The afternoon light fills the nearly empty booths of Harry’s Coffee Shop. It’s nearing 3 p.m., and the typical morning bustle of breakfast and brunchers has all but disappeared. Decades ago, you might find James P. Rudolph cleaning off one of those booths or assisting any remaining customers, but now he sits with a diverse career in law and politics under his belt, ready to make his run for San Diego City Council, District 1.
Recently the La Jolla Village News sat down with Rudolph to discuss his decision to enter the race and what he’ll do if elected.
LJVN: What made you want to run? You’ve worked in politics before.
JR: I worked in Washington, D.C. at the U.S. Agency for International Development, and then ultimately at the U.S. Department of State in the Clinton administration and later in the Obama administration. So, I’ve been involved in politics and campaigns before but I’ve never run for my own office.
It’s been an interest of mine for a long time, and in September, people were asking me about City Council and if I was going to run. So, when Barbara Bry decided not to run, I just decided to throw my hat in the ring and go for it.
Also, I was born and raised in La Jolla, in District 1. I went to all of the local schools, La Jolla Elementary, Stella Maris, Muirlands Middle School, La Jolla High, and even All Hallows for a short period. My parents moved here in the ’50s and opened the restaurant and we’ve just been involved in the community for a long time. So, I really wanted to combine my local roots and my national-level experience to City Council.
LJVN: What other sorts of skills and expertise would you bring to the table if elected?
JR: Given my legal background and given what the City Council does on a daily basis, which is reviewing contracts and other proposals, I would like to think my legal knowledge would be of use.
LJVN: What would be some of your priorities for the city?
JR: My three citywide priorities are affordable housing, jobs, and infrastructure, and I think all three are intertwined. You build affordable housing next to public transportation and that’s mostly because people are living in affordable housing and depend on public transportation to get to work. And as well known, most of our roads are in pretty bad shape.
LJVN: What about La Jolla in particular?
JR: With respect to La Jolla, you have this issue with the sea lions at the Cove. For the district as a whole, it’s certainly short-term vacation rentals, scooters and the process of regulating those two things. They are two issues that we seem to hear the most about, and they’re big issues that have to be tackled.
LJVN: Do you have any solutions to offer regarding those issues?
JR: I’m closely in line with what the La Jolla Town Council proposed [for the sea lions], which is essentially using the Marine Mammal Protection Act to lawfully remove them from the area. The proposal would be in compliance with the federal law regarding the marine mammals in that area and really pushing back to a certain extent on the city’s idea of coexistence between humans and the sea lions.
For short-term vacation rentals, the main requirement for me would have to be that it’s a primary residence. That would eliminate so-called Wall Street investors coming in and buying up housing to rent out on a short-term basis. I’m in favor of a permitting process, registration with the city, paying taxes and registering as a business.
As for the scooters, I want to encourage technology. I’m a big proponent of technology advancement, and I think these tech companies have a role to play in filling the gap between the so-called last mile. So, I’m about promoting innovation, but also protecting public safety.
Let's foster innovation and technology while simultaneously ensuring public safety. We can do this by requiring that scooters are placed in corrals; that geofencing slows down a scooter in certain areas; that geofencing continues charging the individual until the scooter is placed in an appropriate area; that we limit the number of scooters allowed in corrals; that we limit the spacing of groups of scooters; and that companies like Sweep, Inc. should contract with the city of San Diego to impound illegally placed scooters. We also regulate scooters by maintaining registration fees (initial fee of $5,000 plus $150 per scooter) and imposing fines when there are violations.
LJVN: What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in La Jolla?
JR: The growth. When my parents came here it was just a small, sleepy beach town, and when I grew up, it was still mostly a small beach community. Now it’s a major tourist destination, and people come from all over the world to visit.
LJVN: What kind of changes do you hope to see in the future?
JR: I certainly think there’s room for more autonomy for local groups like the town council. Dissatisfaction with the city of San Diego is mostly because of the perceived lack of services in San Diego. So, growing up in La Jolla, I would want to be the kind of candidate to represent some of those grievances and to get the city to be more responsive to the needs of La Jolla.
The perception at least is that the police aren’t always in La Jolla, the services are a little slower in La Jolla, and the roads are crumbling and that La Jolla in many ways gets shorted. I would want to prioritize that.
Obviously, I would be representing District 1 and other areas have their own issues so I’d want to be as inclusive as possible.