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Commentary
Neighborhood Businesses

Harold Feder | Crest Road


As many of you know, trial judges have made rulings on the cases involving Del Mar’s short term rental compromise of 28/7 (28-day maximum per year in 7-day minimum increments). In one decision, the Judge ruled that Del Mar was required to perform a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) study before adopting the Short Term Rental Business STRB Interpretation Resolution. The Judge did not reach the more substantive issues involved in the lawsuit. Rulings on these issues will occur if the litigation continues. In the second lawsuit involving the Coastal Commission, the Court dismissed the case on procedural grounds involving time requirements. The City will have to decide whether to appeal either decision and to perform a CEQA study. While the status of Del Mar’s current STRB regulations is unclear depending upon future decisions of the City and potential rulings of the Courts, the political and legal rulings made outside of Del Mar are not.

If you believe, as I do, that the most significant issue facing Del Mar residents is our town’s ability to severely limit the short term rental business, then there is encouraging news on three fronts.

Last year, a federal court trial judge upheld Santa Monica’s ban on short term rentals. The 9th Circuit appeals court allowed the judges decision to stand. The Santa Monica ordinance prohibits residential rentals of 30 days or less except when the primary resident/owner is living and present in the home.
In another legal matter, Coronado, which bans STRBs of less than 26 days, sued a violator. The violating resident agreed to pay $10,000 in legal fees to settle the case. This is the fifth time Coronado has sued to enforce its ban and the town has been successful in all five cases.

In late 2019, in reference to a ballot initiative, residents of Jersey City (a suburb of New York City) voted overwhelmingly in favor of regulations very similar to those of Santa Monica. Airbnb supposedly spent over $4,000,000 in a losing effort.
In these cases and in reference to those who constantly argue to our City Council in promoting the short term rental business, I have observed the use of “property rights” to justify their position (almost inevitably for the owner’s economic interests). This egocentric approach completely ignores the adverse effect such a business has on the adjoining neighbors’ rights or the property rights of our town in general to preserve its residential environment. Simply, when one buys a house in a neighborhood that is zoned residential, doesn’t one’s property rights include the reasonable expectation that your neighbor is a resident and not a hotel guest?

The other theme I have observed are these business owners extolling the personal economic benefits of STRBs and how such income allows them to afford many privileges such as paying their child’s college tuition. Notwithstanding the self serving nature of this argument, it must be noted that our town is not disallowing owners from obtaining income from rental properties. Simply, the only restriction concerns the length of the rental.

May I remind those serving on our City Council that each of them ran on this issue and declared their support for a complete ban or the 24/7 compromise. The candidates who opposed these restrictions lost. I have always admired politicians who are honest and live by their words. Conversely, those who play politics with issues, especially one this important, deserve our scorn.

Our town, like the nation as a whole, is divided on many issues. However, on the issue of allowing the hotel business to operate in our neighborhoods, I hope and believe that the vast majority of Del Mar residents, although mainly silent, are united in their opposition. The examples of Santa Monica, Coronado and Jersey City are clear. Those in office should not mistake a small vocal minority as representative of the quiet will and determination of the vast majority of residents-nationwide and especially right here in Del
March 2.

 

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