In Transition: La Jolla’s Sherri Lightner leads San Diego City Council
District 1 City Councilmember Sherri Lightner
■ Represents: La Jolla, Carmel Valley, Del Mar Mesa, Del Mar Heights, Pacific Highlands Ranch, Torrey Hills, Torrey Pines, University City
■ Contact: (619) 236-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org
By Pat Sherman
Following last month’s ignominious exit of former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, City Council President Pro Tem Sherri Lightner has assumed an increased leadership role at City Hall. It’s a challenge the La Jolla resident said she was prepared for and has eagerly embraced.
While Council President Todd Gloria (District 3) manages the city’s affairs as San Diego’s acting mayor, Lightner presides over council meetings Monday and Tuesday mornings, with Gloria participating on Tuesday afternoons to handle “items that are important to his district or citywide issues,” Lightner said during a Sept. 19 interview with La Jolla Light at her office in downtown San Diego.
Lightner spoke with the Light between a tour of a San Diego-based energy company that makes oil from algae (Sapphire Energy), and a meeting with San Diego Association of Governments Executive Director Gary Gallegos, County Supervisor Ron Roberts and others to discuss the Mid-Coast Corridor Transit Project (which will extend trolley service from downtown to UC San Diego and UTC Westfield Mall).
“I was elected president pro tem last year so I have already chaired some of the meetings, for a little bit when we had some negotiations on outside committee appointments and Mr. Gloria left to speak with Mr. Filner about something.”
San Diego Water Policy
Lightner said she will be busy through year’s end working with Gloria to finish items already in the pipeline, such as a comprehensive water policy she’s been working on for the past several years.
“There is no one panacea,” Lightner said of her efforts to assure San Diego establishes a sustainable water supply and policy for the future. “We have to use every tool available, and there will be tools that we don’t even know about today that may turn out to be most helpful into the future.”
That means San Diegans must both conserve and re-use water — be it graywater (moderately clean waste water from baths, sinks and washing machines) or non-potable (drinking) water. Her plan also involves exploring desalination and other technology to generate additional water sources for the region.
“We’ve got to look at everything — recharging our aquifers, maybe even cleaning up our brackish water (or) our storm water — that sort of thing,” Lighnter said, noting that she envisions her water policy to be the legacy of her two terms on the city council.
Lightner said the city’s Water Policy Implementation Task Force will present its final plan in the near future. “We hope to get some recommendations to the council and through council approval on that before the end of the year,” she said.
Citizens and the Internet
Other items Lightner is working on include the city’s cyber security initiative and a program that would make it seamless for San Diegans to locate and obtain city documents online — from meeting minutes to trash collection times — without having to lose valuable time, or file a public information act request.
The City Council’s Rules and Economic Development Committee, which Lightner chairs, is slated to vote on a draft of the policy in late October or early November.
“It is one of my pet peeves,” Lightner said, noting her frustration trying to ascertain the status of permit applications when she served on various La Jolla community groups.
“I knew city staff was going online to find the information; why couldn’t I have access to that as well?” she said, adding that the city treasurer’s office is working on a “one-stop shop” portal to easily obtain permits online.
“With the city’s legacy systems and the situation with our (Internet technology) services right now, it’s going to be a lot more of a transition than what we had originally anticipated, so we’ll see how far we get,” she said. “It is something I’m pushing … (and) we know this is something the council president is advocating for.”
Torrey Pines Corridor
In regard to La Jolla, Lightner said it is her priority to see the long-delayed, $26.5 million Torrey Pines Road Corridor Project funded and complete — or at least a good portion of it under construction — before she leaves office in three years.
Lightner said the project, aimed at slowing traffic and improving pedestrian and bicycle access along Torrey Pines Road, will take a “herculean effort” to complete. It has run into additional delays because the city’s Engineering and Capital Projects department has requested a full environmental impact report, she said.
“They have decided that they can’t do it with the information that they have on hand, which I thought they would be able to, (considering) the water, sewer (and) other projects that have been done in that immediate vicinity.”
Lighnter said she met early-on with the director of San Diego’s newly reformed Planning Department, Bill Fulton (former mayor Filner’s only enduring appointment), and takes heart in his balanced approach to urban planning, development and preservation — key issues in La Jolla that are often at odds with one another.
“I had a very good conversation with him and stressed the importance of some of the documents I want to see upgraded — the PDOs (planned district ordinances, or development blueprints) in La Jolla, and definitely the community plans. We haven’t had a very aggressive program on that — we don’t have the money — but plan to develop a program for getting those done going forward.”
Before she ran for office, Lightner said community members identified and approved more than 30 items in the La Jolla Planned District Ordinance that needed to be updated, though the changes were never made.
“There may finally be a will to get it done,” she said. “I’ve always had the will to get it done, but it does require city staff and the mayor’s support to do that.”
Lightner said Fulton, a best-selling author on urban planning and former mayor of Ventura, is “very well regarded” in his field and among city officials.
“He is ‘the guy’ in California,” she said. “He was mayor of a beach community, so he’s very sympathetic to our concerns in La Jolla — and in the communities in general — but he identifies with La Jolla quite well.”
La Jolla Beautification
In addition to the recent completion of the modern lifeguard tower at La Jolla Shores, and a new lifeguard tower that broke ground this summer at Children’s Pool, Lightner said she wants to see the Belvedere Project finished before she leaves office. An official, yet unfunded component of the La Jolla Community Plan, the Belvedere would replace a one-way section of Prospect Street between Herschel and Girard avenues with an ocean-view, pedestrian plaza.
“That’s a good one,” Lightner enthused. “That one we do plan to get done.”
Due to her leadership position on the council, Lightner said she will not make an endorsement in the Nov. 19 mayoral special election.
“They have some very good candidates running. I know them, and I’d have no problem working with them,” she said, (but) … Todd and I are both trying to do what’s best for the city at this point in time, and leave it in the best shape we can for the next mayor.
“We are here, we have been here, and we have been doing the community’s business this whole time,” Lightner assured. “We are accessible. If you have any concerns, just give us a call.”
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