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Barbara Bry reflects on her mayoral run, time on the City Council and the future

Barbara Bry of La Jolla has served four years on the San Diego City Council representing District 1.
(Courtesy)

Barbara Bry has long held the view that when one door closes, another opens.

Her one four-year term on the San Diego City Council ends Dec. 10 and she will be succeeded by fellow La Jollan Joe LaCava. She chose to run for mayor in the Nov. 3 election instead of seeking a second term as the council member representing District 1.

With Todd Gloria collecting more than 56 percent of the mayoral votes as of counting updated Nov. 8, Bry conceded the next day in a Zoom meeting featuring community supporters and members of the news media.

“I’m optimistic about our city’s future,” she said. “But for the next few years, our city faces many challenges because of COVID-19, and Mr. Gloria will have a tough job. Thousands of San Diegans are unemployed through no fault of their own, and city revenues are declining.”

Councilwoman said she plans to launch an organization to boost the power of city neighborhoods.

Gloria thanked Bry in a statement “for her service to our city, and I wish her and her family well.”

So what door might this experience open for Bry?

Bry, 71, said she is unlikely to seek public office again — noting, however, that “you never say never” — and instead plans to launch a coalition of neighborhoods.

“I want to stay engaged in the community in some way; I just don’t know what that will look like,” she told the La Jolla Light. “But I didn’t know what Run Women Run and Athena would look like when I started those endeavors. But I had smart people around me, so I want to give it a few months … and get smart people around me from diverse neighborhoods to get together and see how we can improve San Diego’s operations and neighborhoods and make sure they have a seat at the table.”

Run Women Run is an organization that aims to inspire, recruit and train pro-choice women to seek elected and appointed office. Athena is an organization for women in the tech and life sciences community.

Bry said she would like the new organization to “hold the city accountable for how it spends its money in terms of neighborhoods.”

She said she also would consider sitting on a corporate board “that has a social component to what they do.”

First and foremost, she would like to spend more time with her grandchildren.

She also is working on her “farewell speech,” which she will deliver at the transition of power in December, including her accomplishments in District 1.

Bry said she considers the defeat by voters of the SoccerCity initiative (a 2018 proposal to redevelop the SDCCU Stadium site with a professional soccer stadium) “a legacy” and is proud that she “called out” the city’s 101 Ash St. scandal, saw the construction of a fire station at UC San Diego and the HAWK beacon over Torrey Pines Road during her term, and assisted in creation of the Map of the Grand Canyons of La Jolla Educational Plaza in La Jolla Shores.

But she opted to run for mayor rather than a second City Council term because she “didn’t want to be frustrated there for another four years.”

“As a council member, you can only nibble at the edges of city bureaucracy,” she said. “We need to think about the whole city bureaucracy. The city has fairly good reserves and I’m concerned the mayor will use them in a way that is not appropriate for the long term.”

Mayoral candidate Barbara Bry joins supporters in waving to passing drivers in La Jolla on Election Day, Nov. 3.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Under the Gloria administration, Bry said, she would like to see short-term vacation rentals regulated, especially in La Jolla. During the campaign, Bry maintained that the city should enforce its existing laws against STVRs, whereas Gloria advocated for new legislation to allow the rentals but with restrictions and fees.

“There is a bit of hypocrisy with the council wanting to preserve affordable housing but also allow short-term rentals,” she said. “A lot of the smaller housing units, especially in the coastal areas, make the best short-term rentals. Preservation of housing doesn’t align with allowing short-term rentals.”

The next council, including LaCava and four other new members, will take up short-term rental regulations next year.

As for her successor, Bry said she is “thrilled” LaCava won. “I voted for him enthusiastically. I think he will do a good job.”

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.

Looking back on her time on the council, she said she “loved it” and that she “never expected to run for office, but I ran and I won.”

“My life has been about trying to make a difference,” said Bry, a high-tech entrepreneur before being elected to the council. “And I think I made a difference as a council member. I accomplished a lot, but I wanted to figure out what the next chapter of my life holds.”

One thing is for sure, Bry said — she would like to live in La Jolla the rest of her life. “I love it here. It has its issues, of course, but I love it.” ◆