ran, but she understands them now and reverses herself on major issues that were key to her victory. Well, we didn’t understand then, but we understand now that we cannot put any faith in anything Campbell or her staff say with regard to positions on the issues that are important to us.

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Avatar Sam August 17, 2020 at 3:41 pm

The only thing Campbell didn’t understand was that the STVR industry would crush her reelection efforts if she didn’t play ball. What a bunch of crap. What is the status of the recall Campbell effort? Perhaps its time to ratchet that up a notch?

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Avatar triggerfinger August 18, 2020 at 4:17 pm

There is no re-election effort. Jen was always an empty suit and is now a demoralized Emory suit and has even less interest in the job than when she started.

Any election effort is clearly for Mrs. Molina herself.

And we all know pleasing the small and engaged percentage of the electorate isn’t their strategy.
Sadly though they are birds of a feather when it comes to “talking at” their constituents. It permeates her entire staff. Other councilmembers, despite all their flaws, have not treated the residents with such disregard.

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Avatar OB Toby August 17, 2020 at 5:35 pm

Wow. So this topic is so unimportant that Jen Campbell lets her staff drive it. Is she trying to duck the blow back? I’m astounded by her numerous initiatives that I would expect out of an old time politician to deliver San Diego into the arms of developers, including the 30 ft limit lproposal; the absurd stance on the convention center (after voters said we don’t want items like this on primary ballots) and her obliviousness to whole effect of Covid on our community. During the campaign, she made a big deal about how Bill Gore had really dropped the ball on the Hepatitis outbreak as did San Diego. She fluffed up her background and said that when she was a resident they would have nipped it in the bud (neglecting to mention she really has no responsibility as an anti infection disease specialist!). So what has done to help our beach communities. Complaints to her office are unanswered. Where are some ideas? How about hanging a sign over Newport that says “wear a mask”. Some ideas from this so called concerned physician please.

Don’t get your hopes up about getting a response. You get a standard email response, that they will get back to you soon. It’s been a month. Absolutely nothing back.

Is she In missing inaction. Does Jen Campbell exist?

Can’t wait for the election and hopefully a better candidate appears.

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Avatar nostalgic August 18, 2020 at 8:10 am

Does anybody know what Council Member Campbell’s medical specialty/skill set is documented to be? In these trying times, it seems that her background could better place her in a position to provide support for other decisions being made for all of the people in the City of San Diego.

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Avatar Paul Webb August 18, 2020 at 8:59 am

Campbell is listed on “Healthgrades” as a family practice physician, with no indication of any specialty. Interestingly, she has no patient ratings, and no patient has responded to the general questions relating to her practice. Given her age, she may have stopped practicing, but that is just conjecture on my part.

What we do know is that she is not responsive, at least not to members of the beach communities. I personally have contacted her office twice on community issues and received only “we’ll get back to you” responses. I know many others have had the same experience. The one thing an elected official cannot do is ignore constituent inquiries. This is the bread and butter of retail politics.

My gut feeling about her is that she is not experienced at City Hall, and is not experienced in community issues, at least not outside of Clairemont, and is generally in over her head. I have seen this before (Laurie Zapf) and what tends to happen is an over-reliance on staff and on “consultants” (read lobbyists) for advice and information on policy matters. I think she has ambitions to be a big cheese in civic affairs, but just lacks the necessities.

I am still puzzled why she (or anybody, for that matter) believes that an MOU between a labor union and one player in the STVR realm is any kind of solution. Expedia is not even that big of a player compared to AirBNB, VRBO and others. Not to mention that there was only very limited involvement with key community groups. This just doesn’t make any sense as a real solution. Even if this does go through, AirBNB will likely fight it.

I don’t know why we don’t just look at other jurisdictions that have restrictions on STVRs that have survived legal challenges and use them as models for a local ordinance. This isn’t rocket surgery – build on something that has been found to work.

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Avatar Geoff Page August 18, 2020 at 10:15 am

As always, great comment Paul. I agree with you, she is a star-struck naive person despite her advanced years. Reliance on staff is what the City has always been about, it’s the staff that has to be watched. Of everyone I’ve interacted with, Josh Coyne seems to be the best of the bunch. Martinez needs some training in community relations. Molina is clearly very ambitious. Look for her on a future ballot.

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Avatar Gregory Scott Mac Laggan August 18, 2020 at 10:51 am

Ms. Molina intercepted my Certified letter to Campbell, promised to get it to her and get back to me. She never did. I then sent a Certified Restricted Delivery – only Campbell can sign for it:
Delivery refused and never picked up. Both Martinez and Coyne promised to “look into” issues and get back to me. Neither did. Molina clearly runs the office and Campbell is in the dark or simply does not care. Good luck.

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Avatar Paul Webb August 18, 2020 at 2:56 pm

“Does not care” gets my vote.

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Avatar triggerfinger August 18, 2020 at 4:24 pm

There is no re-election effort. Jen was always an empty suit and is now a demoralized Emory suit and has even less interest in the job than when she started.

Any election effort is clearly for Mrs. Molina herself.

And we all know pleasing the small and engaged percentage of the electorate isn’t their strategy.
Sadly though they are birds of a feather when it comes to “talking at” their constituents. It permeates her entire staff. Other councilmembers, despite all their flaws, have not treated the residents with such disregard.

I laughed at her comment that she expected this much blowback. What a lie. She was on cloud nine after issuing that press release, proof of how out of touch she is with the community, which I suppose is expected when you ignore us.

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Avatar triggerfinger August 18, 2020 at 4:25 pm

*empty not Emory

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Avatar Doug Blackwood August 18, 2020 at 9:32 pm

Where did Venus (fake smile) Molina come from, and what are her qualifications?
We were duped by Campbell because: we believed what she said to get elected.
OB residents have long memories Jen; we will not forget!
Residents make SD run, and they need affordable housing.

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