San Diego settles with landlords of short-term rentals the city attorney cited for throwing rowdy parties

Owners of two vacation rental homes who have been accused of hosting large, noisy parties amid the pandemic have reached settlements with the city of San Diego, which took action last year to shut down rentals Airbnb.

While the final legal judgments crafted by the San Diego City Attorney’s Office for the two La Jolla and Bankers Hill properties differ in scope, both state that property owners are prohibited from “maintaining, causing or authorize” a public nuisance or to authorize large gatherings. in violation of public health orders related to COVID-19. They are also required to each pay fines of more than $30,000 and remedy multiple building code violations on their properties.

When City Attorney Mara Elliott filed the initial civil suits last year, her office was seeking penalties 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. “Strict laws with clear consequences are the best deterrent, which is why I look forward to the city’s first short-term rental regulations taking effect next year.”

The settlements, signed this week by a Superior Court judge, culminate months of talks following civil lawsuits filed last year by Elliott against the owners and managers of two rentals – a five bedroom house in Bankers Hill and one six-bedroom ocean-view mansion in La Jolla. In both court stipulations, the owners of the vacation rentals, which were removed from the Airbnb platform last year, do not admit any of the allegations contained 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 Attorney)

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

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

“In order to ensure that dangerous driving is stopped immediately, we have agreed with the landlords who have agreed to stipulations, including only renting the property for periods greater than 30 days,” Nemchik said of the house. La Jolla.

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

In the original 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 made aware of these police calls,” said attorney William Pettersen, who represented the owners. “It’s not the criminals. If they could have thrown Mr. Barbarich on his ear they would have but he took advantage of the COVID protections (for tenants). It was a commercial rental for him.

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

Attorney Joseph Miskabi, who represents Barbarich, said his client has yet to resolve the matter with the city attorney’s office. He said there had been discussions and it was possible that a settlement could still be reached.

Curiel’s attorney, David Horwitz, insists claims of loud parties were exaggerations by irate neighbors.

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

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

“He’s not willing to risk that penalty by relying on a neighbor’s interpretation as to whether the music was too loud,” Horwitz said.

Airbnb, which no longer has the two rental properties on its platform, said in a statement: “We support local authorities in their efforts to resolve this issue and have put in place strict rules that ban partiesas good as ‘party houses’ which cause repeated nuisances.

Elliott’s office points out that the action taken against the two short-term rentals is part of an effort to prosecute harmful properties that endanger public health and safety, including substandard independent residences, 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 activity and protect public health in our neighborhoods,” Nemchik said.

Just a week ago, Mayor Todd Gloria signed into law new regulations governing the operation of vacation rentals, although they won’t come into effect until July next year. The new ordinance not only limits the number of whole-home rentals that can operate in the city, but it sets up a system for authorizing them and enforcing public nuisance laws.

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