Election 2012: Local attorney, seal advocate hopes Lightner won’t strike twice at City Hall


Dist. 1


Four years

City Council member base salary:


Council District 1:

La Jolla, University City, Torrey Hills, Torrey Pines, Carmel Valley, Del Mar Mesa, Rancho Peñasquitos, Torrey Highlands, Pacific Highlands Ranch, Black Mountain Ranch



By Pat Sherman

Note: The

La Jolla Light

recently met with public-interest attorney and District 1 City Council candidate Bryan Pease (Democrat) to discuss his candidacy. Interviews with the incumbent, City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner (Democrat), and challenger Ray Ellis (Republican), can be viewed


Though largely known to La Jollans as the maverick attorney working to get a rope barrier separating humans and seals established at the Children’s Pool year-round, Bryan Pease now has another mission: to be elected to the San Diego City Council.

Whether voters agree with Pease’s pro-seal, pro bono legal work, the candidate believes he offers a welcome alternative to fellow Democrat and incumbent, Sherri Lightner.

“I was kind of hoping that somebody would challenge Sherri from the progressive end of the spectrum, rather than just having the choice be between her and a Republican,” said Pease, 33.

Lightner received an early endorsement from the San Diego County Democratic Party. However, the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council and League of Conservation Voters’ San Diego chapter have yet to endorse a candidate in the race — something Pease believes he can shore up based on Lightner’s support for managed competition, her environmental record and a perceived anti-labor vote on the Walmart issue.

“She voted to not have Walmart have to do an economic impact report on what effect it’s going to have on the community,” said Pease, an upstate New York native who recently purchased a condo in the UTC area. “The league of conservation voters gave her a C+ overall on her environmental report card, which is the worst grade of anyone on the council, other than Carl DeMaio.”

Though Pease has been characterized by those favoring Lightner as a spoiler who will take votes away from the incumbent in the June 5 primary election, he has a different perspective.

“A lot of Democrats are excited about me running — some are not,” he said. “The idea is, well, you’re going to force her to a runoff against Ray in November, but what if Ray were to beat her in June, because a lot more Republicans vote in June

“I think it’s actually better to have a couple of Democrats in the race in June who can appeal to different segments of the voters, and let the voters ultimately decide,” Pease said. “Let’s have more democracy … and a real election here.”

Though he has little experience in public office, Pease once worked for eight months in the legislative office of former New York Assemblyman Peter Rivera. He currently serves on the board of the Ocean Beach People’s Organic Food Market, a member-owned vegetarian consumer co-op.

“As a board we’ve made fiscally responsible decisions and we’ve paid down the mortgage of the building from $1.5 million owed (to $500,000) since I joined four years ago,” he said. “I know how to read a balance sheet.

In regard to fixing the city’s pension crisis, Pease said he believes the issue is somewhat blown out of proportion

“You’ve got the Carl DeMaio people who are trying to kind of blame everything on librarians,” he said. “There are some people who are making six-figure pensions, but those are the administrators. That’s a very small segment. Most of the pensions are very reasonable and not very large at all.

Pease believes that bargaining is the key to reducing the city’s pension deficit, and not the proposed Comprehensive Pension Reform initiative, which would replace most city pensions with a 401(k)-style retirement plan

“It’s just going to undercut the whole bargaining process,” said Pease, who’s also no fan of the city’s managed competition mandate

“I think there’s definitely an over-emphasis on privatization that’s not a good idea,” he said. “When you start to privatize services that are actually the point of government, you’re basically just providing cash benefits to private industries.

In regard to building a new Chargers Stadium downtown, as Union-Tribune publisher Doug Manchester, Mayor Jerry Sanders and others are championing, Pease said, “If it’s good for the city, sure, I’ll vote for it

“You have to look at the way these contracts are written,” he said. “You’ve just got to pay attention to what’s being voted for and what’s being allowed and make sure you’re getting what is being put on the table — and not something else being written in that isn’t being discussed.

Though Pease said he’s passionate about a number of issues in the race, the environment tops the list. He shies away from being pigeonholed as an “animal rights activist,” though it dominates his resume, beginning with his advocacy for the seals, which started shortly after he graduated from law school and moved to San Diego in 2004.

“I was actually able to get a temporary restraining order in federal court to block the dispersal and dredging of the beach,” Pease said. “Sherri was the one council vote saying the city should dredge the beach and get rid of the seals. I was, like, really? You want us to spend millions of taxpayer dollars dredging the beach and chasing seals away? It’s not only environmentally unfriendly, but fiscally irresponsible.”

Pease’s animal advocacy work includes helping to found the Animal Protection and Rescue League, a San Diego non-profit that works to expose animal cruelty. He also has protested the fur industry and worked to stop restaurants from serving foie gras, a paté made from the artificially enlarged livers of ducks or geese that have been fattened through force-feeding.

Pease became an animal rights advocate at age 16, after reading about the abuses taking place at factory farms in John Robbins’ book “Diet for a New America.”

He holds a bachelor’s degree in human development from Cornell University and law degree from State University of New York at Buffalo.