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City Councilwoman Jen Campbell Has Politics In Her Blood

City Councilwoman Jen Campbell smiles while attending a trash pick-up in Rose Creek, April 27, 2019.
Andi Dukleth
City Councilwoman Jen Campbell smiles while attending a trash pick-up in Rose Creek, April 27, 2019.

For Jen Campbell, politics is in the family. Adorning her office are pictures of her with then-Sen. Hillary Clinton and one with former Obama strategist David Axelrod. He's her cousin and encouraged her to run for office.

"He calls me 'Doctor Shorty,'" Campbell said with a laugh.

Campbell's election to the San Diego City Council last November was a big deal. She unseated an incumbent — something that hadn't been done in decades — and she gave Democrats on the council a 6-3 majority. That means they could pursue their own policies and override any vetoes from Mayor Kevin Faulconer, a Republican.


That has not yet happened in the five months since her inauguration. But Campbell does see the significance in the council's new makeup — including the fact that it has a female majority. She said she thinks the new council will govern with more compassion and put the public good ahead of "the almighty dollar."

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"But I think people will see the Democrats are not always united, and I think they'll see that the council, most of the time, is united, even with the Republicans on our side," she said. "We all work together very well, I think."

On policy matters, Campbell said she is excited to work on environmental protection — she chairs the council's Environment Committee — as well as homelessness and housing.

"We need thousands of new housing units," she said. "We need to smooth the way. There's several things in the works that'll help make it easier for builders to build more and for people to be able to afford them."


At the same time, Campbell has opposed policies and plans that would help accomplish her goal of building more housing. She voted against a plan to allow denser, taller housing near a future trolley station in her district, and she cast the lone vote against eliminating parking requirements for new apartment and condo buildings near public transit stops. She said transit should be improved first.

"I don't think people will ever give up their cars entirely," she said. "They may want to take a weekend trip in their car, they may want to go to Costco and load up with a month's worth of stuff. And that's kind of hard to haul all of that on a trolley."

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VIDEO: City Councilwoman Jen Campbell Has Politics In Her Blood

On improving public transit, Campbell said she would like to see more trolley lines like the extension of the Blue Line that will soon run through her district. That project is costing more than $2 billion and took decades to get built. Asked whether she would support cheaper and quicker improvements such as bus-only lanes on main thoroughfares in her district, Campbell wasn't so sure.

"I think Grand and Garnet (avenues) are already too crowded, I don't think we could take away any lanes there," she said. "And I think express buses probably are only needed during rush hours. Although some of my constituents complain that they don't have enough buses on weekends. I'm not sure what the answer is."

While politics may be a family business for Campbell, she admits she has had a steep learning curve. She said her style of leadership is not one of micromanagement.

"You have to be able to let other people who are competent do their jobs," she said.

City Councilwoman Jen Campbell Has Politics In Her Blood
City Councilwoman Jen Campbell has a family history of political engagement. Her election last November tipped the partisan balance on the council, giving Democrats a veto-proof majority. You can hear this story and other local news every morning by subscribing to San Diego News Matters, KPBS’ daily news podcast. Subscribe via iTunes, Google Play or your favorite podcatcher.