Unless one of the three candidates — Joe LaCava, Barbara Bry and Ray Ellis — gets 50 percent plus one of the vote in the June 7, 2016 primary, the two highest vote-getters will be in a runoff in the Nov. 8, 2016 general election.
Steve Haskins, president of La Jolla Town Council, which co-sponsored the forum, noted the Council is the only civic group in town that “covers all the residences and businesses anywhere in La Jolla.” Haskins said he hoped candidates in the debate would “share their vision” for improving the community.
After introducing themselves in opening remarks, Bry and Ellis stressed their business acumens and backgrounds. LaCava positioned himself as the political “insider” with the experience and know-how downtown.
“I’ve been an entrepreneur, a journalist, a teacher, a wife, a mom, a community volunteer and a grandma,” said Bry, an entrepreneur in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors who co-founded ProFlowers.com and is currently COO of Blackbird Ventures, which invests in early-stage technology companies. “I am running because I love our community and want to help make it safe, clean and prosperous.”
“I came to San Diego in 1987, raised a family and started a business with every nickel I had that had 15 employees and has since grown to 180,” said Ellis, founder, CEO and principal shareholder of MC Direct, one of the largest full-service direct response agencies on the West Coast. “I am a nonpartisan problem-solver who wants to bring common-sense reform.”
“I’ve spent the last 10 years working on community planning in La Jolla and citywide,” said LaCava, an San Diego State University grad and a civil engineer who’s served on 26 committees and boards, including the San Diego Community Planners Committee, overseeing the city’s 42 planning groups. “What I can tell you is that promises made by past council members — I’m going to deliver for you.”
All three candidates fielded numerous questions from citizens and from forum co-sponsors, the San Diego Police Officers Association and La Jolla Light.
The candidates weighed in on the hot-button issue of Short Term Vacation Rentals (STVRs).
“I believe STVRS should be in two different categories — homesharing, where the owner is in the home, which is OK, and businesses renting out whole houses,” LaCava said. “People shouldn’t have to live next to mini-hotels in single-family neighborhoods. I can support home sharing but am opposed to whole-house rentals.”
“I oppose STVRs in single-family neighborhoods because that takes housing away from permanent residents, and it destroys the character of the neighborhood,” said Bry. “We don’t need businesses adjacent to neighbors making them feel like they’re next door to the La Jolla Marriott.”
”We need to get rid of the bad actors who’ve been operating STVRs and toughen existing laws to provide more enforcement,” said Ellis. “This is a quality-of-life issue in our neighborhoods. We have to crack down on the investor types who are moving in just trying to make a buck.”
All three candidates had divergent takes on the long-simmering issue of shared use between humans and seals at Children’s Pool.
“There is a plan in place now that appears to be working,” said Ellis. “That issue has not bubbled up in my interaction with neighbors in the community. I would vote to leave it the way it is right now.”
“Shared use doesn’t work; too many visitors here for the first time don’t know the rules (about staying away) from the animals and (consequently) having to be chased away,” said LaCava. “I’m no longer in support of shared use.”
“I support the Coastal Commission ruling having the beach off limits (to people) during pupping season,” said Bry. “We’ve put enough attention into this issue. There are more important things in La Jolla to talk about.”
All three candidates iterated their campaign platforms during closing remarks.
“I’ve already been working for you for the past 10 years down at the city,” said LaCava. “If you support me to do this as a full-time job, I will work for you as a councilmember.”
“I have a proven track record (of accomplishment),” said Ellis. “I promise to have a nonpartisan, problem-solving approach. I hope to have your vote.”
“As an entrepreneur, I’ve been able to develop numerous (economic development) programs and initiatives,” said Bry. “I would bring that to City Hall.”