San Diego

Short-Term Rental Advocates Have Enough Sigs to Force Referendum

The group turned in more than 62,000 signatures to the San Diego Registrar of Voters on Thursday

Supporters of short-term vacation rentals are one step closer Thursday to forcing the San Diego City Council to rescind new restrictions that were approved in early August.

They’ve turned in thousands of signatures to support a referendum challenging the new rules.

The new restrictions would limit rentals to primary residences for six months a year. The change is set to go into effect next July.

A coalition of short-term vacation rental hosts and vacation rental agencies, however, turned in what they say are 62,433 signatures in an effort to force the council’s hand. Signed petitions were stuffed into three dozen boxes and then walked into the Registrar of Voters office.

The registrar now has 30 days to validate the signatures.

Just over 35,000 of the signatures need to be verified to force the referendum. If that happens, the council will either be forced to rescind the new ordinance or send the issue to voters on the 2020 ballot.

Outside of the registrar’s office, supporters of short-term rentals were beaming with confidence.

“I’m extremely passionate and so happy to be here with all these people supporting, so we can actually vote on this and not have it be a government decided situation. Let everyone have a voice,”  Anuschka Alborzian said. 

Alborzian said she has been diagnosed with a brain tumor and it’s critical for her to rent out her home for extra income.

Nancy Kramer said she has 62 rental units and has never had a complaint in 17 years.

“I think that it would be about 70 percent to keep vacation rentals in San Diego," she said. "It’s a lot of income, it’s the tourists, we’re a tourist town.”

Councilman Scott Sherman, who opposed the new rules, was at the Registrar of Voters office and praised the referendum effort, while criticizing his council colleagues.

“Hopefully we can come together and realize there’s a substantial amount of people out there, other than just council members, voters, San Diegans who disagree with what you did,” he said.

Meanwhile, there has been controversy over tactics used by signature gatherers.

Earlier in the week, Councilwomen Barbara Bry and Lorie Zapf stood alongside several neighborhood groups and said the signature gatherers used deceptive tactics to collect signatures.

“Lies, deception, deceit, these have no place in our democracy,” Zapf said.

But both Bry and Zapf, who have been vocal supporters of the new rules had no immediate comment after the collected signatures were turned in.

It remains to be seen whether there will be a legal challenge targeting the validity of the signatures.

Ronan Gray, board president of Save San Diego Neighborhoods, a group in favor of the new rules, said he wasn’t surprised at the number of signatures collected, but questioned their validity.

He said if the issue ultimately goes to voters, he’s confident the public will vote in favor of rental restrictions.

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