City seeks to close Bankers Hill Airbnb, calling for loud parties during COVID pandemic

The San Diego City Attorney’s Office took action on Friday to shut down a Bankers Hill short-term rental, charging the landlord and property manager with multiple violations, including the tenants’ holding loud rallies in violation. state and county COVID-19 regulations.

A civil suit, filed Friday in San Diego Superior Court by City Attorney Mara Elliott, has been precipitated by more than a dozen complaints from neighbors filed with San Diego police since the start of the last year about what they described as noisy parties at the five-bedroom rental. . A number of those complaints arose when restrictions on public gatherings were imposed earlier this year due to the ongoing pandemic, Elliott’s office said.

In addition to the public nuisance allegations, the city attorney’s office also cites multiple municipal code violations for what it says are illegal renovations and additions, as well as non-payment of business and tourist taxes and fees. required, as well as water and sewer bills.

From packing up a party house during a pandemic to illegally renovating an entire property, the conduct of the defendants in this case is egregious and unacceptable,” Elliott said in a statement. “No neighborhood should have to put up with such dangerous behavior.”

Elliott, whose office is seeking an injunction against landlord David Contreras Curiel and property manager Alexander Mendez and a civil penalty of at least $1 million, called the case the first case the city has tackled a public nuisance involving a short term rental.

She noted that before taking on a case like this, she first needed a formal recommendation from a city hall department, in this case the police department. With the city’s code enforcement department unable to bring the property into compliance, Elliott’s office stepped in, relying in part on the state’s business and professions code, to form the basis of the complaint to the court.

Curiel, a prominent San Diego restaurateur, and Mendez said they were surprised to learn of the filing of the case when contacted Friday morning by a Union-Tribune reporter. Both said that while they were aware of periodic complaints from a neighbor about loud noise supposedly coming from the house, they were unaware of any large gatherings at the house, and they were never contacted, they said, by police the 14 times officers were called to the residence.

“All of these police complaints come as a shock to me,” said Curiel, co-owner of Karina’s restaurant group, which includes Saffron Thai in Mission Hills. “We don’t advertise the house as a party house. I’ve spent a lot of money on the house and furniture, and I’m not going to allow a party at my property, especially in times of COVID. And it’s clear that we never allowed parties.

“It’s just unwise for the city attorney’s office to do this in this way, where they send out a press release with baseless allegations rather than working together like I did with the city at many many times.”

While Airbnb-style rentals have long been a sticky issue for the city of San Diego, which so far hasn’t been able to pass a set of regulations governing overnight stays under 30 days, Elliott said. stressed that the action she is taking against the bankers on The Hill Property is not intended to be part of a broader crackdown on home sharing.

“It’s the concern about the pandemic and a history of large gatherings in this house, even after the police department was called,” she said in an interview. “I feel like we have an obligation to try to stop it. What it’s really about is that there’s a long history of public nuisance, and I made that a priority to address sub-standard properties.

“It’s not a good solution for short-term rentals because it involves a potentially lengthy court case that could take months, a year, and neighborhoods want immediate gratification. This is a blatant case and it took time to build it.

Located on 2nd Avenue near Quince Street, the home was described on Airbnb’s website as a “private oasis next to downtown,” featuring an indoor/outdoor sound system, hot tub , a swimming pool and a barbecue, and can accommodate up to 12 people. According to the city attorney’s legal filing, the per-night rates listed on Airbnb were $800 or more. The short-term rental platform has since removed the advert from its website.

“Airbnb Policy expressly prohibits “party houses” and we have suspended this listing while we investigate further,” Airbnb said in a statement Friday. “We take these reports very seriously and stand ready to support local authorities in their efforts to resolve this issue.”

Elliott’s complaint, which cites violations of the state’s unfair competition law and municipal code, lists each of the occasions, starting Feb. 5 — six weeks after Curiel bought the house — when police of San Diego reported that she responded to calls about “harmful activity.” at home.

In January, for example, police received a call to investigate a report of a loud party with “screaming loudspeakers” and more than 20 people. When officers arrived within 15 minutes of the call, they observed a party with more than 100 revelers and broke up the gathering, according to the city attorney’s complaint.

On another occasion, on May 16, the police department received multiple calls about a loud party at the 2nd Avenue home. Those who called said they saw 30 to 40 attendees gathering in the front yard and several others driving around trying to find parking spaces, the lawsuit says. Officers contacted the tenant, who “agreed to reduce the noise”.

Curiel said in a statement: “Unfortunately, customers sometimes break the rules and we always try to resolve them as quickly as possible. For this reason, I have a dedicated property manager to oversee the property and ensure such behavior does not occur. Also, neither I nor my property manager have ever had a complaint from the police department about large gatherings or “parties” at the property. Certainly, if there were such gatherings with 100 people on the property, there would be property damage and other evidence of a gathering of this size.

Curiel declined to specifically address each of the allegations related to unauthorized renovations and failure to obtain a business tax license and a transitional occupancy tax (TOT) certificate and non-payment. business tax on rental units. However, he said he intended to “address any construction issues”.

Among the alleged building code violations cited in the lawsuit are the conversion of the garage into a second dwelling with a full kitchen and bathroom without a permit, the installation of a pool and hot tub without a permit, and the addition of two bathrooms, also without a permit.

While the city attorney’s office says Curiel and Mendez refused to schedule property inspections, both said they were willing to do so but had to cancel when Curiel was scheduled to be in Mexico. They said their efforts to reschedule were unsuccessful.

Elliott noted in its Friday press release that the action against the Curiel home was part of a broader effort to crack down on harmful properties, “including substandard freestanding residences, which threaten the public health and safety”.

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