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District Elections Could Shake Up San Diego City Council

San Diego City Council meeting, February 25, 2014.
Milan Kovacevic
San Diego City Council meeting, February 25, 2014.

Only San Diegans in four of the city's nine City Council districts will vote for a council member in the June 3 election, but the results could affect all of the city's residents.

That’s because of the City Council's current veto-proof majority.

More On Veto-Proof Majority

In 2004, San Diego moved from a city manager form of government to a strong-mayor system. This removed the mayor as the presiding official at City Council meetings and as a voting member of the council, but the mayor was given veto power.

After experimenting with the strong-mayor system for five years, voters made it permanent in 2010 when they passed Proposition D. Then-Councilman Kevin Faulconer largely supported the measure.


With six Democrats and three Republicans sitting on the council, Democrats have the two-thirds majority needed to override a mayoral veto. While technically City Council seats are nonpartisan, party affiliation could come into play over controversial issues.

Carl Luna, a San Diego Mesa College political science professor, points to a recent proposal to raise the city's minimum wage to $13 as an example.

“If the mayor wants to veto what the City Council wants to do on minimum wage, a 6-3 majority could overturn that veto," Luna said.

But with a mix of Republicans and Democrats running for the City Council seats in districts 2, 4, 6 and 8, the veto-proof majority could change. Democratic incumbents in districts 4 (Myrtle Cole) and 8 (David Alvarez) are expected to win re-election, but the other two districts are competitive.

District 2, which was Republican Kevin Faulconer’s seat before he was elected mayor in a special election this year, has four people vying for it, including District 6 Councilwoman Lorie Zapf, a Republican.


Because of redistricting, Zapf no longer lives in her old district. She faces a strong challenge from Democrat Sarah Boot. Also running are Democrat Jim Morrison and Libertarian Mark Schwartz. This is a seat that could go Democratic.

In District 6, Chris Cate is who the Republicans hope will keep Zapf’s seat in the GOP’s hands, while the Democrats are hoping Carol Kim can win it. Also running are Mitz Lee, De Le and Jane Glasson.

City Council President Todd Gloria, who is not up for re-election, said that on most council issues, like fixing streetlights and potholes, it really doesn’t matter which party has a majority.

“Obviously, that is valuable in certain circumstances, but the reality is the vast majority of the council’s actions are unanimous in nature and usually bipartisan,” Gloria said.

But with potentially divisive issues such as minimum wage, a climate action plan and infrastructure bonds coming up, that veto-proof majority — or lack of one — could make a difference.

Past Mayoral Vetoes

Nov. 2, 2006: Reinstating city of San Diego swim team for fiscal 2007

Vetoed by Republican Mayor Jerry Sanders. Override passed 7-1 on Nov. 28, 2006.

June 15, 2007: Amending chapters pertaining to prohibition of superstores

Vetoed by Sanders. Override failed 4-4 on July 10, 2007.

June 13, 2007: Approving fiscal 2008 budget

Vetoed by Sanders. Override failed 3-4 (1 not present) June 18, 2007.

Nov. 14, 2007: Approving water recycling

Vetoed by Sanders. Override passed 5-3 on Dec. 3, 2007.

April 17, 2008: Increasing salaries for City Council members and mayor

Vetoed by Sanders. Override failed 3-5 on April 21, 2008.

June 16, 2008: Approving fiscal 2009 budget

Vetoed by Sanders. Override passed 6-2 on June 23, 2008.

Nov. 13, 2008: Retaining legal services for shipyard sediment case

Vetoed by Sanders. Veto approved unanimously on Dec. 9, 2008.

Oct. 30, 2008: Authorizing agreement with communications firm for outreach services

Vetoed by Sanders. Veto approved unanimously on Nov. 24, 2008.

Dec. 3, 2008: Approving amendments to fiscal 2009 budget

Vetoed by Sanders. Override passed unanimously on Dec. 5, 2008.

June 23, 2010: Approving fiscal 2011 budget

Vetoed by Sanders. Override passed on June 29, 2010.

Nov. 29, 2010: Ordinance to protect small and neighborhood businesses-amendments to land development code

Vetoed by Sanders. Override passed 5-3 on Dec. 2, 2010.

Jan. 18, 2013: Appointments to Port Commission

Vetoed by Democratic Mayor Bob Filer. Override failed 3-5 on Feb. 11, 2014. (Veto authority later overturned.)

April 22, 2013: Approving operating agreement with Tourism Marketing District

Vetoed by Filner. Override passed unanimously (1 vacant, 1 not present) on April 15, 2013.

May 16, 2013: Approving easement for Sunroad Enterprises

Vetoed by Filner. No override vote taken.

July 11, 2013: Confirming pension board appointments

Vetoed by Filner. Override failed 3-5 (1 not present) on July 23, 2013.