Residents air concerns about vacation rentals at PBTC meeting
For the first time since becoming the District 2 Councilmember in 2014, Lorie Zapf made an appearance before the Pacific Beach Town Council.
At the PBTC’s monthly general meeting - held at the Crown Point Jr. Music Academy auditorium on Feb. 18 - Zapf addressed a crowd of about 100, the largest assembly to date, according to past president Ed Reay.
“I’m getting to know the community, getting to know the issues intimately and making relationships,” Zapf said after the meeting. “My takeaway is that this is a very active and involved community of people willing to step up and work and I’m willing to be there for them.”
Among the many concerns raised during the meeting, the key issue appeared to be quality of life degradation in PB caused by short-term single-family home vacation rentals. Attendees complained about noise, traffic, and the drain on public services.
Zapf said that one-third of all small lodging establishments offering overnight accommodations in San Diego, are located within District 2, which includes PB. She added that the uncollected amounts of transient occupancy tax (TOT) and tourism marketing district assessments (TMD) are astronomical. These taxes are applicable to all properties rented out on a short-term basis such as a hotel.
“We are losing out on so much money, because a lot of people are not paying their fair share,” Zapf said. “The hotels have to pay their fair share, but a lot of places are not.”
Zapf outlined a two-pronged approach to deal with problem. Step one is to collect TOTs and TMDs to get more revenue into city coffers. Improving quality of life issues was second.
Representatives from the police and fire departments, offices of City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, Assemblymember Tony Atkins, Congressman Scott Peters, and Discover PB, were on hand to make presentations.
Captain Jerry Hara of the SDPD Northern Division reported that seven new officers are out on patrol and 48 new officers will be starting at the police academy on Feb. 23. Hara said that because Northern Division is one of the lowest staffed divisions with 88 patrol officers, he is hoping to get the lion’s share of new officers when the next allocation occurs in April.
Several members of the PBTC raised concerns about rising crime rates in the area. Hara responded by saying that when you look at the most recent facts, crime rates in the area actually haven’t changed much at all. He said that the number of rapes hasn't changed, robbery is down 22 percent, aggravated assault is nearly the same, and overall violent crime is down 4 percent.
“We're going to continue to use proactive policing, bike patrols, beach teams and several other ways to address violent crime,” Hara said. “That is our number one priority.”
Battalion Chief John Strock of the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department spoke about the Feb. 16 grease fire at the Pacific Beach Ale House, located across the street from Fire Station 21. He explained that at the time of the blaze, the station’s crew was at Kate Sessions Park conducting training exercises.
Strock said Engine 21 arrived within the required time of 5½-minutes and that minimum staffing levels were achieved inside of 15-minutes. The popular brewery has been closed for repairs and damages are estimated at $1 million.
Deborah Hanckl, a resident of PB who lives in a neighborhood designated for single family homes said she thought the assembly was one of the best PBTC meetings she’s ever been too. Hanckl stated that there are families living in these neighborhoods and they are not vacation rental friendly places.
“Tonight was a real eye opener. I heard things here that I haven’t heard in my little few blocks. I'm a community member I want to know what I can do to try and make life better for those of us that live and work here and raise families here,” said Hanckl.