It looks like public safety will be a driving force and data will do the talking in 2019 for District 1 City Council member Barbara Bry, as evidenced from her State of the District message, presented Jan. 30 at University City High School.
During her 25-minute address, which did not include a Q&A session, Bry outlined her 2018 accomplishments, explained her priorities for the coming year and more.
Hot on the heels of the announcement that she is running for San Diego Mayor in 2020, her focus was on city-wide initiatives, rather than the community-by-community breakdown she reported last year — but she never mentioned her campaign. (According to City policy, elected officials and staff and cannot use City time and resources to promote office candidacy.)
“As most of you know,” she opened. “I’m not a career politician. I’ve spent my life challenging the status quo and getting things done. Naturally, this continued when I got to City Hall.”
In reflecting on 2018, she touted: 1) her involvement in defeating the Soccer City initiative in favor of SDSU West; 2) developing and passing short-term rental regulations (which she elaborated on later in her talk); 3) the launch of her Workplace Equity Initiative to address sexual harassment and pay inequity, and 4) her call for an independent audit of the City Water Department following complaints of higher-than-normal water bills.
To explain how she put her data-driven approach into practice, she cited her public questioning of the City’s purchase of an office building near City Hall for $72 million without knowing the full cost of full renovation. “The building is sitting empty two years later, costing the taxpayers $18,000 a day, or $126,000 per week,” Bry said. “Just think of how many librarians and police officers that could pay for. Fortunately, it will be occupied in a few months.”
Looking ahead, she recommitted to the “Safe, Clean and Prosperous” campaign she used when running for City Council in 2016, but folded in issues that have risen since then. For example, in examining the “Safe” component, Bry said she plans to address dockless bikes and scooters, homelessness, and short-term rentals in the coming year.
“I’m very concerned about what (dockless bikes and scooters) mean for public safety,” she said. “My office is about to issue a policy memo that will address both the user, and pedestrians and drivers that don’t use them. We will address fees, because right now these companies are taking advantage of our infrastructure to make money without paying the City anything. We will also address data-sharing and enforcement … and we’re going to ask for a requirement that all users wear helmets. We will ask that these scooters be banned from the beach boardwalks and certain downtown promenades.”
She added that scooters fees would be used to help fund additional enforcement and infrastructure, so they could be used safely on the street, rather than illegally on the sidewalks as they are now.
“Homelessness safety also means addressing homelessness and protecting those on the street, as well as those in the surrounding neighborhoods,” she said. “A few months ago, I asked for the total cost of City spending on homelessness, which would include real estate, service contracts, police overtime, Clean SD and more. We finally got the data on Monday.”
Bry did not read or draw any conclusions from the data, but added: “All of our spending could and should be used toward a unified solution that is based on effective results.”
In addressing the short-term rentals issue, Bry referenced City legislation that she and former Council colleague Lorie Zapf (District 2) helped pass that allows vacation rentals in primary residences only and bans short-term stays in multiple properties, which was rescinded following the collection of more than 62,000 signatures against the measure.
“Make no mistake about it, we won,” she said. “We led the Council to a legal, legislative victory to protect our neighborhoods, protect our schools, protect our homeowners and protect our renters. But Airbnb bought — they bought — a signature campaign to force us to rescind that ordinance.”
Without elaborating further, Bry said “part two” of her effort would “probably happen later this year” and that in the meantime she would be collecting data from cities across the country that measure the effects of short-term rentals on local housing markets.
Climate Action Plan
Returning to her “Clean” promise, she said “Clean starts with Climate Change, the existential threat of our lifetime, particularly for our coastal community. Climate Change means we have fire season 12 months a year, it means rising sea levels that threatens to erode our cliffs and sensitive coastal habitats. Clean means reducing our greenhouse gases by implementing and monitoring the City’s landmark Climate Action Plan. It means Community Choice Energy, so consumers have a choice as to where they buy their electricity and we move to 100 percent renewal energy more quickly.”
Bry also advocated for the City’s Pure Water project, a multi-year program that aims to provide one-third of San Diego’s water supply locally by 2035, using purification technology to clean recycled water to produce safe drinking water; and protecting District 1’s environment, including canyons and beaches.
To enhance her “Prosperous” efforts, she said job creation, support of the innovation economy and expanding public transit would be paramount.
“My vision comes from my many years as a high-tech entrepreneur,” Bry said. “The innovation economy drives our City, and creates the highest paying jobs, and many service sector jobs that support it. It employs many people who do not have technical backgrounds. It provides the tax base that pays for the quality of life we love.”
At the same time, she said she would also meet with small businesses across the City to better understand “the obstacles that keep them from successfully competing for business with the City.”
Concluding, Bry said: “Tonight, I reaffirm to you, my commitment to continue challenging the status quo when necessary and moving our City full steam ahead.”
La Jolla Town Council, La Jolla Community Planning Association and La Jolla Parks & Beaches member John Shannon said he appreciated the data-driven approach to short-term rentals: “From the real estate perspective, I can’t give someone a true understanding of where things are — beyond that they’re illegal but not being enforced. So it is very important to have this (issue) be resolved. I’m glad she’ll be addressing it. The fact that she can dig in on City finances with a business mind is going to be valuable. I’m glad she is running for mayor.”