Oceanside's First Female And Latina Mayor Looks To Be A Voice Of The People
Oceanside had never before had a female or Latina mayor, until Esther Sanchez was elected to the role in November, breaking gender and racial barriers.
She is very familiar with the city she now presides over as mayor. In fact, she was born in Oceanside and grew up in the city's Eastside community.
“I went to all three public schools in this area, and I had my law office here and city hall is here. So my whole life feels like I’ve been in District 1,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez’s journey into politics started with an undergraduate degree at Brown University in urban studies. She then pursued further education at the University of California’s Hastings Law School in San Francisco.
After passing her BAR exam on the first try, Sanchez moved back home to San Diego County. She worked as a public defender across San Diego County before serving for 20 years on the Oceanside City council.
“I still sometimes laugh when somebody calls me 'mayor,' because I really wanted to have more diversity on the council, since we are a diverse community and it's just never been reflected on our representation,” Sanchez said.
Some of her top priorities as mayor include increasing local jobs, ensuring affordable housing and addressing climate change.
“Because we are a beach town, we take such pride in zero waste, in being on the front lines of zero waste. But at the same time, we still haven’t addressed the biggest issue and that is the jobs to resident ratio and cutting down on travel by car," she said.
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Sanchez said Oceanside also needs to look at police reform and how law enforcement treats people of color in her city.
“We’re having our police and fire commission address these issues,” Sanchez said. “One of the things I want to make sure, though, is that the police and fire commission has the kind of diversity on the appointments so that people are actually going to go there and feel like their issues are being heard.”
The mayor also noted the city’s struggle with finding beds for the homeless population.
“We have not been able to address the homeless. We don't even have a shelter yet in Oceanside, the largest city in North County," she said. "So we have to move faster on that.”
In the balancing act between farms and housing development in Oceanside, Sanchez aims to leave the South Morro Hills community as agricultural land.
“We still have a need for farming, it's not something that is going to go away,” the mayor said. “We don't need that land for housing, we don't need it. In our housing element and our report to the state we have enough infill land to reach our quotas that we’ve been given.”
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Sanchez added that Oceanside would benefit from more business friendly policies so that people could work at business centers in their home community with livable wage jobs.
The mayor stressed that she is looking for public input on issues affecting Oceanside, especially in the midst of a pandemic when ethnic minorities and those with lower household incomes have been put at a further disadvantage.
“I hope that I make it easy for people to want to talk to me about what they see are the issues for Oceanside, and what they see for their neighborhoods and we’re able to figure out how to move forward,” Sanchez said.