From political hack job to personal vendetta - the proposed STR regulations are a sad reminder

Mr. Freeman:

First, I believe your story is an accurate reflection of the information that was published.  But, what was published by our Councilmember is a misrepresentation, but confirmation of corruption of our political system.  Let me begin with a few facts and data, mostly from, which I have a subscription to.  The picture on the left is La Jolla and the one on the right is the rest of the City.  The purple dots are the whole home rentals and the blue dots are room sharing.  

The COVID has impacted the number of active STRs, but frankly most of the owners apparently decided to stay with short term rentals through the summer period at least.  There are currently as grand total of 10,244 active short term rentals in San Diego of which 81 percent are whole homes for rent.  Now, historically, and by that I mean since AirBnB was started in 2007, the vacation rentals were in the beach communities.  Many were summer-winter rentals, meaning rented out during the summer months generally for one week at a time, and then a nine month lease to whomever.  For many years back to the 1970’s, there were about 400 located along the ocean and bay boardwalks.  There was very little proliferation of these rentals into the courts.  In fact, there were virtually no short term rentals outside of La Jolla, pacific Beach, Mission Beach and Ocean Beach.

Now if you look at the maps, where do you see as the highest densities of short term rentals.  Can you differentiate Mission Beach from the other communities in the picture?  Not really.  Downtown has been the fastest growing area for short term rentals in the last 2-4 years.  In your article, Matt Gardner claimed that short term rentals have been part of Mission Beach for 100 years.  Matt has been saying this for two years I believe hoping that if he says it enough times, someone will begin to believe him.  I can introduce you to numerous long term residents of MB who will provide you an accurate development of STRs here, which is similar to other beach communities up the coast, Balboa island, Newport Beach and Manhattan Beach.  Mission Beach is almost 100 percent multifamily dwellings that Dr. Campbell would sacrifice to the STR community.  But the California Coastal Commission referring to Manhattan Beach stated that multifamily dwellings should be protected against short term rentals, because these types of properties provide the best opportunity for younger families to invest.  This was the case for my wife and myself as we purchased our property in 1976 in Mission Beach and rented out the other half long term to help us with payments.  So Mission Beach is the last place you want to take off of the long term market.

A couple of sentences about myself.  My wife moved to San Diego in 1962, earned a MA in education at SDSU and a teaching certificate.  She taught in Chula Vista for about 40 years before retiring 14 years ago.  I have a BS in Aerospace Engineering and a MS in Engineering Mechanics and worked for a similar time for different companies, which culminated in 2002 when I founded a local composites company, San Diego Composites, Inc.  I retired in 2014 and sold the company in 2018.  Most of my experience is developing advanced technologies for the missile defense industry.  In the 1980’s I worked with folks from Pt. Loma to implement a nighttime restriction for Stage 2 aircraft and was heavily involved in the review of the Terminal 2 expansion DEIR.  In 2016, I was drafted by neighbors to run for VP of the Mission Beach Town Council.  I was president for in 2017 and 2018, during the efforts by Councilmember’s Bry and Zapf to implement STR regulations after the mayor’s effort failed.  At different times I have supported different positions, from STRs are prohibited in residential zones to a compromise position that allowed a limited number of STRs, but only in combination with a very strict set of permit requirements and a strong enforcement plan.  

The short term rental industry owners and or vacation rental companies employees have either been involved to a very limited extent or not at all.  While I was president, the town council voted to support the primary only regulations that were passed and then rescinded.  After they passed was the first time I met Blaine Smith, owner of 710 Beach Rentals and the Save Mission Beach Blog.  Blaine has been one of two vacation rental company owners who have influenced the narrative during the past two years.  In my opinion, Mr. Smith and the truth are only casual acquaintances when needed to promote their goals.

Compares current active STRs with projected allocation based on addition of Mission Beach total to the total allocation for the City

As I stated there are multiple issues that corrupt this proposal. 1. Control of the Mission Beach Town Council by the short term rental industry As soon as primary only passed, Mr. Smith went to work using his website to recruit STR owners and operators to join the MBTC.  In November of 2017, Blaine and a few others including Matt Gardner were voted into key positions in the town council.  Mr. Gardner did his best as quickly as possible to stop me from making comments to anyone of behalf of the town council.  My last act before I passed along the baton was to stand up a Bylaws committee to address loopholes that were being exploited by non-residents and LLCs to secure illegal membership.  Matt and Blaine have successfully stopped any revisions to the Bylaws from coming forward.  At the latest election in November of 2019, Blaine put out his guideline for voters and the town council fully succumbed to the STR industry.  There is no way this will change in the future because Blaine has access to about 150 voters compared to about 50 residents not involved in the STR industry.   2. Use of the MBTC membership by 710 Beach Rentals in a self serving manner One of the Bylaw changes was a conflict of interest provision, which is stalled along with the rest of the changes.  The current STR regulations state that STR owners must pay for their own trash removal.  Two to three weeks ago, Blaine offered to the STR community to arrange for trash removal at his cost.  Dane McClearly, one of his two employees on the MBTC Board is also membership chair.  Seems like only Dane and Blaine have access to this list of residents and STR owners who might benefit from his offer, and who might find themselves paying in the future.  My evidence for these actions by Dane and Blaine are anecdotal, but pretty sure they could be proven. 3. Mayor politics

Again, my evidence here is anecdotal, but I have seen this before in politics.  I think if there is one point virtually every resident of Pacific Beach, Ocean Beach, and Mission Beach would agree on and that is Dr. Campbell has been the greatest disappointment.  She does little and virtually never responds to requests.  Then we hear out of nowhere that she is working on compromise STR regulations.  This in itself was surprising since at the first STR meeting called by Councilmember Bry and Campbell, Campbell was very clear that she supported the enfacement of the municipal code that prohibits less than 30 days rentals in residential zones. I supported Assemblymember Gloria for the State Assembly, but I now support Bry and not just because of her position on short term rentals.  In my opinion she is the better person to move San Diego along at this time.  I believe the LGBTQ coalition is a fairly well known and fairly powerful group.  Given all of the surrounding circumstances, I believe that the STR regulations action is far more about mayor politics than trying to achieve anything substantive on STRS.  You may recall that State Assemblymember Horvath promoted AB1731 to curb platform activities.  S AM Gloria waffled on the vote, waiting until the last moment to cast his vote after the fact.  But it seems suspicious that Horvath made such great progress and then suddenly pulled her bill.   It was at that point that Councilmember Bry pushed forward with her current position.  At one point after that, Gloria stated that it would be easy to pass compromise STR regulations making prohibition unnecessary and avoiding much litigation.  And a couple months later along comes Campbell, publishing her compromise regulations, carving out Mission Beach.  The data below is from AirDNA and shows the number of listed STRs in each of the communities.  I need to explain there are a couple of issues with the data.  These numbers include both whole home and shared rooms.  About 81 percent of the STRs listed in San Diego are whole home.  The blue bars are the numbers listed in AirDNA.  I will come back to the orange numbers later.  Suffice it to say that there are a huge number of STRs not in the beach communities, and yet, dr. Campbell has decided that she is going to speak for everyone. 4. Biased negotiations Brigett Browning, a women of medium stature, carries a big stick.  Since she is representing the hotel workers union, one would think this this would be her primary consideration.  A neighbor friend on mine and I did a fairly extensive analysis of rooms available from STRs and hotels in Mission Beach compared to downtown.  In spite of the mayor’s claim that the STRs are absolutely needed, we found that there are twice the number of total rooms available in Mission Beach compared to downtown.  So, all of the STRs could go away and there would still be plenty of hotel rooms.  So, we found that claim to be fake.  Two winters ago, we also looked at vacancy rate in the hotels and found that for example, the Hyatt Mission Bay was about 95 percent full in the summer months, but only 55 percent full in the winter, except for Christmas. So, why was Brigget ready to throw Mission Beach under the bus when she had very strong rationale for limiting STRs here.  Again, you may or may no be aware that Brigget is in a fight to the death litigation with Bull Evans of Evans Hotels, the Catamaran and Bahia in Mission Beach.  Brigett was also a strong supporter of Campbell and Gloria, if you get my drift.  Also involved in these negotiations were an Expedia representative and presumably Matt Gardner.  So, pretty much everyone involved in this group want to see Gloria win.  Is this a stretch.  I would think so but I have seen worse on the City Council a couple of years ago when Bry and Zapf were first pushing for a moratorium for scooters on the MB boardwalks.  Rather than supporting the moratorium, they voted it down along with the republicans on the council.  Zapf, who was looking for a win for her constituents, stormed out of the council room.  As a result of this decision, there were deaths and numerous serious e-scooter related injuries that summer on the boardwalk.  In my mind, that was a pathetic use of politics, but may be we are seeing it again.   5. Carving out Mission Beach is discriminatory

At a Special Mission Beach Precise Planning Board meeting just before the City Council votes on the mayor’s and later Bry’s STR regulations, seventy residents of Mission Beach voted overwhelmingly to oppose the carve out.  So, why is Mission Beach being carved out.  Is it because of our history.  No.  Is it because we have pissed off a lot of people.  Maybe, but probably not.  Is it because the Coastal Commission would end up carving out MB anyway.  Not likely.  Is it because Blaine Smith’s 710 Beach Rentals depends on the maximum number of properties in MB that can be used as short term rentals to keep growing.  Oooops!.  So this rule seriously ensures many STR owner/investors that they will get a STR permit when the time comes.  So, what about an owner in one of about 40 different small communities in San Diego.  By the way, I had no idea that STRs had proliferated so much in the City to little spots that I have never heard of.  Why are his chances diminished so that the owner s and investors in Mission Beach have this guarantee?  Is this not discriminatory?  That is a big question.

So, I am done for the day.  I am pooped and it is July 3rd.  I did not proof read and there is a lot of text there for an engineer to write.  Lastly, I could have included comments made by other Mission Beach residents on this subject who are able to express their thoughts a lot more clearly.

Happy Fourth and Stay Safe.

Gary Wonacott

Mission Beach

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