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COMMENTARY: Strangers in the Night
Peter Sertic | Santa Fe Avenue

When I bought my current home in 1976 my wife and I tried to forsee the changes we might see in the neighborhood. We concluded that even though the beach was crowded, it couldn’t get much more crowded since it was limited by parking and the City through, the DRB, would not let this become our version of Newport Beach or South Mission Beach. For the most part our assessments were correct.
However, in the last year I have seen what I consider profound changes; namely, the changes in the type of property owners and usage of the property. In the past year the house next to me went from a family-occupied home to a secondary home for a doctor from Montana, which is primarily in use as a short term rental property. A duplex and triplex behind me went from owner-occupied and long-term rental to five units of short term rentals. In the block between 18 and 19th streets, Santa Fe and Coast Blvd, we now have five owner-occupied units, four long-term rental units and 11 short-term rental units.

These changes have had a huge impact on the character of the neighborhood. When it was a neighborhood of owner-occupied units, we (adults and kids) all knew the rules of the neighborhood and the limits of our behavior; the community sorted things out when limits were exceeded. Now we have a community of short term visitors who have to learn the rules on a weekly basis when all they really want to do is be on vacation. Just this week I had to remind kids at the neighboring house that it was not cool to kick soccer balls against our common fence, but it was OK to come into my yard when a stray ball went over the fence. Adults had to be reminded that we sort and recycle our trash. Some kids who were renting down the street had to be reminded that the trash cans in the alley were not suitable targets to crash skateboards into.

This is a part of the evolution of a small neighborhood and in some ways all of Del Mar. These are not changes that that we can reverse but changes that we must deal with.We as a neighborhood and a city provide a lot of benefits to both visitors and the investors who have purchased rental properties. Investors and visitors must pay their fair share of the costs associated with giving them a great visit. We have a beautiful beach that is competently staffed by our life guard services. We have parks for all to enjoy. We have zoning rules that give Del Mar a unique character that differentiates it from other overbuilt beach communities. All of these resources cost money and the owners and short-term occupants of rental properties make no direct contribution to pay for the amenities that they enjoy.

There are several mitigating approaches that should be considered. I suggest we dust off the old parking fee proposal, get rid of some minor objectionable aspects and have it create revenue in such a way that it has its deleterious aspects shared by all of Del Mar and not just residents of the Beach Colony. We also need to work with the local businesses (Jake’s and Poseidon) so that their workers are not adversely impacted.

I also suggest we apply a transient occupancy tax to short-term rentals (31 days or less) so investors and occupants pay their fair share. Investors in rental property are no different than the investors who built L’ Auberge; they invested to make money, and they should have no objection to paying their fair share. Why should Del Mar be a TOT free zone when neighboring cities charge it for short-term rentals? I am not aware of any diminution of their overall occupancy due to having the TOT or their property investors suffering any loss of income. There is the myth that the TOT will hurt some homeowners who only occasionally rent out their home on a short term basis. While such owners surely exist, they are in a small minority compared to the vast majority of investors who are in that investment for solid business reasons - profit.


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