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Morning Report: Council Wipes Out Vacation Rentals

Councilwoman Barbara Bry at the San Diego City Council meeting July 16. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

In a dramatic shift, the San Diego City Council voted 6-3 Monday to allow only residents who live in homes in San Diego to rent them out to visitors up to six months every year. Councilmen David Alvarez, Chris Cate and Scott Sherman voted no.

It was a huge win for Councilwoman Barbara Bry, who first proposed a framework like this last year but got very little support from colleagues, besides Councilwoman Lorie Zapf. The tide changed with Councilman Chris Ward’s decision last week to switch his long-held more liberal position [1] on the matter. Ward recommended that residents with accessory dwelling units, aka granny flats, should also be able to rent those out.

That will have to come up later.

The Council rejected a carve-out for Mission Beach. And existing Mission Beach vacation rentals were not grandfathered in.

The Council decisively rejected Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s proposal [2] that people be allowed to rent out their own place plus one other. Faulconer had also proposed the Mission Beach carve-out. The policy vastly changes what someone has to go through to rent out a home they own to visitors. Unless they find a loophole, it will eliminate all vacation rentals owned as second homes or investment properties.

City Attorney Mara Elliott cheered the move in a tweet [3]. “Congratulations to the mayor and City Council for stepping up to regulate short term vacation rentals, an issue that dragged on 11 years.”

But it Depends on Enforcement …

Councilman Chris Cate said, in a written statement, a compromise would have provided resources to regulate the industry.

“Instead, the Council chose a path that is not only unenforceable and subject to legal challenge, but would drive the activity underground, resulting in the loss in millions of dollars in revenue that funds public safety officers and the repairing of city streets,” he wrote.

The mayor was optimistic: “As I’ve said repeatedly, the most important thing is that we have an established set of rules that protects neighborhood quality of life through increased oversight and enforcement.”

The losers: HomeAway, one of the platforms people use to rent out to visitors, said in a written statement it was “extremely disappointed” and hinted it may consider legal action.

Former City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, who was hired by vacation rental advocates to review the proposed regulations, argued Monday the city could face a fight in court over its decision to treat people with second homes in San Diego differently than those who spend more of the year here. The Constitution requires that all people be treated the same. Elliott had previously raised similar concerns [4] and recently reiterated some of them [5].

Deputy City Attorney Shannon Thomas has said the City Council can apply different regulations to people but it must describe a legitimate purpose for doing so.

Last hurdle: The new vacation rental rules could face another major roadblock too. The California Coastal Commission, which has rejected multiple cities’ regulations, could take issue with a measure that significantly curtails rentals along the coast.

All Eyes on San Diego’s Federal Courts

District Judge Dana Sabraw ordered the U.S. government to temporarily pause the deportations of reunited families [6] Monday.

The American Civil Liberties Union had asked Sabraw to give reunited families a week after their reunification before any deportation to ensure the families get proper due process. Sabraw gave the government a week to respond and in the meantime, decided to halt such deportations for the week.

During Monday’s hearing, the government also confirmed that there are more than 2,500 children between the ages of 5 and 17 who’ve been separated from their parents, and that more than 1,600 of them are still detained. The parents of 71 children separated from their families have yet to be identified and located.

The government has until July 26 to reunite these children with their parents.

What Question Do You Want VOSD to Answer?

We recently asked you to ask us your most burning questions about San Diego. Dozens of you responded. We chose the top three questions, and now you get to vote on which one you want [8] a Voice of San Diego reporter to answer.

One question came in to which we already have an answer. A reader asked where the city got its “America’s Finest City” slogan. As VOSD contributor Randy Dotinga has explained, the motto was born from a scandal [9] during the city’s bid to host the 1972 Republican National Convention.

Comic-Con, Post-#MeToo

Comic-Con and other events like it have for years been struggling to deal with harassment issues. Women participants complained about everything from being groped to having inappropriate photos of them posted without their consent.

Back in 2014, a group of women activists working to make things better for women at Comic-Con told us about their struggles in pushing the event to implement a comprehensive harassment policy [10].

The AP examined the ways in which Comic-Con is making moves to address harassment in the wake of the #MeToo movement [11], though some stakeholders believe any changes or improvements to the event will only be temporary.

Getting Green From All Those Greens

On Tuesday, the Lemon Grove City Council will discuss putting a half-cent sales tax [12] on the November ballot. The city is facing some tough financial times [13], the Union-Tribune reports. Folded into the potential tax measure is a proposed 5 percent tax on medical marijuana products.

Meanwhile, the La Mesa City Council voted last week to put a cannabis business tax on the November ballot [14], reports the Union-Tribune.

‘Bring Back the Brown’ Gets a Boost

Padres Executive Chairman Ron Fowler told broadcaster Jesse Agler, on his podcast, that the team was probably going to switch back to predominately brown uniforms [15].

“I would expect that brown will prevail in a side-by-side versus four uniforms. We will probably move in that direction hopefully for the 2020 season,” Fowler said.

The Morning Report was written by Sara Libby and Kinsee Morlan.