NOTE: Edited due to postponement of Bike to Work Day to Friday, May 29th.
Friday, 5/29, is the postponed date for Bike to Work Day in San Diego and many other places across the U.S. (Of course, there’s no reason that every day can’t be bike to work day but that’s largely reserved for the ultra-awesome.) I’m going to be hosting a “pit stop” on behalf of BikeSD in Golden Hill at the corner of B Street and 28th Street. The pit stop will be open from 6 AM to 9 AM.
You should come by and enjoy free shirts, snacks, drinks, and other goodies. There is potential for rain in the forecast so I’m also packing extra tents you can relax under while enjoying the cool morning with other fun people. I’ll also be tallying everyone stopping by the pit stop so help me represent and top the attendance list. (No, I don’t think there’s a prize for that but I’m crossing my fingers for official bragging rights.)
Check out these photos for a sampling of what’s waiting for you at 28th & B on May 29th. Even if you’re not going to work, cruise on over and hang out for a bit! May is also “Bike Month” in San Diego and BikeSD is hosting a Bike Month Bash party on May 30th to celebrate. If you’re not already biking this month, start today and you’ll have something to celebrate on the 30th. Register today!
If you value the existence of short-term rentals in San Diego and platforms like HomeAway, VRBO, and Airbnb please share your thoughts to ensure they remain available here. The San Diego City Council is currently considering new rules and regulations for this type of property use which includes a potential ban, among other possibilities. The Short-Term Rental Alliance of San Diego (STRASD) is a grass-roots group of San Diegans that has organized to give a voice to responsible hosts here and the benefits that short-term rentals provide to the city.
The City Council Smart Growth and Land Use Committee held a hearing on April 22nd attended by hundreds of San Diegans on this issue and will have another hearing on May 29th. For many, it is not possible or difficult to attend in person and voice an opinion. STRASD has created an online submission option you can use to add your thoughts and why you support short-term rentals here. Whether you are a property owner, a visitor to San Diego, a local business, or anyone else that supports platforms like Airbnb your voice is important and needs to be heard! STRASD will compile the submissions and present them to the City Council. Please take two minutes (or more) and add your perspective. It really makes a difference.
The following is my submission, as an example. Yours can be shorter or longer – the important thing is that you make a submission. If you’re not familiar with this issue or would like to discuss I’d be happy to talk with you, just drop me an email or phone call.
I am an Airbnb host in North Park and love the platform and the opportunities our family has due to it. We bought our home two years ago, and the presence of a second legal and permitted unit on the property was the primary consideration outside of neighborhood for us. We exclusively use Airbnb when we travel and wanted the opportunity to be a host in San Diego. We are a one-income family and planned on the income from the second property to allow us to spend quality time with our young children. A ban on renting our property on a short-term basis would be a major issue for us and may cause us to sell our home and potentially leave the region as well.
It’s not all about the money though. For us and for many hosts there are many factors at play in being hosts on Airbnb. We are able to accommodate friends and family in town (no return on investment) due to the flexibility provided. We are able to help move San Diego away from solely being a car-focused place by encouraging bike use (provided), bus, etc. Many guests do not bring a car, they walk around the neighborhood and improve the conditions around parking and traffic for all. We can show off our great neighborhood of North Park and the many businesses located here. I give all of our guests great San Diego beer to help promote one of our most recognized industries. We’re also able to host parents of friends that otherwise would be miles away instead of a short walk.
During the time we’ve owned this property we’ve made many improvements to the cottage we rent out, hiring local electricians, plumbers, construction workers, and other service providers. We also pay a neighbor to clean the cottage at an hourly rate that is more than double the existing minimum wage. The positive economic impact for San Diego provided by platforms like Airbnb and VRBO is significant and on top of indirect effects like restaurant purchases and zoo tickets the dollars paid for the lodging itself benefit our local community by staying with owners that live and spend here, not hotels that take the money out of our city.
Please keep ordinary San Diegans like us that are good hosts and care about and are involved in our community in mind when contemplating any regulations or rules on short-term rentals. This is a great opportunity for many people in the city that should not be eliminated due to a very few problem locations. Thank you.
As I recently wrote about, Balboa Park is a city treasure, enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. It is also home to many high-speed roads which greatly diminish the quality of the park, use large amounts of high-value land, and pose health dangers immediate (being crushed by a car) and long-term (developing asthma and other disease due to very poor air quality in San Diego). It is time to eliminate the most superfluous high-speed road in Balboa Park – Florida Drive.
This year is the 100th anniversary of Balboa Park and there would be no better way to celebrate that than by returning a significant portion of the park to it’s natural state. (Or at least we can offset the deletion of another canyon in Balboa Park by the San Diego Zoo that is currently approaching completion.) We can expand the size of the open park space, and the quality, by closing Florida Drive to automobile traffic. To avoid inconvenience to cars – which must be the first consideration for a conversation to even start – this would only be a closure of Florida Drive from Morley Field Drive to Zoo Place.
San Diego’s canyons are a tremendous asset for the city and residents. They are a tiny foothold for local flora and fauna in our beautiful and bio-diverse region. They provide an opportunity for our youth to experience the outdoors in their backyards, across the city. They show that we value nature, heritage, and the environment. They are well worth protecting and in this case, worth restoring.
Florida Drive mirrors Park Boulevard and a closure of this portion of Florida would have little to no impact on vehicle traffic. It certainly would not cause back-ups. At the same time, it would provide a peaceful setting for those enjoying the canyon and an expanded sanctuary for the snakes, lizards, birds, and other animals that call this area home. A park should be a park, not an extended Interstate on-ramp that is a park in name only.
How to proceed:
Immediately install temporary concrete bollards blocking Florida Drive to automobile traffic at the Intersection of Morley Field Drive and Zoo Place.
Monitor traffic counts on adjacent roadways to determine impact on traffic flows and overall safety for a 6-month period.
Remove three-quarters of Florida Drive (East side) and replant with native trees which will flourish in the natural creek setting of the canyon bed. Convert remaining one-quarter to a two-way bike path and install a gravel running path on the West side of the pavement.
Enjoy the quiet and peacefulness of a greatly improved piece of San Diego’s premier park, all done at little cost and with great benefit that will only increase in the coming years.
We can do this, and so much more to make our city better. All we have to do is choose to do so.
The debate about short-term rentals, including sites like Airbnb, Flipkey, VRBO, and Craigslist continues in San Diego. The San Diego City Council Smart Growth & Land Use Committee held a public hearing on April 22nd that was attended by hundreds and will be continued in a hearing to be held on May 29th. To date, four council members have issued memos on the issue (click links for full memos):
While there are a broad number of issues that have been raised, there are also some very major points that nearly everyone agrees on. These basic points should be the baseline for any proposed rules or regulations. They include:
Everyone should pay the hotel taxes due
Anyone renting out a property or a part of a property is responsible for timely and full payment of the San Diego hotel taxes – for most, that is a transient occupancy tax of 10.5% and a tourism marketing district assessment of .55%. (For more details on the taxes click here.) These taxes are not being debated although the City Treasurer could do more to improve the payment system including acceptance of credit card payments, a payment profile system to save account information and history, and acceptance of zero due filings. Additional staff for the Treasurer’s office to collect back taxes would likely pay for itself many times over in addressing current non-compliant properties.
Owner-occupied properties should be allowed to host guests
The horror stories of late-night parties, loud noise, and heaps of trash no doubt reflect reality in some instances. These types of issues are far more likely to occur in a non-owner occupied property. I have heard very few people that want to prevent a widower from renting a room in their house, or a young couple trying to pay bills renting a spare bedroom. Home owners should not be curtailed in their ability to rent space on their own property. There do not seem to be many San Diegans that would agree with the City Attorney prosecuting a retiree in Burlingame for renting rooms in her own home. (Other than perhaps her private investigator neighbors.)
Enforcement of existing nuisance laws and fines for bad actors
Late-night noise, property damage, trespassing, and other issues have existing laws on the books. These should be enforced and property owners held responsible for the behavior taking place on their property. Additionally, most parties support fines for bad actors on an escalating scale.
Hopefully the city council will take these common ground, and common sense, items as a starting point for any proposals put forward. Other issues remain and will likely be contentious but with very strong support across the board for the above items there is no need to muddy the conversation with issues that are not being debated.
Balboa Park is frequently referred to in loving tones by San Diegans, guide books, and articles. It’s our “Crown Jewel” and an asset for the entire region that draws visitors from all over the globe. There are a number of very enjoyable museums in the park and it’s a great place for a picnic or to take the kids to.
Apparently it’s also a great place for high-speed auto traffic to speed through. Here’s a map of the speed limits for the roadways going through Balboa Park.
These type of speeds are more appropriate for highways than access roads to the premier park and open space for a major city. As a result of the abundance of these types of roads in Balboa Park there is essentially nowhere in the entire park you can enjoy without the sound of automobiles. There are very few spots you can even be out of sight of cars whizzing by. The very nature of these roads shows you that they are not for visiting the park, but for moving as many cars as possible through the park area quickly.
In addition to high speed roads, we continue to pave ever more of the park to provide automobile parking. On the East Mesa area the city has established a growing parking lot for park service vehicles. It is huge. The San Diego Zoo is building an $18 million parking garage behind the Old Globe Theatre with 650 parking spots for employee use. The access for this garage will be via Village Place and Old Globe Way – small roadways that are currently very quiet and provide access for only a few dozen parking spots, maybe a hundred at most. Now there will be hundreds, maybe thousands, of cars traversing this area throughout the day. Oh – and a native canyon space has been razed and replaced by an enormous garage. San Diego Zoo – shouldn’t conservation start at home?
All of this amounts to an area that professes to be a park but would more appropriately be described as an auto park. We recognize that we live in a beautiful region with an incredible amount of natural beauty worth preserving. We can recognize that land is very valuable here. But when it comes to roads and parking we choose to annihilate our native habitats along with the plants and animals, including us, they support and spend exorbitant amounts of money (nearly all public money, not private) to do so. As you can see with the massive interstates built through our coastal wetlands and the decades old surface level parking lot that is the San Diego Downtown bayfront, there is literally no land too valuable or beautiful for us to not pave the ever-loving piss out of it and call it improvement.
So we’ll continue to pave Balboa Park, widen the roads, and raise the speeds. We won’t even have to waste our time walking in the park to “enjoy” it. Why waste the time? Speed in, take a selfie, and speed out. Progress. It’s disgusting, unhealthy, and a terrible message for San Diego to spend to the world. New Yorkers value Central Park and you can bet your bottom dollar they would never allow their “Crown Jewel” to suffer the fate that we continue to actively choose for our own.
So enjoy your next visit to Balboa Park. Maybe you’ll even catch a glimpse of the museums or zoo while you’re speeding past.
I became familiar with the Ride with GPS app / website while planning for the most recent Bikes & Beers event here in San Diego. Our events do not seek street closures, we want the experience to showcase how good our city streets can be for bikes without special measures like barricades, traffic cops, etc. It’s meant to be a preview of the way we envision our streets in the future – filled with bicycles and people having a great, safe time in our city. This can make it difficult to keep people on the route, though, since there isn’t a wide swath of empty road to follow as there would be with a marathon.
What we needed was a turn-by-turn tool to direct riders and after looking over many different apps I could not find what I needed. I needed an easy-to-use app that could do voice navigation for a custom bicycle route. Then I found Ride with GPS and it was just what we were looking for. They even hooked us up with free access for all event participants. It was great. The app did voice turns, we could add custom instructions and photos, and it didn’t suck the battery like Dracula.
After being so pleased with the app during the event and the great support from the company, I volunteered to be an “Ambassador” for the brand. Basically I’ll be creating a set of great rides in San Diego that others using the app can utilize. So whether you’re a visitor or a local looking for a new ride, you can open the app and access the routes I’ve highlighted. However, most of my biking in San Diego is functional, not recreational. I’m usually towing a couple of kids and going to school, library, grocery store, etc. I’m pretty much a newbie when it comes to the scenic rides throughout the county.
So I’m asking for your help. If you have a great route you want to share, please let me know so I can add it. Of course I’ll give you a shout-out too. 🙂
Last Wednesday morning, April 22, the City of San Diego Smart Growth and Land Use Committee held a public comment hearing on the topic of short-term rentals in San Diego in advance of creating a proposal clarifying the status of this sort of property use and potentially creating additional rules and regulations.
The meeting was attended by hundreds of San Diegans and testimony was heard in 30 minute chunks with those opposing restrictions on this property use alternating with those supporting restrictions. Many, myself included, were unable to speak during the 4 hour meeting. A continuance of the meeting will be held on May 29th for those that were unable to speak.
San Diego’s primary issue is it is a very desirable place to live and visit. It’s a good problem to have. Today there are more vacation rental properties than ever, the hotel industry just came off a record-breaking year, rents are high and rising, as are property prices. There is more demand for every type of property than supply can keep up with. Further impacting the supply is a strong sentiment across most of the city against increased density and/or building heights.
The city is approaching this issue in the wrong way. A small number of San Diegans have had issues with short-term rentals – mostly complaints of noise, trash, or impacts on street parking. For those not familiar with common San Diegan complaints, the lack of pavement on which to park private vehicles at public expense is nearly always the top of the list. Joni Mitchell is probably crying. More likely, she’s darkly laughing.
The complaints raised have existing rules and penalties that can be applied. If enforcement of those rules is the issue then the solution is to improve enforcement by increased staffing and resources. The solution should not be to curtail the property rights of every property owner in the City of San Diego. Banning or restricting the ability of property owners to use their property is not the answer to problems with enforcement of public nuisance laws. It would quite literally mean reducing the property rights of hundreds of thousands of San Diegans due to the complaints of a few hundred or perhaps a few thousand. That is not a relevant or appropriate response.
Restrictions on use of platforms like Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway, and others would also be a real disservice to homeowners throughout San Diego. For the first time, technology is putting the opportunity to utilize what is typically the largest asset a family owns, their home, in the hands of every property owner. Vacation rentals have existed for decades in San Diego but were mostly relegated to property management firms and wealthy individuals that could hire staff to manage the properties. Today, this is possible to the average person whether they are renting their home once a year or every night of the month. This is a great thing. It also means many dollars coming into and staying in San Diego, benefiting our entire economy. Unlike hotels, which are often owned by non-local companies, home-sharing brings dollars into our city and keeps them here – in the pockets of our friends and neighbors. Win win.
Are there bad actors among the property owners and visitors in San Diego? Certainly. There are also bad actors among homeowners and renters. When there is an issue there are tools to remedy them. Utilize the tools we have, don’t take away a great opportunity for all property owners in San Diego and a boon to our economy across the board.