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Signature Drive To Recall Jen Campbell Kicks Off This Weekend

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.

Volunteers with the campaign to recall San Diego City Council President Jen Campbell will kick off their signature gathering drive Saturday with a rally in Mission Bay Park.

The campaign is motivated by a range of interests, but chief among them is Campbell's announcement last year of a proposal to license and regulate short-term home rentals. The proposal, which began as a compromise between Expedia Group and the local hotel workers union, passed the City Council 8-1 on Tuesday.

Signature Drive To Recall Jen Campbell Kicks Off This Weekend
Listen to this story by Andrew Bowen.

Campbell’s District 2, which covers Bay Ho, Pacific Beach, Ocean Beach and Mission Beach, has some of the highest concentrations of short-term rentals in the city.


Point Loma resident Mandy Havlik, one of the recall organizers, said Campbell's proposal was an example of special interests crafting city policy while everyday residents are shut out. Havlik said she had attended meetings with Campbell on the issue, but that the final proposal did not reflect what residents wanted.

"She was just going through the motions, she didn't really need to meet with us," Havlik said.

The short-term rental regulations will cap the number of licenses for renting out entire homes at 1% of the city's total housing supply, while whole-home rentals in Mission Beach will be capped at 30% of the neighborhood's housing stock. It is expected to significantly reduce the overall number of short-term rental listings in the city.

But Havlik said any allowance of short-term home rentals would still take options for long-term housing away from city residents.

"They need to ban them," Havlik said. "I'm not willing to compromise on that."


RELATED: San Diego City Council Passes First Reading Of Short-Term Rental Ordinance

In an interview with KPBS, Campbell argued that she did incorporate community input into her proposal, even if some of her constituents didn't get what they wanted. She also pointed out that the council had tried and failed multiple times to pass regulations for the industry.

"It was a lot of collaboration, a lot of compromise, a lot of working together over at least a three year period," Campbell said. "And it included the community all the way along."

California has long been a hotbed for recall campaigns, but they are usually unsuccessful. The campaign has until June 2 to deliver more than 14,000 valid signatures from voters in Campbell's District. And without major financial backing, organizers expect to rely mostly on volunteers.

Signature Drive To Recall Jen Campbell Kicks Off This Weekend

The San Diego City Clerk's Office said based on prior elections that were similar in size, a special recall vote in District 2 would cost city taxpayers between $1.6 million and $2 million. Campbell said that money would be a waste, especially when she's up for re-election in November 2022.

"The people behind this are people who disagree with me on certain issues," Campbell said. "What they need to do is get themselves together for the next campaign and vote for whomever they want."

But many of the recall supporters might not agree on what kind of candidate should replace Campbell. In addition to residents upset over the short-term rental proposal, others are supporting the recall because of Campbell's decision to run for council president against her colleague, Councilmember Monica Montgomery Steppe.

The council presidency, which is determined by a vote of sitting council members, is one of the most powerful positions in city government. The person in that role has broad control over what makes it on the council agenda, and can therefore speed up or slow down changes in city policy.

RELATED: Jen Campbell Chosen As New San Diego City Council President

Montgomery Steppe mounted an unprecedented public campaign for the position, making racial equity — especially in policing — central to her platform and winning support from an array of community groups along the way. But Campbell won the position in a 5-4 vote of her council colleagues.

Tasha Williamson, a recall supporter who lives outside District 2 in Southeast San Diego, said Campbell is too close to the city’s police union to advance the necessary reforms necessary to rebuild trust in the police.

"Jen Campbell has showed us in every instance that she is against our right to have a police department that is just and moral, that provides non-biased policing," Williamson said. "Maybe it's unconscious racism, but it is racism, and people need to call it out for what it is."

Campbell said she has spent a lifetime advocating for racial equality, and has evolved on policing issues. She initially backed the police's right to use the carotid restraint, or "sleeper hold," but after last year's racial justice protests she agreed it should be banned.

"I did not realize that the police departments were using it incorrectly and they were choking people," Campbell said. "So, I opened my eyes and I learned new information and I changed my mind."

But Williamson said the community’s problems with Campbell run deeper than her stance on a few specific issues.

"She has actually brought people together that would not normally be together to recall her because she has refused to listen to her constituents all over this city and she has been disrespectful to constituents of color," Williamson said.