Council member Bry reflects on 2018: Looks to focus on small business, climate change in 2019

As 2018 — the year of scooters, stanchions and short-term rentals — comes to a close, District 1 City Council member Barbara Bry sat down with La Jolla Light to recap the highs and lows, and outline her priorities for 2019. And while Bry filed a candidacy intention statement earlier this month to run for San Diego Mayor in 2020, a spokesperson said she couldn’t discuss that effort until later this year.

What were your accomplishments in The Jewel?

“There were quite a few:

Casa de Mañana concrete street panel replacement: In September 2017, we got a lot of letters from residents of Casa de Mañana expressing concern about the condition of the surrounding street and we alerted City staff and the work got done.

Draper Avenue speed humps: In January 2017 (my staffers) Mauricio Medina and Daniel Orloff met with a constituent and looked at motorists’ speeds on Draper. We worked with the La Jolla Traffic & Transportation board and City staff to come up with a workable solution. In July, the City installed speed humps.

La Jolla Scenic Place curb cuts near the YMCA: We had an elderly resident with a walker who used the route to go to the Orthodox temple and it was difficult for her to navigate, so we worked with City staff to get a curb cut. There are a lot of elderly people in that neighborhood, so I think it was a good thing for a lot of people.

Torrey Pines Road Corridor Project: Part 1 got done. And I know there were issues with Part 2 about night work, day work, what is done at night, what is done during the day. We’ve reached a compromise that everyone seems happy with. Part 2 will be done in the next few months.

We used part of our Community Projects, Programs and Services (CPPS) funding — which I can use for community organizations — to pay the Parks & Rec Department to ensure the gate at Kellogg Park (in La Jolla Shores) is locked at night and opened in the morning. That has been a concern for the community.”

You said your priorities for 2018 were advocating for Community Choice Energy, increasing compensation for police officers, encouraging companies to offer STEAM-related internships and supporting affordable housing options. What progress has been made?

“Community Choice Energy: Community Choice Energy, and how it moved forward, was in the hands of the Mayor. There has been appropriate, I don’t want to say pressure, but appropriate information that it’s a good path forward for the City. The Mayor has decided to move forward in the development of a business plan that will eventually come to the City Council. So we are moving forward on that.

Pay raises for police: We did approve significant pay raises for our police officers and these went into effect in July. We’ve heard from our police chief that it’s making a difference in recruiting, and in getting some police officers to move laterally from other jurisdictions.

STEAM internships: We have anecdotal information that more companies offered them. We wrote about one woman who got an internship at Pfizer through our efforts in one of our newsletters.

Affordable housing: We passed the (so-called) granny flats ordinance, which made it easier to build one, and we could build thousands of these all over the City. We’ve lowered the fees and loosened the parking requirement. This is one step toward creating more housing and more attainable housing.”

What are your goals for 2019?

“Fairness is a value that will be part of how I look at everything, and how we’re going to deal with everything from short-term rentals to the budget … and I am going to focus a lot on (fairness to) small businesses.

My team and I recently did a walk with the La Jolla Village Merchants Association, and we talked to merchants about what’s on their mind, how business is going and what more the City could be doing to help them.

As part of that, we’re going to look at how to make it easier to do business with the City. I want to make sure all businesses get a fair share of the contracts we give out and are treated fairly in the contracting process. We will be holding community forums with small businesses to learn the good, the bad and the ugly of doing business with the City.

I will also focus on short-term rentals and housing affordability, which will include homelessness issues.

We’ll further be looking at climate change impacts — particularly sea level rise, which impacts District 1 a lot — and fire safety, which impacts everyone in the City. We were spared in the last round of terrible fires, so we need to be thinking about where and how we should be building, and whether we have adequate evacuation routes.

My team is compiling a list of questions that we need answers to, and we’re finding the right people to answer them. We also need a real estate strategy for the City, and to look at increasing sources of new revenue.”

What do you think of the new Council composition, now that 5 of the 9 members are women?

“I’m serving on a historic council, that is, for the first time, a majority of women. I’m very excited. We are a very diverse group — the women are diverse, the council nine of us are diverse, and I think we represent San Diego. It’s an exciting time and you can just feel that there is an energy on this floor about wanting to get things done.”

What are your thoughts on how the bike-sharing/electric scooter issue unfolded? Any progress on setting regulations?

“Oh, I need to add that to my priorities list! Early on, I called for regulation. Council member Lorie Zapf and I wanted a temporary ban on the boardwalks of La Jolla, Mission Beach and Pacific Beach, but we could not get a majority of our colleagues to agree with us.

One of my staffers, Raymond Khan, did great research on what other cities were doing. The Mayor came to us with a draft ordinance, but I had some thoughts about how it could be improved. It was then heard at the City Council. It’s supposed to come back before the public safety committee. I wish it had come back in December, but it didn’t. We have a new chair of public safety and I’m confident she will bring it back as soon as possible. We need to do something, we are behind other cities in addressing this.”

Regarding the Windansea stanchions issue; did anything about the situation surprise you?

“My goal, when there are disagreements in the community, is to try and bring people together to reach a satisfactory conclusion themselves. That was my goal in bringing everyone together with a moderator (Nov. 27). But the next day, we were surprised that the Mayor put out a memo stating he was going to put the stanchions back to prohibit any parking. Apparently the City Attorney told (the Mayor) there may be some liability issues with the pilot parking program (I launched, which included two, 15-minute parking spaces), but it was not specified exactly what that liability is, so from reading the Mayor’s memo, that is how he made the decision. My goal is to come up with a design that is OK.”

Are there days you feel overwhelmed by the job?

“Every day I’m learning something new, and every day there is a new issue that comes to the forefront. I think my background as an entrepreneur has helped, because when you are in a start-up, things come up all the time and you learn to pivot and adapt — or your business dies. I accept this as part of the City Council job, and I like that there’s always a new challenge to deal with.”

Do you ever explore downtown San Diego in your off time?

“I walk at lunch, but I can never walk more than 20 minutes from the building because I always have to get back. My husband and I have season tickets to the San Diego Rep, so we come down every month or so to the theater. We saw ‘Fun Home’ a few months ago and it was amazing.”

What is your social media platform of choice?

“I do Facebook. I have a personal page where I keep up with friends who live all over the country, and even my friends here in San Diego. It’s how I find out people got married or had a baby. I use it a lot.”

In your role as a grandmother, what’s your favorite thing to do with your grandchildren?

“LEGO. They love the blocks, but we have the big blocks. Yesterday, I was at their house and I gave (my grandson) Colton a Jurassic Park Duplo set — the one with a little car and a train. We made a Jurassic Park-train. Colton loves dinosaurs and he has little plastic dinosaurs we set up so the train would go through Jurassic Park. He knows the names of all of them … Jillian, even though she is only 19 months old, likes putting the bigger blocks together and Colton is teaching her the names of the dinosaurs.”

State of the District: Bry will delve further into these issues, and issues across District 1, at the 2018 State of the District address, 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 30 at University City High School Library, 6949 Genesee Ave. For a seat, you must RSVP by Jan. 28 to <end_bug_diamond>