The developer of Little Italy’s Porto Vista Hotel and Suites has yet to make it clear that there are apartments available in his building, despite being asked to do so more than a month ago. And on some of the units that are technically apartments, the developer, Moe Siry, told the city that he has been renting them out for less than 30 days, which is not permitted without first requesting permission from city planners.

On September 23, city staff sent Siry a notice that his property was in violation of city land use law. If he does not make some stipulated changes by October 6, that could trigger a hearing, which may in turn trigger daily fines of $1,000 per day per violation, according to the city notice.

Some background: The project was approved by the Centre City Development Corp., the city of San Diego’s downtown redevelopment agency, in 2004 as a mixed-use development — an expansion and revamping of a former Super 8 motel, alongside the construction of studio residential apartments. The project was approved based on the assumption that it would fit the community’s blueprint for development. The hotel/apartment project was touted as helping to bring affordable living to a neighborhood that had seen a significant number of apartments converted into condos during the housing boom.

But I’d heard rumors of complaints earlier this year that the developer hadn’t built the apartments he’d promised in the planning process.

In June, I tried to find those apartments. They weren’t listed on any of the developer’s websites, the hotel staff didn’t know anything about them, and the developer didn’t call me back for that first story.

Later, city staff inspected the property on July 7. They determined that the building had enough units that were physically compliant with the requirements the city has for the size and features of an apartment.

But in order to be considered an apartment, a unit has to be rented for at least 30 days at a time. The inspectors asked Siry to provide monthly lease agreements for the apartments. Siry showed them 21 lease agreements.

According to the city letter, at that time, Siry stated that “due to these economic times he rents the apartment [sic] for less than a 30 day duration.”

But a developer can’t rent units out for less than 30 days without getting city approval.

So the city issued this notice to force the developer to correct these apartment-related issues.

Here are the violations, according to the notice:

  • failing to comply with the 2004 neighborhood plans that mandated the hotel/apartment mix
  • failing to turn over copies of existing apartment leases for verifying compliance with those CCDC plans
  • no signs outside indicating apartments available at the project

Another two violations deal with the hotel’s restaurant, The Glass Door. The restaurant had been serving customers on its outdoor deck without a neighborhood use permit that would regulate its relationship with nearby residents and business owners, according to the notice. Plus, the city is concerned about noise control.

The city mandated a number of actions to correct the violations, which you can see in the city notice. The last deadline for those actions is October 6. After that, if the violations are still ongoing, the developer could face a hearing and penalties.

I checked in with Siry, the developer, this afternoon.

“Once I take care of it, I’ll let you know,” he said. “I have nothing to tell you right now.”

He appears to have taken steps to correct that outdoor use issue at the restaurant, according to Derek Danziger, CCDC spokesman. Danziger said on September 25, CCDC deemed complete the developer’s application for the permit for the outdoor restaurant space. Now CCDC has begun contacting nearby business owners and residents to gauge the neighborhood’s approval of the use.

We’ll keep you posted as we learn anything more.

KELLY BENNETT

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