Updated: Apr 13, 2020
You can file a complaint with the City of San Diego Code Compliance Department on line. I have attended community meetings with Mr. Mechanic and my impression is that he is very disingenuous. He does believe there should be any limits on short term rentals, but admitted at the KJTC that Mission Beach at 55 percent in the summer is a lot. He claims that the problems can all go away with proper enforcement of the nuisance rules already on the books in San Diego. This is false, as no community up and down the west coast of the U.S. has been able to implement controls that work for STRs, if there are any significant number at all.
"During a recent San Diego County daily update, Supervisor Nathan Fletcher was asked about this issue generally. He stated that under the shelter in place order, visitor accommodations can only be provided to house front-line COVID-19 workers in support of mitigation and containment of the virus and homeless populations as a measure to protect them from COVID-19, as you note.
The question then is why are vacation rental companies still trying to sell their vacation rentals. See advertisement below; we really don’t need sick people to come to Mission Beach and quarantine. According to the governor, public accommodations cannot be used now for tourists. Any STR with tourists should be turned into code compliance until the governor gives the go ahead to resume business.
"Need a place to quarantine? We got you! Need 🧻, 🧼 or paper towels? We will provide some for you! All of our homes have been sanitized with extra precaution. Our rentals are a quiet and clean sanctuary now at a discounted rate. NOTE: All prices on our website have been automatically discounted. No coupon code is necessary." Reference 710 Beach Rental website as of 13 April 2020. Stay safe out there!
La Jolla vacation rental company's refund policy under scrutiny. A La Jolla-based company is offering 50% refunds, or credit for future bookings.
Author: David Gotfredson (Investigative Producer) Published: 7:34 PM PDT April 10, 2020 Updated: 7:34 PM PDT April 10, 2020
Jonah Mechanic is the owner of SeaBreeze Vacation Rentals in La Jolla. For years, he’s been a vocal supporter of short-term rentals in San Diego. Mechanic has appeared on television and written op-ed articles for online news organizations. I have attended several meetings when he has been present. He frequently makes questionable claims regarding limiting short term rentals on the hosts. In reality, his business is the one that is most impacted by limits.
This is one of the reasons why he and Blaine Smith, owner of 710 Beach Rentals, both oppose any kind of limits in favor of "strong enforcement.' This is just a bait and switch strategy, as I am quite sure that if all we had was enforcement, they would be opposed to that. I have first hand evidence that they would not be happy with a strong enforcement program to identify the bad actors. Six or so months ago, I proposed that the Mission Beach Town Council implement the excessive noise entries at the town council website. Almost immediately, Blaine, Dane, Matt, and their ally Sarah Mattinson jumped in with objections. It did not happen. Why? Because, 710 Beach Rentals and SeaBreeze have some of the worst of the bad actors.
Now Mechanic is back in the news, but for a reason that he would have chosen. He has not been refunding all of renters monies for those who booked and then cancelled because of the Coronavirus. One set of clients for SeaBreeze had the following comments after their refund was denied by Mechanic.
“We were definitely really frustrated. I think it was just a lot of back and forth, a lot of stonewalling, [and] a lot of not responding to emails,” said Dr. Anjana Uppal, an ER doctor in New York City. Her husband, Dr. Amit Uppal, works in a New York City hospital ICU. The couple booked an oceanfront rental in La Jolla recently and another short-term rental in Newport Beach as part of a spring-break family reunion.
“Between the two houses, it was over $10,000, the total amount,” said Anjana. With COVID-19 devouring New York City, there was no way the two doctors were going to leave their hospital patients. They tried to cancel their short-term rentals with Seabreeze, but said they received no response via email and were placed on terminal hold when they called the La Jolla office.
“Imagine a 16 or 14-hour work day. That is very stressful as it is. You come home, you've got a couple hours with your kids, and instead you're listening to hold music,” said Amit. After a lot of back and forth, SeaBreeze offered them a 50% cash refund or full credit if they rebooked another rental over the next year.
“We don't know how long this pandemic will go on and when it will be safe to travel again. It didn't feel like much of a guarantee of anything to us,” said Amit. “So, during a time when the rest of the country is trying to prop up and support essential workers – and particularly health care workers – I felt like they were trying to exploit those people, probably because they knew we didn't have the time to devote to arguing with them,” said Amit.
When News 8 called SeaBreeze Vacation Rental owner Jonah Mechanic, he said it was all a mistake and his company's policy during the pandemic is to give first responders and healthcare workers full refunds for cancellations.
“He has my personal apologies. He will get – assuming he can prove that he's a medical professional – he will get a 100% refund, no questions asked,” said Mechanic. RELATED: City of San Diego's short-term rental ordinance challenge RELATED: Short-Term Rentals: Debate over signature gatherers for repeal petition Atossa Jackson lives in Los Angeles.
She and a group of 12 friends booked an estate in Temecula through SeaBreeze Vacation Rentals as part of a planned wine-tasting trip. “Me and a group of friends, who go all the way back to high school, decided to make a girl's weekend away,” Jackson said. “Total cost was $3,133 and I believe 16 cents.”
Governor Newsom’s stay-at-home order put a cork in that Temecula getaway. Jackson’s group tried to cancel with SeaBreeze and got the same offer: a 50% refund or full credit for rebooking later. That’s when Jackson started reading the recent online reviews. “We simply don't want to do business with the company in the future and the travel industry is in a bit of trouble right now. Who's to say they're even going to be a viable business sometime by the end of this year, should we be able to travel for leisure again?" Jackson said.
The owner of SeaBreeze said a 50% refund is fair, given the fact that he is under contract to pay property owners when their homes are booked. “Offering a 100% refund might be the right thing to do through the guest's eyes, but what about the homeowner who also has bills to pay, who also has a mortgage to pay?” said Mechanic. Other short-term companies, like Airbnb, announced during the pandemic that they would be offering customers full refunds.
“Airbnb is a multi billion dollar company. We're a small San Diego company. You can't compare the two,” said Mechanic.
Stephanie Ballard and her fiancé, Chris Driscoll, had their dream wedding planned for La Jolla in April.
“We had rented this place from SeaBreeze for us and 20 members of our wedding party for $11,352, which is a big chunk of change,” said Ballard.
When the pandemic hit, Stephanie asked SeaBreeze for a full refund.
"They were like, 'sorry it's not within our cancellation policy to do that' and I was just dumbfounded and livid," she said.
The couple couldn't afford to lose $5,500. They had to reschedule their wedding for a future date in October. The same house was not available on that date, so they booked a different house away from the ocean.
“So, that's where we are. It's not the resolution that we wanted, but I think we were just so exhausted from fighting with them for three weeks. It was the best we could do at the time,” said Stephanie.
The SeaBreeze Vacation Rental office remains open for business on La Jolla Blvd. and the company continues to offer COVID-19 and shelter-in-place specials in its advertising. Under the governor's stay-at-home order, short-term rentals can be used to house front-line COVID-19 workers in support of mitigation and containment of the virus and homeless populations as a measure to protect them from COVID-19, but not tourists. “Our offices on La Lolla Blvd. are open, yes, but very few employees are in the office,” said Mechanic. “We’re not advertising for tourists. We're advertising homes – so that people understand – that if you live in California and you want to shelter in place, that there's a home available for you,” said Mechanic. This bullshit
Meanwhile, the complaints just keep on coming in on the Facebook group, some of them making their way to the San Diego City Attorney's office.
“We are all dealing with a pandemic that's very frightening and we don't know when it's going to end,” said City Attorney Mara Elliott. “We expect our businesses to step up to the plate and treat consumers fairly. The investigation is still young but whenever we get a complaint – and we have gotten several – we will investigate it thoroughly to see of the law has been crossed."