San Diego moves in with short-term rental owners the city’s lawyer cited for running noisy party houses

The owners of two vacation rental homes who were accused of hosting large, loud parties amid the pandemic have reached deals with the city of San Diego, which took action last year to shut down Airbnb rentals .

Although the final legal judgments developed by the San Diego City Attorney’s Office for the two properties in La Jolla and Bankers Hill differ in scope, both state that owners are prohibited from “maintaining, provoking or allowing A public nuisance or authorizing large gatherings in violation of public health orders related to COVID-19. They are also required to each pay fines over $ 30,000 and deal with multiple building code violations on their properties.

By the time city attorney Mara Elliott filed the initial civil actions last year, her office was asking for fines of at least $ 1 million each.

“Irresponsible owners who put profit before public health, especially during a pandemic, must be held accountable,” Elliott said in a statement. “Strong laws with clear consequences are the best deterrent, which is why I look forward to the city’s first short-term rental regulations come into effect next year.”

The settlements, signed this week by a Superior Court judge, culminate in months of talks following civil lawsuits filed by Elliott last year against the owners and managers of two rentals – a Bankers Hill home of five bedrooms and a six bedroom mansion with ocean views in La Jolla. In the two court stipulations, the owners of the vacation rentals, which were taken off the Airbnb platform last year, do not admit any of the allegations in the original civil complaints.

The Bankers Hill home that had been listed on Airbnb’s website and was the subject of a civil complaint by the San Diego City Attorney’s Office.

(San Diego City Lawyer)

While Bankers Hill owner restaurateur David Curiel is allowed to take over the rental of his home for short stays, the La Jolla home is not allowed to accommodate overnight stays of less than 30 days.

The city attorney’s office demanded this condition because it was particularly concerned about police reports of house parties at La Jolla Farms on Black Gold Road which sometimes drew more than 100 people late at night and early in the morning and sometimes involved cases of underage alcohol use and violence. The result has been numerous noise complaints from neighbors that have taken considerable time from the police department for several years, city prosecutor spokeswoman Hilary Nemchik said. Many of the complaints came at a time when public health orders banned large gatherings due to COVID-19.

“In order to ensure that the dangerous driving stops immediately, we have come to an agreement with the owners who have agreed to conditions which include letting the property only for periods longer than 30 days,” Nemchik said of from the house of La Jolla.

The condition may soon become moot, as the owners of the house, Mousa Hussain Mushkor and Zahra Ali Kasim, have put the one acre La Jolla Farms property up for sale, listing it for $ 9,999,999. Amber Anderson, one of the listing agents for Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty, said the various building code violations that had been cited in the agreement had already been addressed, as required by the city.

In the initial complaint filed by Elliott’s office, the owners of the La Jolla home were named, along with their property manager, Nital Meshkoor, and Steven S. Barbarich, who rented the home and listed it on Airbnb as short term rental.

“My clients were not kept informed of these police calls,” said attorney William Pettersen, who represented the owners. “It’s not the bad guys. If they could have thrown Mr. Barbarich by ear, they would have done it but he took advantage of COVID protections (for tenants). It was a commercial rental for him.

“My clients are 90 years old and in very poor health. They don’t want to go through such hardships anymore, so they put it up for sale.

Lawyer Joseph Miskabi, who represents Barbarich, said his client had yet to settle with the city’s prosecutor’s office. He said there have been discussions and it is possible that a settlement will still be found.

Curiel’s lawyer David Horwitz insists the loud party allegations were exaggerations from angry neighbors.

“It was just a case of sensitive neighbors calling cops on residents of the house for throwing loud parties even when we had proof that one of the loud parties was a 55 year old woman, her sister and a daughter. 30-year-old sitting by the pool listening to Joni Mitchell, ”Horwitz said.

Curiel ultimately decided not to rent the house in the future for short stays, as he did not want to risk additional civil penalties if the neighbors complained about the house again. Under the stipulation with the city, Curiel was assessed $ 200,000 in civil penalties, but $ 170,000 was immediately suspended. They would, however, be imposed if Curiel violated the terms of the settlement agreement.

“He is not prepared to risk this penalty by relying on a neighbor’s interpretation of whether the music was too loud,” Horwitz said.

Airbnb, which no longer has both rental properties on its platform, said in a statement: “We are supporting local authorities in their efforts to resolve this issue and have put in place strict rules that ban parties, as good as “Party houses” that cause repeated nuisance.

Elliott’s office points out that the action against the two short-term rentals is part of an effort to prosecute harmful properties that endanger public health and safety, including substandard independent living facilities , hoarding properties, and abandoned or vacant properties that attract criminal activity.

“In the absence of regulations for short-term rentals, we have used the remedies available under current law to stop harmful activities and protect public health in our neighborhoods,” Nemchik said.

Just a week ago, Mayor Todd Gloria promulgated new regulations governing the operation of vacation rentals, though they won’t come into effect until July of next year. The new ordinance not only limits the number of whole house rentals that can operate in the city, but it sets up a system to authorize them and enforce public nuisance laws.

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