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La Jolla’s Joe LaCava poised to take San Diego City Council District 1 seat

Joe LaCava is poised to take the San Diego City Council District 1 seat following his Nov. 3 election.
(Courtesy)

With a 23 percentage point lead in the vote count the day after the Nov. 3 election, it appears La Jolla resident Joe LaCava will win the San Diego City Council seat representing District 1. He says he’s ready to get to work.

With a 23 percentage point lead in the vote count the day after the Nov. 3 election, it appears La Jolla resident Joe LaCava will win the San Diego City Council seat representing District 1, which covers La Jolla, Carmel Valley, University City, Torrey Pines, Torrey Hills, Pacific Highlands Ranch and Del Mar Mesa.

He will replace Councilwoman Barbara Bry, who ran for mayor.

“We felt good, but we certainly didn’t expect an outcome like that,” LaCava said.

LaCava said he received a concession call from his opponent, Will Moore of Carmel Valley, the night of Nov. 3. “He acknowledged the gap was going to be too wide to overcome, even with the outstanding votes,” LaCava said.

Moore did not immediately respond to a request for comment Nov. 4. But on Election Night he said on Facebook that LaCava “earned this race and he’s really run a fantastic campaign and I have nothing but the highest respect there and I think we will be under very good leadership here in District 1 for the next four to eight years.”

LaCava said he’s “extremely honored that the voters of District 1 have entrusted me to represent them at City Hall. San Diego, like cities across America, will be facing lean times with difficult decisions ahead. I look forward to putting in the hard work to help jump-start our economy safely, to deliver results on our long-term challenges and provide the neighborhood services our residents and local businesses deserve.”

LaCava said his top priorities once he takes office next month will be “to focus on some of the lingering issues that the current administration did not address.”

At the forefront, he said, will be short-term vacation rentals, referring to a proposal making its way to the City Council that would implement new regulations on STVRs. “We heard over and over from the voters that this was an important issue, and I know ... that this is not just a La Jolla issue or a coastal issue. It really is a citywide issue.”

LaCava said he also would focus on public safety, which he called his No. 1 priority. “I know how important that is to the residents and businesses,” he said.

LaCava said he will look at “where we do well and where we can do better.”

He said he will work to further council actions on climate change, “helping the City Council pivot so every action we take is a step toward meeting the goals of the Climate Action Plan.”

Through it all, LaCava said, “it is still going to be about COVID-19 and how do we bring the economy back safely. How do we keep our eyes and ears open to what our small businesses need? That has to be front and center.”

As a council newcomer, LaCava said he “will be building on the community work that people have seen me do over the past 15 to 20 years, and I will carry that into the council office on a full-time basis, with the staff to assist me. I will make sure that we continue to respond to the day-to-day issues that affect the quality of life of residents and small businesses.”

LaCava said he plans to use his civil engineering background to “take a longer-term vision that is … about the city as a whole.”

That will involve looking at “not a quick fix but looking forward,” he said. “When we invest our limited infrastructure dollars, let’s make sure we’re investing them wisely.”

He added that he hopes to employ a concept of “value engineering ... coming up with not just a solution but a solution that is the most effective and cost-efficient.”

LaCava said being an elected official will be an extension of his years of community volunteerism, which included nearly 30 civic boards, planning groups and commissions.

“I will have greater bandwidth to be able to respond … to those day-to-day issues,” he said. “Rather than trying to find that person at City Hall that can be responsive, I will be that point person.”

But, he said, the council position will differ from his previous civic experience in that “I will also have the responsibility to deal with the bigger issues that are affecting our city and the issues that are unique to the different council districts and the unique neighborhoods that make up our city.”

LaCava said it’s important to him to “be sensitive to responding to those underserved communities that haven’t gotten the attention from the city over the years.”

Given that he will represent the other areas of District 1 beyond La Jolla, where he has lived for more than 35 years, LaCava said he plans to continue what he did throughout his campaign: making himself familiar with issues outside La Jolla.

“I talked to a lot of people [in all district areas],” he said. He’s looking forward to “community outreach and connection, maintaining those relationships with community leaders, trying to make sure we have an open door for folks to bring issues to the table.”

“I don’t take anything for granted,” he added. “I have a healthy respect for what I don’t know, and I look forward to working with every community. I still have things to learn about La Jolla.”

Newly elected City Council members will be sworn in Dec. 10. Until then, LaCava will be busy building his staff. He said he will retain the model used by his predecessors, sending a field representative to community meetings.

“I intend to hire good people that will be very sensitive to the community issues and keep me well-informed,” he said.

LaCava said he will still attend some community group meetings, however. “I will have to make a shift in my proclivity to go to every meeting. That’s one of the things I will miss, that I won’t have the luxury to do that.”

Otherwise, LaCava plans to spend the next month trying to “relax and enjoy the moment.”

“Do I take a breath or do I start jumping on what’s next?” he said.

For a few days, though, LaCava said he wanted to simply take time to “savor the result.”

— The San Diego Union-Tribune and the Carmel Valley News contributed to this report.