Where did you grow up?
In Philadelphia — where they’re probably still celebrating the Eagles’ Super Bowl win!
What do you do for a living?
I’m an almost-retired flower garden designer, down to my last client. Before that, I published community maps in many San Diego neighborhoods and was a columnist for Beach & Bay Press. During the 1980s, I published the Calendar Magazine, a monthly news magazine similar to PB Monthly.
Are you married? Got kids?
My husband Greg and I shared many happy years before he passed away in 2016. My (long-grown) kids, Steve and Sally Smull, were both Mission Bay High grads, Class of 1976 and 1980. Steve was a bicycle racer and Sally was active with AFS.
Give us a brief history of your involvement with Pacific Beach governance.
At my first PB Town Council meeting in 1974, John Fry and John Wilding (Sr.) proposed a plan for an oceanfront promenade. In those days, cars were parked diagonally along Ocean Boulevard, from Thomas up to Diamond. The sidewalk was really skinny, just room for two people to walk by. Guys parked there and would blast their radios so loud you couldn’t hear the ocean!
Well, the PB Town Council audience pelted them with verbal tomatoes. “What! Not park my car there?” It was so exciting that I joined the Town Council right then. In 1976, I led PB’s (and the City’s) first Block Party, to help celebrate the Council’s 25th Anniversary and in 1978, I became Town Council president.
Later, I worked with a dozen people (including Don Mullen, Carol Blomstrom and David Mannis) to help start Discover PB and I served on its first board.
More recently, I’ve been on the PB Planning Group for six years. I’ve been Elections Chair and, working with the Planning Group’s Code Compliance subcommittee, I’ll be helping to revitalize the PROW program — that’s “Public Right of Way,” administered by Discover PB.
Pedestrian safety is very important to me and keeping Garnet Avenue’s sidewalks clear for folks on foot is what we all want. I’m a big fan of those new flashing lights at Garnet’s most dangerous crosswalks — they were proposed by the PB Planning Group and they really help.
If you could wave a magic wand and make a wish for PB come true, that wish would be?
That the City would listen to PB! All too often, projects come to the PB Planning Group, such as the Balboa Trolley station and the De Anza Revitalization Plan, and the City ignores our suggestions. How are people going to safely cross Mission Bay Drive to reach the trolley? Magic wand — we need a pedestrian bridge!
Years ago, PB Planning Group member Scott Chipman developed a wonderful Mission Bay Gateway plan for De Anza, supported by the Planning Group. The City’s reaction? They pretty much left out most of what we wanted. What’s left? Less camping, no boat docks, more wetlands and few of the amenities we asked for, such as soccer fields, tennis and beach volleyball courts.
What’s your favorite thing about PB?
That would be our friendliness and sense of fun, our casual way of approaching life. That, and our energy! People in PB are always moving! They’re running, walking, riding bikes, skateboards, sailboards, sailing boats or water-skiing. All ages, little kids, older folks; we’re outside, enjoying the day.
What is your top priority for PB improvement?
Hopefully, that the City will finally resolve the short-term vacation rental problem. Homes in PB (and throughout the City) are being removed from the housing stock when they’re rented to visitors. That contributes to rapidly rising rents and makes it really difficult for families to buy a house here.
The neighborhood suffers because one less neighbor lives on your street — just a never-ending parade of visiting strangers. Local schools lose students when families suddenly face huge rent increases — and landlords later turn their units into vacation rentals.
Homesharing’s OK, though, because the homeowner is still part of the community, shops locally and remains onsite to ensure a peaceful neighborhood. But those residents suffering noise and constantly rotating party-goers deserve relief. Enforcement, paid for with a dedicated revenue stream, can only come when the City develops an ordinance that limits and controls short-term vacation rentals.
What is one thing you want people to know about the PB Town Council?
They’ve always supported making Pacific Beach better. From pursuing that Oceanfront Walk, which became a reality in the 1980s when the federal government (bolstered by a thriving economy) provided the funds, to championing Sail Bay’s path, members didn’t hesitate to speak out.
Sail Bay had private docks when we first arrived and signs saying “NO TRESPASSING!” The State had granted 50-year leases to the City, which allowed those docks. When the leases expired in 1976, PB Town Council members led the charge to open the area to the public. They won when Councilman Mike Gotch again secured federal funding.
Town Council members also sponsored “Camelot,” the “World’s Tallest Sandcastle,” at the foot of Felspar in 1984, with Jim Moore and Jeff Sykes coordinating the massive logistics. Later, when the Catamaran Hotel needed to move its lovely, Tudor-style wedding chapel, Jim and Jeff, both former Town Council presidents, finally found vacant federal land on Garnet Avenue at Soledad Mountain Road. Today it’s known as Rose Creek Cottage.
In 1987, PB’s centennial year, we saw PB’s first Restaurant Walk, its first Casino Night and a year-long series of fun events sponsored by PB’s clubs and organizations, chaired by Town Council president Barbara Hughes. Long-time Realtor Vern Taylor was so impressed that PB’s groups were working together, he eventually gave millions of dollars to build PB Library, named for his parents, Earl and Birdie Taylor.
Monthly meetings these days feature speakers ranging from City Attorney Mara Elliott to hot topics presented by representatives from both points of view. There’s always something interesting to learn at Town Council meetings — and problems that those speakers can solve.
Do you have a favorite spot for relaxing in PB?
I love the hill at the top of Kate Sessions Park and walking on the beach. But my favorite place is my own garden, where I can play on the back hill and prune trees for relaxation.
How would you spend a $5,000 gift to PB … with no strings attached?
I’d sponsor a mural-painting project. We have so many bare walls in our business district just begging for colorful additions. We do have a number of murals now, but I’d like to see us become widely known for sports and beach-related public art.