A civil engineer, an attorney, a retired firefighter, an innovation specialist, a public safety community activist, a federal government staffer and a small-business entrepreneur squared off in a debate for the District 1 City Council seat being vacated by San Diego mayoral candidate Barbara Bry in 2020.
Sponsored by La Jolla Town Council, the debate was held on Nov. 14 at La Jolla Rec Center. Beforehand, all seven candidates answered three questions with their answers posted on lajollatowncouncil.org.
On the 14th, the council candidates — Aaron Brennan, Joe LaCava, Will Moore, Harid Puentes, Louis Rodolico, James Rudolph and Lily Zhou — Introduced themselves for one minute before addressing questions.
Former city firefighter and lifeguard Brennan is seeking the District 1 seat because “I’m dissatisfied with how the city is being run.” He added his experience as an ex-city employee “gives me a unique perspective on the issues facing the city making public safety a primary focus for city government.”
Civil engineer Joe LaCava has been building his resume as a community planner and activist for the past decade. “I’m very proud of the work I’ve done over the years in La Jolla as a part-time volunteer,” he said. “We need a change down at City Hall, and I want to work full-time on the issues we care about.”
Attorney Will Moore, who helps small business owners in his law practice said, “I want to help them down at City Hall. The major issues in town are not being addressed.”
Innovation specialist Harid Puentes, who has worked with venture startups, stressed in his introduction the importance of San Diego as a high-tech haven. “I want to make sure we maintain that,” he said.
Public safety activist Rodolico said, “I’ve been a pro-bono community advocate for the past 35 years and I know how to deal with government, which takes a long time.”
From the family that owns Harry’s Coffee Shop, James Rudolph said he previously worked in both the state Legislature and in Washington, D.C. “I’ve been a public servant for many years and I’m proud of that,” he said noting his political toolbox “does not come with dogmatic ideas. I want to look at approaches other cities have tried in solving our problems.”
Small business entrepreneur Zhou said she is running “because I want to bring changes, make a difference and get things done.”
Candidates gave their take on how to regulate short-term vacation rentals (STVRs).
“They are currently illegal per the City Attorney,” said Brennan. “I would support issuance of a cease-and-desist letter to all STVR companies until such time that council can pass an ordinance that legalizes them.”
“The city's zoning code is very clear: short-term vacation rentals are not allowed in residential neighborhoods,” said LaCava. “I am the only District 1 candidate endorsed by Save San Diego Neighborhoods, the organization that stands against the commercialization of our neighborhoods from vacation rentals.”
“As we try to address our city's housing shortage, we can't sit by while our efforts are negated by housing units being taken off the market to become vacation rentals,” said Moore. “The city should mandate that short-term vacation rentals are for primary residences only.”
“We need to enforce existing municipal code that prohibits short-term vacation rentals in residential zones,” said Puentes. “Homeowners living on-site should be allowed to rent their extra rooms as an alternative income stream. However speculators looking to create pop-up hotels should not be allowed to circumvent existing zoning laws.”
“First get enforcement paid for and get a full inventory of units,” said Rodolico. “Identify hot spots where there is too much density and possibly buy back licenses.”
“We're talking about managing the growth of STVRs and protecting and preserving our communities,” said Rudolph. I would regulate STVRs. My regulations: the unit must be your primary residence, the proximity of STVRs in a neighborhood would be limited, a permit would be required, and the owner would have to register as a business and pay taxes.”
“I do not believe in short-term rentals in our community,” said Zhou. “I will work with my colleagues and mayor to support the decisions of our community.”