Different Shades Of Blue In City Council District 1 Race
San Diego City Council District 1 will have more candidates on the March 3 primary ballot than any other race in the city. And not one of the eight people running in the district, which includes La Jolla, University City and Carmel Valley, is a Republican.
That's a far cry from 2016, the last time the seat was open, when Republicans felt they had a shot at taking the seat — and with it, the council majority. Despite heavy spending from local conservative groups, the seat ultimately went to Barbara Bry, a Democrat who is leaving the council to run for mayor.
The trend toward Democrats in the district mirrors a shift that is being seen throughout the city and county. KPBS spoke with the four main candidates in the race about their qualifications and priorities.
Aaron Brennan is a retired city firefighter and Navy reservist. He said his experience working in neighborhoods all across San Diego has given him a front row seat to the problems it faces.
"Take a drive around just about any part of San Diego and you feel like you need a Humvee in lots of parts of the city," Brennan said. "When I talk to the voters in District 1, streets is the number one thing they say."
While housing affordability often consumes the lion's share of attention at City Hall, Brennan said District 1 has other concerns.
"Hardly anybody in District 1 is suffering from a housing affordability issue," he said. "And so for the voters of District 1, they’re not as concerned about it from a personal standpoint. They are concerned about – oh, you’re going to build affordable housing? Where are you going to build it?"
Brennan said neighborhoods with access to mass transit, like University City and Sorrento Valley, are good places to start adding density.
Will Moore is a small business attorney who has represented software firms, nonprofits — even a low-sodium salt company with a mine in the Dead Sea. He decided to run for council after being disappointed with the priorities of city leaders.
"I've watched us here is San Diego chase our tails around a bunch of side issues for a long time, such as spending years arguing about football teams, while our roads don't get paved and people end up homeless," he said.
Moore asked to be interviewed on the UC San Diego campus, where he said thousands of talented students are ready to leave San Diego because it's too expensive.
"When we start telling our best and brightest college students, who come here from all over the country to attend college here, that they can't stay, then we are crippling our future as a city and as a region," he said. "And the parents in this district are painfully aware that that's the problem their kids are facing because their kids tell them every day."
Another top issue for Moore is climate change, which he said is a serious threat to District 1's low-lying coastal neighborhoods like La Jolla Shores.
"The most important thing we can probably do on climate is move people from out of town, where they have two hour commutes from Temecula, to live here in San Diego close to where they work because those commutes make up a full half of our carbon emissions in our city," Moore said.
Harid Puentes, who goes by "H," is the founder of CONNECT ALL, a startup accelerator in Southeast San Diego for low- to moderate-income and minority entrepreneurs. He said that's the kind of leadership he would bring to city government.
"I've been a champion in this city for inclusive economic growth," he said. "And that is an example of how we thought differently, thought creatively. We were able to build consensus around the idea between what was happening up here on the mesa, and the innovation that's happening, and bring that down south of (Interstate) 8."
Puentes said he also wants to focus on modernizing the city's technology and improving its “Get It Done” app by giving users more information on the status of their requests to fix city infrastructure.
"Look at our performance and analytics department, give our chief data officer a little bit more teeth ... so that we're much more responsive to what citizens need," he said.
Joe LaCava is a civil engineer by trade, and a consultant and activist on civic issues including short-term home rentals and affordable housing. Housing is one of his top priorities, and he agrees with some of the actions taken by city leaders to encourage more construction.
"Generally making it a little bit easier, a little bit less expensive to build housing is what we need to do to support the homebuilding industry — because ultimately they're the ones that produce the majority of the homes," he said. "The concern that I have is that we're not really addressing the needs of the folks that are at the moderate income (level) or the lower income."
LaCava touted his endorsements from the local chapter of the Sierra Club and the anti-AirBnb group Save San Diego Neighborhoods, saying he has a track record of building coalitions and bringing people together on divisive issues like growth and development.
"What I've demonstrated over the years is the ability to bring people from different sides — not to polarize the conversation but to bring people together," he said. "No other candidate has the breadth and depth of experience that I have."