Along with District 2 councilmember Lorie Zapf and representatives of water protection groups, on Jan. 5 Bry publicly signed a petition directed to outgoing President Obama, asking him to prevent offshore oil drilling near the coast of California. With a swarm of media members present, that photo opportunity, though necessary was quite a precursor of what shall come.
Bry is no stranger to media events or local politics for that matter. Prior to having staked her claim in the tech world, bringing tons of new businesses to Southern California, she worked as a government reporter for The Sacramento Bee, a business reporter for the Los Angeles Times, and was the first editor of Voice of San Diego. Suffice it to say that she knows her way around researching issues that plague a community, and how that community functions.
“I had been out of journalism for nearly 20 years, but was asked to come and work as the first editor of Voice of San Diego,” said Bry. “I saw the direct impact that local government has on people’s lives. VOSD launched during a pension fund crisis, and as media, we were there daily to cover developments—to keep voters informed about the situation. Ultimate the city was audited and a whole deal of information began to come out. We had launched in January, and sometime around March Mayor Dick Murphy resigned.”
Bry, who is a Philadelphia native, moved to San Diego in 1981. She raised all of her children in the area school systems,and was impressed by the level of concern voiced by its citizens. Her office was located in La Jolla Shores for many years, so she understands how infrastructure issues can provide incessant headaches to local merchants.
“La Jolla is a very engaged community. We also have the added blessing of having this tremendous coastline, which adds a whole other set of issues that most communities in San Diego don’t have,” Bry said. “We’re one of the older communities in San Diego, therefore older infrastructure reflects that. In regards to the councils, planning committees, subcommittees, and other community groups – it is tremendous that there are so many ways for citizens to get involved.”
La Jolla has expanded tremendously since the turn of the century. From a quaint artists’ colony to a developed, modern, pristine coastal village, the bejeweled area certainly has undergone its fair share of transformation. While the area is much more populated than it was in say, 1925 or 1981 for that matter, there can always be preemptive measures to be taken.
“The most growth in the district is slated for North University City,” said Bry. “This is our transit corridor, and, as you probably know – the trolley is coming – little bits of the construction have already started. It should be completed by 2020 or so, and there are several high rises planned, one of which is actually under construction on the corner of Genessee and La Jolla Village Dr. Growth is also taking place in Carmel Valley, and particularly in Pacific Highlands Ranch (eastern part of Carmel Valley). This has mostly all been approved, zoned, but there is very little land left in the older parts of the Village.”
With her background in the then-burgeoning tech sector of San Diego, Bry finds that there is a vast divide between funding for biotech and communications and wireless tech companies. Although there are countless subdivisions and classifications for what these specific tech companies do, Bry finds that the most functional way to separate the two as: “tech and biotech.”
“Biotech is definitely the largest, as there are hundreds of companies that include medical devices, wireless health, companies that make new drugs, etc.,” she said. “It is the most vibrant because it is the most successful at raising venture capital. It takes a lot of money to bring a drug to market. We’re blessed that a lot of the major pharmaceutical companies who invest in these companies – many of them now have a strong research presence in San Diego, so they are a very important part of our biotech scene.”
In regards to the latter division, Bry seems to believe that it is imperative to increase funding initiatives to grow that corner of the market. While communications and wireless (simply as examples) are a completely different animal than biotech, they are an important asset to District 1 and San Diego at large.
“Companies like Qualcomm, which is obviously the biggest company in that sector, comprise the other end of the spectrum in the tech industry of San Diego,” Bry said. “Here we have many smaller companies, and this is the area where we need to be raising the most capital for these companies to help them grow.”
Although a Philadelphian by birth, Bry seems to be a La Jollan by heart, with a natural predisposition towards the Pacific Ocean. Like most in San Diego, Bry understands that a majority of the activity in her district occurs along the coastline. This is also where a majority of infrastructure issues seem to lie, so the two go hand-in-hand.
“I love the beach. When I was growing up, we were roughly two hours away from the Atlantic Ocean. At the Shores, a lot of days at lunch, we’ll just go out and walk. Once a week I try to walk around the cove. I lived in Mission Beach before I lived in La Jolla, so I walk to the boardwalk as often as I can as well.”
Bry seems to be a natural fit to represent District 1. Her campaign and newly-appointed all have La Jolla connections from one degree to the other. Continuing with her grassroots campaign, Bry and her team aim to maintain a level of approachability perhaps not seen in other districts.
They have created a high school and college fellowship for her office that will go into effect in February and will host office hours and neighborhood coffees once a month. Also, they will be out knocking on doors – so don’t be surprised to have a staffer swing by to make sure your voice is heard. District 1’s newly elected council member Barbara Bry wants to bring a “grassroots” approach to governance in City Hall. Since that could be the best possible way to describe local politics in La Jolla, she is off to a strong beginning.