By KAREN VELIE
One morning last week, activist Julie Tacker decided she had had enough, and she began putting together a conflict of interest complaint against San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Bruce Gibson.
Since 2011, Gibson has fought to restrict the number of vacation rentals permitted in San Luis Obispo County. He has argued that vacation rentals negatively impact a neighborhood’s character.
“Mr. Gibson has taken a strong and biased position in opposition to permitting any new Short Term Vacation Rentals in his district,” Tacker says in a complaint filed with both with both San Luis Obispo County and the California Fair Political Practices Commission. “He is especially vocal about them in the communities of Cayucos and Cambria where he owns property.”
Gibson owns a property in Cambria and a home on Pacific Avenue in Cayucos, next to a county approved vacation rental.
With county approval, a 100 foot minimum distance rule from an existing vacation rental property can be waved and a new vacation rental permit can be approved.
On two occasions, after the county board of supervisors disagreed with Gibson’s objections and voted to grant distance exemptions to local homeowners, Gibson took his objections to the California Coastal Commission.
In 2016, the county board of supervisors approved a vacation rental exemption to a home approximately 1,200 feet away from Gibson’s primary residence in Cayucos. Without disclosing he lived nearby, Gibson argued that approval of the vacation rental permit would impact the character of the neighborhood,. Even so, he failed in his attempt to void the county board’s vote.
California regulations require officials to recuse themselves from voting on issues where the decision “would cause a reasonably prudent person, using due care and consideration under the circumstances, to believe that the governmental decision was of such a nature that its reasonably foreseeable effect would influence the market value of the official’s property.”
Gibson did not respond to a reporter’s request for comment.
Last month, Gibson asked the Coastal Commission to deny a county approved distance exemption for a proposed vacation rental in Cambria, because vacation rentals had “already eroded the long-term residential character,” according to a March 1 letter Gibson sent to the commission. In that case, Gibson succeeded in getting the commission to reverse the county board of supervisors’ decision.
In the next few months, there are at least four requests for distance exemptions coming before the board of supervisors, all of which are for houses located near Gibson’s home in Cayucos.
Tacker is asking county council to recommend Gibson refrain from participating in the upcoming vacation rental hearings because of the alleged conflict of interest. Tacker has also filed a conflict of interest complaint with the FPPC about Gibson’s past votes on vacation rental exemptions near properties he owns.