Peninsula Planning Meeting: Bry Opposed to Campbell’s Proposal on Short-Term Rentals

by on October 20, 2020 · 13 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Geoff Page

The regular monthly Peninsula Community Planning Board meeting October 15 had its highs and, as usual, its lows.  The on-line meeting was held last Thursday at 6:00 p.m.

First, the highlights. The lowlight will be left to the end.

Barbara Bry

Councilmember Bry made an appearance as a council representative, not as the mayoral candidate.  Bry was careful to make this distinction and declined to comment on any of the political races.  She was there to give her opinion on short-term vacation rentals (STVRs) and Point Loma’s councilperson’s proposal.  In a nutshell, Bry stated that the law needs to be enforced, STVRs are not legal.

Bry opposed what Jennifer Campbell is pushing, an agreement between a private travel industry giant and the local hotel workers union.  Bry said the illegal vacation rental stock needs to be returned to regular housing, especially considering the current housing shortage.  Bry said there were 16,000 STVRs in the city, the same figure that Campbell also used.  Bry said those 16,000 units would go a long way toward relieving the housing shortage.

Bry also explained that the housing shortage numbers being used to push the housing initiatives are flawed.  The state has said San Diego needs 172,000 new units.  A study by the Embarcadero Institute said the accurate figure would be 112,000.

According to the report:

“Use of an incorrect vacancy rate and double counting, inspired by SB-828, caused the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) to exaggerate by more than 900,000 the units needed in SoCal, the Bay Area and the Sacramento area.”

The report can be found here:

When queried about Campbell’s argument that her agreement will avoid years of costly lawsuits if the city decides to shut down the STVRs by enforcing current law, Bry said there is no worry.  She said she relied on the advice of a private attorney, John Thickstun, instead of the San Diego city attorney.  Cory Briggs, who is running for City Attorney against Mara Elliott, has said the same thing, this is a scare tactic only.

When asked about the argument that the Coastal Commission will not allow San Diego to close the STVRs, Bry had an answer.  She said the Coastal Commission cannot do anything if we are simply enforcing current law; they only become involved when new laws are proposed.  In this case, no new laws are needed.

Bry was not actively campaigning for mayor but who would not consider her a breath of fresh air in the mayor’s office after hearing her talk so directly on STVRs, as she does on everything.

Sunset Cliffs Chaos and the Del Monte Overlook

As most people know, Sunset Cliffs has been overrun in the past few years by people coming from everywhere to watch the sunset and to party.  Complaints by people who live in the area have begun to reach a roar.  Trash, noise, drugs, street racing, and lack of respect for private property are the major complaints. [Editordude: and rats, don’t forget the rats.]

The Sunset Cliffs Natural Park Council is sending a letter to the city describing the problems and asking for a list of remedies.  The item before the PCPB was a letter to support the Park Council’s letter.  After listening to a long litany of complaints from residents who showed up to speak, the PCPB voted unanimously to support the letter.

The issue with the Del Monte Overlook, at Guizot, appeared to be the same as the Sunset Cliffs problems, only smaller.  The proposal is to close off the dead-end street so that cars, and what takes place in the semi-privacy of cars, cannot take place.  Once again after hearing another litany of complaints from neighbors, the PCPB voted in favor of placing barriers to keep the cars out.

Both letters can be found on the website under board meetings, October 15, 2020.  There are links to the letters there.


There was a very interesting presentation by Anne Fege from the Kate Sessions Commitment group about trees.  For those who are not familiar with her story, Kate Sessions is considered the “Mother of Balboa Park” because of her commitment to planting trees. The thrust of the group is to encourage the rest of us to plant trees.

But, this group does not stop at just encouraging.  They provide education, resources, and assistance.  For example, people can apply to get a free tree from the city. This article cannot do justice to all that this group is doing, go to to see all that they have to offer.

Project Review

There were three projects, all of which were approved.  One was a lot line adjustment for two lots properties on San Gorgonio Street. Two were companion units.  One of those two was just designating part of an existing home as a companion unit and the only construction involved shutting off a door.  The second one was a bit more.

The second companion unit was a 951 square foot detached two-story unit over a three-car garage.  This one was a perfect illustration of the end of the single-family zoning designation.  This one was proposed for an area zoned RS-1-7, which is the zoning for a single-family area.  A 951 square foot unit is the size of many homes on the Peninsula.  Where once these units were four or maybe five hundred square feet, the ones coming on now are no different than adding a second house on a lot that is zoned for one dwelling unit.

The state of California’s push to build more housing has resulted in the destruction of single-family neighborhoods.  Considering what Barbara Bry had to say about the flawed housing numbers, what this really looks like is a push by developers to build where they once could not.  In a place like Point Loma, the idea that these units will be affordable is a joke.

All this does is provide people with more income. And, all this is taking place in neighborhoods where the infrastructure was built to accommodate one house per lot.  The city has no plans to beef up the existing infrastructure.  Added to that will be the parking fiasco as these units, that once required parking, no longer do.

In the past, the PCPB fought this kind of thing but because companion units and guest quarters consistently violated the law regarding kitchens and use as rentals. There is no fight left now because of the changes in the law.  The “housing crisis” is a cause celebre used by the moneyed interests under the guise of doing wonderful things for California.

The Lowlight

Just when it seemed the Peninsula Community Planning Board finally had a meeting with no obvious controversy, some was found buried in the comment of one board member.  During non-agenda public comment at the beginning of the meeting, board member Don Sevrens made a suggestion.

Sevrens has a history of disrupting the PCPB, from accusing a past board chair and treasurer of malfeasance, regarding the board’s minuscule budget of few hundred dollars, when he first got on the PCPB several years ago, to suing the entire board and the city last year.

During non-agenda public comment, Sevrens said he would like the board to consider a new, regular addition to its agenda.  The addition is called “Good of the Order.” This was not a familiar term to anyone.  After Sevrens gave a bit of an explanation, a board member commented that it sounded just like non-agenda public comment. Actually, it is very different.

Sevrens wants a discussion of this on the next agenda.  Here is the first paragraph of a definition of “Good of the Order”:

“According to Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised 10th ed. (RONR), the term Good of the Order refers to that portion of the agenda or meeting during which members may make statements or offer observations about the character or work of the organization without having any particular item of business before the meeting.”

Because of who brought this up, particular attention should be paid to “statements or offer observations about the character or work of the organization.” Here is the next part of the definition, with an example:

“Items that may come up under this heading are statements such as compliments or criticisms about some program or activity that the organization had undertaken. A Kiwanis Club member may want to commend the leadership for providing such a good guest speaker at last month’s meeting, or a member of the local Rotary Club may wish to express dissatisfaction over a portion of the junior leadership training program. RONR also notes that some organizations take up motions or resolutions regarding formal disciplinary actions.”

The wording “criticisms about some program or activity that the organization had undertaken” is of particular note. Comments commending or criticizing leadership can be made during non-agenda public comment. However, no discussion of comments made during non-agenda comment is allowed.  Questions may be asked for clarity only, during non-agenda public comment, but whatever a person has said is not open for discussion.  “Good of the Order” is different in that respect because it does allow discussion.

Given his propensity to criticize the board, if “Good of the Order” is adopted, it would offer Sevrens a broader platform to air his grievances.  And, there is another odd part to it. Other definitions include this statement:

“The good of the order is also the time to offer a resolution to bring a disciplinary charge against a member for offenses committed outside of a meeting.”

Just the fact that this comes from Sevrens should be enough for the PCPB to be careful with this suggestion.  Sevrens has been very critical of the stalled planning board elections and has been pushing the board to resolve this.  The PCPB is following the lead of the city and will wait and see how things may or may not proceed in March when yearly elections take place.

As has happened several times in the past, there is a faction of people who want to take control of the PCPB.  They managed to elect some members in the previous election, and, with success in the next election, could completely control the PCPB.  Sevrens is a member of this group. Considering Sevrens’s treatment of the PCPB members last year, naming them in a frivolous lawsuit, this reporter would suggest any recommendations coming from this board member be filed in the old circular file.


{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Polecat October 20, 2020 at 9:41 am

“She said the Coastal Commission cannot do anything if we are simply enforcing current law”

Not true. California law requires affordable visitor accommodations along the coast, and any city law, new or “existing” that violates state law is itself illegal.

The city will be sued because its new policy of enforcing supposed “existing law” will remove a large amount of affordable visitor accommodations near the beach, with not even a vague suggestion or plan on how to replace it. The CCC can either bring the suit itself, or more likely indicate its support for the many private suits against the city that will be filed.

So it is a double loser: loss of a huge amount of hotel tax revenue and visitor sales tax spending PLUS legal fees, including the legal fees of the plaintiffs when the city loses, plus damages. The city’s “minidorm” law caused it to lose a lawsuit and have to pay $129,000 in attorney fees to the landlords that sued it.


Paul Webb October 20, 2020 at 10:06 am

Polecat, not exactly true. In order to be reviewed by the CCC, the City would have to submit changes to the land development code to the CCC for review and inclusion into its Local Coastal Program (LCP). In the case of STVRs, that would be new regulations governing STVRs. The Campbell/Expedia/Union proposal would constitute such new land use controls that would be under CCC review. Since the existing land development code has already been reviewed and approved by the CCC (long before STVR’s were ever an issue), enforcement would not require any CCC review.

Back in my day as a CCC staff member, we agressively enforced the coastal act’s provisions requiring housing for persons of low and moderate income as an element of coastal access. Unfortunately, the legislature found that we were too committed to low and moderate income housing and changed the law.


Polecat October 20, 2020 at 12:53 pm

Paul, I agree with you that the CCC would not formally review a new city policy that shuts down all of the thousands of coastal STVR (some in place for decades and paying hotel taxes.)

Rather than the CCC administrative review and then possible lawsuit, it would go right to litigation. I don’t know about the CCC specifically, but government agencies have lots of different options: bring or join such suits as a party, as an intervenor, via the state AG. Ultimately the CCC doesn’t need to get directly involved at all. If the city decides to start “enforcing existing law” that violates state law, and it harms my business, I can sue to stop them.


Geoff Page October 20, 2020 at 8:56 pm

I think you meant the CCC WOULD formally review a new city policy…”

What state law would enforcement of our current Municipal Code violate?


Paul Webb October 21, 2020 at 8:44 am

Well, anybody with standing can sue over pretty much anything, legal grounds not withstanding. However, in order to get a review by a quasi-judicial body like the CCC, there must be. “development” as defined by the coastal act or a submittal of land use policies or implementing ordinances under the local coastal plan review process. Since the land development code has already been approved by the CCC, only changes to the code will require further review. There would be no basis for a lawsuit by the CCC – you can’t sue to block something you have already approved. That’s called estoppel. There is a process for reviewing LCPs , but I know of no instances where the CCC has reversed itself on something. already approved.


Geoff Page October 21, 2020 at 9:34 am

It could not be stated better, thank you Paul for the clarification for all.


micporte October 20, 2020 at 9:45 am

1-Plant a tree, best idea,
2-f+ck cannabis/alcohol partiers come to destroy the coast/San Diego/STRV’s, whatever your retro/neo dreams, ps. get a life
3-F*ck developers seeking to profit from second F*ck
4-thanks to folks like Frank Gormlie for publishing all these f*cks,
5 -plant that tree, our future depends on it, because all the f*ckers are gonna soon be dead because of their f*cking lame ass lifestyles,
big hugs and good luck to all you f*ckers

ps: wish Abbie Hoffman was here to say thanks to that f*cking b*tch, who dared to say it


Paul Webb October 20, 2020 at 9:56 am

Regarding the accessory unit issue, I would urge everyone to look at the model plans for accessory units published by the City. Although some are modest, the plans go up to a 1,500 square foot, three bedroom “accessory” unit. This is not your grandmother’s granny flat. This is a three bedroom home placed on the same lot as an existing home. Given our experience in the coastal neighborhoods, this is not going to be occupied by a family member or even a family not related to the primary residence’s owners. It will be a group of unrelated adults with multiple vehicles and will lack not only sufficient parking but any parking at all. These are plans that can be used by any property owner by right, not requiring any discretionary approvals.

Many years ago, I rented a house on Long Branch that I just loved. It was a modestly sized spanish style with many unique details. It had a yard full of fruit trees – a giant sapote tree, a honey tangerine, two plums and two apricots. It was a delightful place to live, until the property sold and the new owner ripped out most of the trees and built three apartments. He was able to do it as the property was zoned for that many units, but now he could do something as disruptive of the quality of life in an area zoned for single family residences.

I am not unaware of the inequities that some planning and zoning measures impose, particularly on less affluent communities and communities of color. But at some point, you want the neighborhood you decided to invest in to continue to resemble (in terms of housing types, not inhabitants) the community where you purchased your home. At least there should be some level of discretionary review rather than to allow wholesale changes to the community by right.


sd urban October 20, 2020 at 4:46 pm

Wouldn’t it be relevant to mention that the private attorney Bry is relying on for legal advice is also the spokesperson for STVR opponents Save San Diego, who have endorsed Bry and appear on all of her mailers? (Perhaps “STAFF” wasn’t aware of this.)

“Who would not consider her a breath of fresh air in the mayor’s office after hearing her talk so directly on STVRs, as she does on everything.” Lol – Bry not mentioning the conflict of interest above is considered “talking directly”?


Frank Gormlie October 20, 2020 at 5:14 pm

There’s no conflict there. There’s nothing inconsistent in there.


Geoff Page October 20, 2020 at 8:59 pm

Yes, please explain where the conflict of interest is? Bry gave the attorney’s name, that was pretty direct talk I would say.


Polecat October 21, 2020 at 11:56 am

It isn’t a conflict, but it is kind of misleading.

“the advice of a private attorney” makes it sound like she went out to some respected expert and asked for an objective second opinion on an issue.

She actually went to an advocacy organization she already agreed with, and got the “advice” of their lawyer knowing full well he already agreed with her.

It is like saying the opinion of a lawyer for the NRA is “the advice of a private attorney” on a gun control issue.


Geoff Page October 21, 2020 at 1:12 pm

Mr. Cat, I don’t know how much experience you have with the legal profession but I can assure you that attorneys don’t provide legal opinions based on political beliefs. Cory Briggs has also said the same thing. The threat of lawsuits is an intimidation tactic, one that occurs thousands of times daily with no basis whatsoever.

If you can find an attorney who will provide the opposite legal opinion that supports what they are saying, provide it here for us.

Here is a piece Mr. Thickstun wrote for the Rag:

Bry was not being sneaky, she had very little time for her appearance and she openly did say who the attorney was, as I mentioned already.


Leave a Comment

Older Article:

Newer Article: