San Diego City Council hopefuls face off at La Jolla Town Council

Seven candidates for City Council District 1 — Aaron Brennan, Joe LaCava, Will Moore, Harid Puentes, Louis Rodolico, James Rudolph and Lily Zhou — state their cases at the Nov. 14 La Jolla Town Council meeting.

La Jolla Town Council’s (LJTC) Nov. 14 meeting at the Rec Center was the public’s first chance to question all the announced candidates for City Council District 1 in one place. A whopping seven are vying to fill the opening left because current Council member Barbara Bry is running for mayor instead of a second term.

Each comes to the race with different experience, which they outlined in their one-minute introduction speeches.

Aaron Brennan, a retired firefighter, served 17 years in that role and eight before that as a lifeguard.

Joe LaCava, a civil engineer, chaired the Community Planners Committee and sat on the La Jolla Community Planning Association board.

Will Moore, a small-business attorney, chaired the City’s consolidated plan advisory board.

Harid Puentes, a business consultant, comes from innovation and tech.

Louis Rodolico has spent 35 years as a pro-bono community advocate.

James Rudolph, an attorney, worked in the U.S. Agency for International Development under the Clinton administration and in the State Department under the Obama administration.

And Lily Zhou is a real-estate broker with a history of volunteerism.

During the Q&A, moderated by LJTC president Ann Kerr Bache, all candidates expressed frustration with how the City of San Diego is currently being managed — especially when it comes to dockless scooters and short-term vacation rentals — and all posited themselves and their policy proposals as an important part of the solution.

LaCava distinguished himself most notably from the pack by calling for a moratorium on all scooters in San Diego instead of merely increasing regulation on the scooter companies, which drew applause from the audience.

“We need to just get them off the street entirely,” LaCava said. “This is not an enforcement issue. This is shut it down, start from scratch all over again and roll it out very carefully.”

But most of the candidates’ policies were less distinct from one another. (Although City Council is a non-partisan race, only Zhou, who identifies as an independent, is not a registered Democrat.)

When asked how they would address the problem of homelessness, for example, all candidates said the answer was a careful combination of enforcement, offering services and building more affordable housing.

The question that exposed the biggest difference in the candidates’ views came from La Jolla resident Greg Jackson, who asked what each would vote to do with a hypothetical surplus in the City budget of $200 million (5 percent).

Brennan said he’d spend it on police officers and fire stations. LaCava said code enforcement. Moore said streets and infrastructure. Puentes said performance and analytics. Rodolico said three bridges missing in La Jolla and University City. Rudolph said police officers. And Zhou said she would turn the $200 million into $600 million and then spend it on education.

Three of the candidates live in La Jolla and emphasized their ties to the community. LaCava called the Rec Center his second home for 10 years. Rudolph, son of Harry’s Coffee Shop founder Harry Rudolph, name-checked Stella Maris Academy, La Jolla Elementary School, Muirlands Middle School and La Jolla High School, all of which he attended. And Brennan is a current LJTC trustee who would have been in the room even if there was no candidate forum.

Also at Town Council ...

Gloria stops by: State Assembly member Todd Gloria updated the group on the latest votes and happenings in Sacramento, and to defend the recently passed Housing Crisis Act of 2019 (aka SB-330), which he said was “unfair to call a density bill.”

Better late than never: Stella Maris Academy director of advancement Jennifer Ledhors presented four representatives of the San Diego police and fire departments with thank-you notes written by her students for their service. Kerr Bache apologized that the presentation could not have been made during October’s Town Council forum on public safety, but the letters were misplaced.

Event approvals: Requests were unanimously approved for temporary street closures and no-parking zones for Concours d’Elegance (April 19-20, 2020) and the La Jolla Half Marathon (April 26, 2020).

— La Jolla Town Council will not meet in December nor January. The next meeting is 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020 at the Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.