There’s a new city attorney in town and on Wednesday, she declared that she’s taking a different view than her predecessor on short-term vacation rentals.

In a new memo, City Attorney Mara Elliott wrote that current city rules don’t allow short-term rentals (i.e., Airbnb) in neighborhoods whether they’re residential or commercial. Short-term rentals aren’t detailed in city code and thus aren’t allowed, Elliott wrote following a request from City Councilwoman Barbara Bry.

Ex-City Attorney Jan Goldsmith had previously emphasized the vagueness of the city code and said the City Council should make policy moves if it wants to regulate short-term rentals. Indeed, the City Council’s smart growth committee is set to hear new proposed regulations for short-term rentals later this month.

Airbnb agrees with the need for an update: “The portion of the code referenced was not written with the sharing economy in mind and underscores why we need thoughtful, sensible short term rental regulations,” Jasmine Mora, a spokeswoman for the company, said in a statement.

Elliott’s memo doesn’t necessarily mean a crackdown on short-term rentals is imminent. A key city permitting official has previously said city code also doesn’t give code officers tools to crack down in the first place.

Elliott acknowledged her memo doesn’t “allow the reasonable compromise our communities seek.”


We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?

An attempt late last year by then-City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner to ban Airbnb was roundly rejected.

— Lisa Halverstadt

Neighbors Confront Another Density Plan

Once again, residents in San Diego’s Clairemont-adjacent Bay Park neighborhood are gearing up to confront a city plan to build new homes around a trolley station. Last time this happened, the city backed down in the face of acrid opposition instead of holding firm to its commitment to promote transit and density.

But this may not be a case of second verse, same as the first. This time, the plan is for increased density in nearby Linda Vista, although an Bay Park activist says his folks are ready to fight again for their neighboring community. And while the issues are similar, a developer says there seems to be more concern about building heights and view-blocking high rises this time around.

And there’s the matter of a citywide Climate Action Plan that’s gotten positive national attention and supports dense development. “In the past, there’s been an unspoken but widely understood pact with the city: The planning department doesn’t move forward with a new community plan unless it has the community’s support,” our Andrew Keatts writes in a story about the debate and the project’s prospects. “That often means tempering opportunities for growth, but it helps shield elected officials from choosing between what planners says is best, and what the community says it would prefer. That may no longer be the case.”

Can S.D. Unified Outsource Its Internal Watchdog?

For more than four decades, San Diego Unified has had an internal audit office that acts as a kind of financial watchdog. The school district is now cutting funding for the office but plans to hire out when needed to get better access to specialists.

Whether this is a good idea or not, our Ashly McGlone reports that the plan may not pass muster with a state law that makes it difficult for school districts to outsource jobs. The district’s general counsel said the plan is legally sound, but the district wouldn’t provide any supporting documents to show it’s taken steps to comply with the law.

City Brass Fend Off 911 Claims

“San Diego Fire-Rescue Chief Brian Fennessy and other city officials worked Wednesday to refute claims that changes to dispatching procedures that route inland water rescue calls to the fire department instead of directly to lifeguards delay responses and cause confusion,” City News Service reports via 10News.

There’s a dispute between the city and the lifeguard union president over whether the response to an emergency involving a drowning child over the weekend was delayed.

Not So Fast, SoccerCity Project?

The L.A. Times says new state legislation aims to make it more difficult for projects like the proposed SoccerCity in Mission Valley to bypass environmental rules. The bill “bans local governments from approving such projects outright, while forcing developers to pay the cost of any special election.”

The Chargers are gone and a soccer team is uncertain, but at least we still have the … Oh dear. According to FiveThirtyEight, forecasters all agree that the Padres are going to stink up the National League West this year, pulling up the rear, big-time, behind the four other teams.

“It’s hard for me to knock the Padres, though, because their ballpark food is so great,” says Molly Knight, author of “The Best Team Money Can Buy.” “They even have beer garden days. And the crowds are so chill. It’s the most relaxing atmosphere in sports. But, yeah, they’re going to be ril bad.”

O RILY? Yes. Rily. Whether that’s a typo or not, I’m really adding ril to my vocabulary.

Ryan Leaf, the onetime Chargers star hopeful whose life and career hit rock bottom, has resurfaced as a cautionary tale. “He’s now the program ambassador for Transcend Recovery Community, a sober-living environment with nine homes in the Los Angeles, New York and Houston areas,” the L.A. Times reports. He’s married and expecting his first child.

New Report Card for School Districts

The state has a new report card for school districts, but it’s not a simple matter of A-F grades. Instead, they’re “very high,” “high,” “medium,” “low,” or “very low,” which sounds a whole lot like A, B, C, D and F, but don’t you dare think that way.

San Diego Unified “achieved the ‘green’ level, which is the second highest level and the state target, on four of the five indicators — suspension rate, graduation rate, English language arts, and mathematics. On the fifth indicator, English learner progress, the district mark was ‘yellow,’ or median performance,” reports KPBS.

Median, by the way, doesn’t mean “mean” (or average).

San Diego-area Assemblywoman Shirley Weber proposed a more rigorous school accountability system last year, but state officials went with this one.

North County Report: Inside the Town Hall Anger-Fests

This week’s VOSD North County Report leads off with reports about the local town halls that are bedeviling our two local Republican congressmen, Reps. Darrell Issa and Duncan Hunter: Issa is being careful (perhaps not coincidentally, he’s endangered). Hunter, who’s not so endangered, is blowing off his critics, accusing them of being sore losers. Also: We have an explanation about how one of Issa’s 2018 foes managed to get a prime spot to ask questions at a town hall, a feat that made his own Democratic opponent get a bit grumbly.

Plus: Cities ponder putting homes in odd places (like a business park and next to a mission), a developer thinks Del Mar could use another resort and Encinitas is encountering some catastrophic thinking over a “pavement failure.”

Quick News Hits: This Caller’s in a Fog

KPBS profiles six emerging leaders in the historically black and low-income neighborhoods of southeastern San Diego. The region’s unemployment rate was nearly three times that of the rest of the city last year, KPBS said, and the percentage of households on food stamps is almost double.

The county Board of Supervisors is supporting Rep. Darrell Issa’s plan to move nuclear waste away from the closed San Onofre power plant. As the U-T has reported, “there is no clear path to move the waste somewhere else,” although legislation could change that.

If you feel like there aren’t enough places to listen to music in the county, then this may sound like a great idea: The county fairgrounds may build a concert venue for up to $13 million. According to the U-T, the fairground’s board approved looking into loan options by a vote of 7-1; the dissenter was miffed because the only written material in support was two sentences in an agenda.

And now a slice of San Diego life from the police scanner. The other day, someone called “about alarm going off every 10 mins or something for like 10 seconds for past 2 hrs.”

Response: “It’ll be the foghorn on the pier …”

Hmm. Was it a watercraft protection device or a rooster named Leghorn? We may never know …

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. He is also immediate past president of the 1,200-member American Society of Journalists and Authors (asja.org). Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.

    This article relates to: Morning Report, News

    Written by Randy Dotinga

    Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga

    3 comments
    Bill Bradshaw
    Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

    If you wonder why the city council has been screwing around with the short term rental "issue", the old adage of "follow the money" might be a clue.  The amount of TOT from these rentals, regardless of real or imagined harm to neighborhoods, is growing by leaps and bounds.  The council wants the money; the mayor wants the money, and whether the city attorney is right or wrong they are going to keep screwing around with short term rentals indefinitely.

    Don Atenow
    Don Atenow

    @Bill Bradshaw so what's to keep residents, who may have once relished the notion of the single family residential community, throw up their hands, build an add-on or two or some other type of accessory unit and get in on the rental biz? After reading through a variety of docs submitted to city planning and Civic SD, it appears many folks (not unlike the beloved developers) simply regard SD as a tourist spot and that, ultimately, long term single family residences will be a thing of the past, the region becomes more of a series of high density, short-term people-warehousing districts with high turn rates (and far more transient voting blocks).

    michael-leonard
    michael-leonard subscriber

    In that little thing called the Bill of Rights Amendments 9 and 10 state that, "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." and that, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

    I read this to mean that if it isn't specifically denied by law, it oughta be permitted, not prohibited. This would appear to contradict our city attorney in the short-term rental issue.