New Clairemont sign on Balboa Avenue. Courtesy city TV

By Daniel J. Smiechowski

Many local residents are upset at the prospect of strangers living in their communities on a short-term basis. It remains to be seen what outcome city leaders will produce in alleviating stress caused by short-term vacation rentals in many residential neighborhoods in San Diego, primarily in Council District 2, which includes the communities of Clairemont, Pacific Beach, Mission Beach, Ocean Beach, the Midway area and Point Loma.

The tourist attractions of Sea World, Mission Bay, Belmont Park, Liberty Station, Sunset Cliffs and the fabulous stretch of beaches from Tourmaline south to Point Loma are a natural invitation to open private homes in the quest for profit. A quick glance of the Internet shows literally thousands of vacation rentals in San Diego being offered to eager tourists.

On the surface, this issue appears quite simple but in reality it is far from black and white. According to Dr. Joe Klatt of Joseph Dean Klatt Realty in La Jolla, landlords renting for fewer than 30 days are required to pay a room tax. It’s safe to say that nobody likes a tax except the government. Vacation renters bring along untold millions of tourist dollars’ which flow into Council District 2 as the ocean current flows into Mission Bay. These monies support local business and circulate in our economy. This is good.

Daniel J. Smiechowski

Outside of the tax issue, there are a host of philosophical questions we need to address. Why exactly are some folks opposed to vacation rentals? Is their opposition predicated on subjective personal evaluations of perceived noise, traffic, litter and other disruptions to our quality of life? What about a hypothetical neighbor with a barking dog that drives people to insanity who may oppose these types of rentals? Why has the City of San Diego noise abatement department through neighborhood code compliance not changed their protocol in investigating citizen complaints for nearly fifty years?  Why not simply cooperate with the landlords and set the ground rules? Are we so lost that we need big brother to draft a plan to save us from ourselves?

There are good landlords and there are bad landlords. Civic responsibility begins with the self not government mandates. Having said that, I need to be clear that I oppose renting to tenants for less than thirty days in a single-family neighborhood. However, we would be psychologically dishonest in opposing some vacation rentals in high density areas of Pacific and Mission Beach without giving the benefit of the doubt to landlords in mitigating all necessary concerns.

There ought to be a vacation rental summit held in District 2 of the San Diego City Council with participation by the five major neighborhoods: Clairemont, Pacific Beach, Mission Beach, Ocean Beach and Point Loma. Concerned residents, city officials, the tourism industry, the San Diego Association of Realtors and anyone else should attend this important meeting. We need and desire public input on how best to draft a viable short-term rental plan for America’s finest city.

Daniel J. Smiechowski is a Clairemont resident, licensed real estate sales associate and former member of the Clairemont Town Council. He was a candidate for the San Diego Unified School District Board of Education in 2015.

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