By Raoul Lowery Contreras
Enough is enough.
The San Diego City Council flunks again. After almost three years of the rape of the city by out-of-town Internet companies, the council refuses to stand up and solve the problems caused by taking up to 14,000 San Diego rental units out of the normal market.
While millions of dollars of potential city revenue are floating around the ether, the City Council sits on its rump doing nothing. The housing shortage has reached critical mass in the county with not enough coming on line to meet demand. Entire neighborhoods are being scourged by units taken off the housing market with short-term guests coming in and out and disrupting normal life. Apartments and houses have morphed into overnight substitute hotels.
At the core of the problem is councilman David Alvarez who doesn’t know what he wants or what the city wants. Is he unaware that there might be as many as 14,000 units on the short-term rental market? He’s in his second term on the council and yet we see no sign that he knows what is going on. Next in line is Mayor Kevin Faulconer who has remained in the shadows while council people flop about like fish out of water.
With the failure of the City Council on Tuesday night after ten hours of acting like the Keystone Cops, Mayor Faulconer is stepping up to put together a coalition of five council people to solve the problem. At least we hope he is.
Here are some suggestions:
- The definition of “commercial” is when money changes hands. Every owner or broker who rents out a unit for more than one night must pay for an annual short-term rental permit at a cost of at least $1,000 per unit.
- The “landlord,” whether an individual or agency, must collect the city’s transient occupancy tax and pass it on to the city once a month.
- Short-term rentals can be for one or more nights, but a unit that is rented for more that 20 days a year, regardless of whether the landlord is owner or broker, must be reassessed as a “commercial property” and treated as such along with the application for and issuance of a special zoning permit.
- As “equal protection” is a constitutional requirement and as the city is a “charter city,” the city may consult with the California Coastal Commission on regulations for properties close to coastal water.
- The mayor should develop a proposal in consultation with council members that might include these suggestions, as well as others, then apply a full court press to achieve a majority vote and settle the issue now — not three years from now.
Only the mayor can do this. Do it, Mr. Mayor.
Millions of dollars are being lost every day, neighborhoods are being ruined. Police and fire services are being stretched to limits unimaginable and thousands of San Diego residents are being displaced by short-term renters.
San Diego deserves better. Making things better is what you were elected mayor to do. Do it.
Raoul Lowery Contreras is a political consultant and the author of “The Armenian Lobby & American Foreign Policy” and “The Mexican Border: Immigration, War and a Trillion Dollars in Trade.” His work has appeared in the New American News Service of the New York Times Syndicate.
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