Mission Beach
Many properties in Mission Beach are rented on a short-term basis. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

By Colleen O’Connor

After a courageous decision on community choice for electricity — as an alternative to the monopoly currently enjoyed by San Diego Gas & Electric — Mayor Kevin Faulconer can spike the football with one more fast breaking Hail Mary.

Imitate Teddy Roosevelt, but speak loudly and wield a big stick.

Why?

City Attorney Mara Elliott has ruled — correctly — that short-term vacation rentals are currently illegal in that they violate existing zoning laws.

The City Council has wrestled with this problem for years and finally came up with a sensible solution, only to be swamped by the cash of the Airbnb lobby via a signature gathering initiative that forced the council to back down.

The 8-1 vote left only Councilwoman Lorie Zapf in opposition. Her district has the greatest concentration of such rentals. She is up for re-election in 10 days, and she is an ally of Faulconer.

Enter the mayor.

He has tried to negotiate a compromise between the owners or and lobbyists for Airbnb units and the adversely affected residents in the old stock neighborhoods of La Jolla, Point Loma and Mission Hills.

He should try again. He can twist the arms, threaten enforcement of existing laws, work with the council, figure out how to legally exempt the beach areas, and then hold a press conference to announce even larger fines and fees for the illegal units.

Then he should make sure the city enforces the laws.

The residents of the older neighborhoods—who have battled mightily against the corrosive effects of weekend transient occupants in their once quiet neighborhoods—deserve help in preserving some semblance of their communities.

Faulconer should provide it.

Or Save Our Neighborhoods can sue the city for failure to enforce existing laws and Airbnb for violating the same.

Granted there are obstacles. As Elliott has explained, the new rules must be totally different that those recently enacted.

So, include the City Attorney in the mix. Work weekends and long days into nights. Do something intelligent, legal, and beneficial to all. This shouldn’t be that difficult.

It is long past time to preserve what still makes San Diego unique. And that is not more “uberization” of our neighborhoods.

Call Airbnb’s bluff. Other cities have done it.

Why not San Diego?


Colleen O’Connor is a native San Diegan and a retired college professor.