District 9 City Council race: Candidates share their views
Published - 02/24/20 - 10:06 AM | 4214 views | 1 1 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alex Soto
Alex Soto
Andres Gade
Andres Gade
Kelvin Barrios
Kelvin Barrios
Ross Naismith
Ross Naismith
Sam Bedwell
Sam Bedwell
Sean Elo
Sean Elo

California’s primary election will be held on March 3. One of the more important elections to College Area and Rolando neighborhoods is the District 9 City Council race, which became more competitive when incumbent Georgette Gomez decided to abdicate her council seat in order to run for the 53rd Congressional seat, currently held by Rep. Susan Davis who announced her retirement in September of last year.

There are currently seven candidates running to replace Gomez on the council — Kelvin Barrios, Sam Bedwell, Sean Elo, Andrew Gade, Alex Soto, Ross Naismith and Johnny Lee Dang. The March 3 primary will decide the top two candidates to run against each other in November.

The College Times Courier sent out a questionnaire to all the candidates and received answer from all but one — Johnny Lee Dang. For information about Dang, visit johnnlylee2020.com.

Responses from the rest of the candidates on some key issues facing the city are below:

Kelvin Barrios 

Kelvin Barrios was raised in the District 9 community by working-class immigrant parents.

“We didn’t have a park near our apartment, so we played soccer in the street,” he said. “My family only had one car, so public transit was my main form of transportation.

Barrios worked as a cook, mechanic, and hotel worker for several years to finally afford a car. “My mother taught me that we must get back up when we fall and to always give back to our community. As a housekeeper, she was overworked and underpaid and taken advantage of because she was a struggling immigrant.”

Barrios’ mother took classes to learn English and eventually started her own small business – all while still volunteering at Kelvin’s school PTA.

Barrios’ own volunteer work includes serving as vice president of his local town council, as a member of the planning group, as a policy advisor for City Council President Georgette Gomez, and as director of community outreach for Laborers Local 89.

“I am running for San Diego City Council because we need to do better. We deserve responsive, accessible leadership that comes from our community,” Barrios said.

Here are his views on the issues:



If elected, I will introduce a housing action plan that will have three main areas of focus:

• Cutting bureaucratic red tape to ensure that we are building more local housing that is affordable for our working families.

• Increasing affordable housing options by preserving existing units and identifying city-owned properties that are suitable for building new affordable homes.

• Tackle the mini-dorm issue that is affecting College Area and encourage the building of more student housing close to San Diego State University.



This is one of the largest issues affecting our neighborhoods and it is going to require a holistic approach. I think it’s important that we partner with health care leaders and law enforcement to better coordinate mental health services for those on the streets.

In addition, we need to ensure that we have rapid response and re-housing so that we can get people off the streets as soon as possible.


Support College Area Community Council's community plan update?

Yes, I’m currently advocating for the work that the College Area Planning Group has done. I believe this is the template our city should use as it’s updating the College Area’s community plan. This can speed up the process and the planning group’s efforts can count toward research and community feedback. 

I commit to holding regular meetings with the leadership of our community planning groups to ensure that the voices of our neighborhoods are amplified at City Hall.


Other issues on your platform

No matter what part of District 9 you live in, we all suffer from the realities of potholes and broken sidewalks. We must ensure that we are not only tackling our backlog of much-needed improvements but ensuring that they are being done right the first time. We must address community concerns and go after bad contractors that keep failing to meet standards. 

I will also advocate for our Police and Fire Department to be properly paid for their service and sacrifices to our community. There is a broken system and strong leadership is needed to fix it.


For more information about Kelvin Barrios, visit his campaign website at kelvinbarrios.com.


Sam Bedwell

Sam Bedwell grew up in a military family traveling the world, starting in Africa then Maryland, Belgium, Italy and Germany. He speaks fluent Italian and Spanish. 

I have seen much of the world, and very little compares to San Diego, and the communities of District 9,” he said, adding for the last 10 years he’s lived in Kensington, Rolando and College Area while attending SDSU to earn a degree in biology. He also holds a law degree from California Western School of Law. 

Working and volunteering throughout the district has given me the opportunity to meet and help so many diverse groups, businesses and individuals,” he said. 

Bedwell is endorsed by Assembly member Dr. Shirley Weber and the San Diego Union Tribune. Here are his views on the issues:



Home ownership is the backbone of our community and economy. However, it is increasingly out of reach for many San Diegans who have worked and sacrificed in order to buy a home and have a stake in their communities only to see their children locked out of home ownership in the city they helped build. 

We can no longer afford a city that leaves no place for working-class families. Unaffordable housing makes San Diego increasingly uncompetitive in attracting and retaining both small and large employers and their employees including military service members, police, fire fighters, teachers, service workers and students.

While housing and homelessness has been deemed an emergency by past city councils, no meaningful movement has been made to tackle this growing emergency. San Diegans cannot afford the status quo. As your council member, housing will be a top priority for me. Our veterans, families with children and students should not have to wait any longer for meaningful solutions, and I will not pass this issue off for another year or another council. This moral and economic crisis can be solved sooner with bold ideas and thoughtful leadership. 


Firstly, I support the Housing Federation’s ballot initiative to build truly affordable housing. I also believe the city can do better by leveraging assets they already have and working closer with the county and state and federal government. We can also immediately do the following:

Establish a regional comprehensive land-use programIdentify, catalog and value all public lands and structures within the San Diego region in order to support affordable workforce housing and new business start-ups. This commission will be modeled after the Federal BRAC (Base Realignment Commission) and provide incentives toward home ownership.

Implement targeted supportive housing program for veterans: Given established/earmarked targeted funding sources, we will provide all homeless veterans, homeless single parents with children and full-time enrolled homeless students and seniors on fixed income with permanent supportive housing.

Support College Area Planning Group's community plan update? 


Yes, absolutely. I think community planning groups should always be the first line of planning and first line of defense when it comes to changing or keeping a community's nature and character. 

Other issues on your platform


I am also working and supporting a number of initiatives that our campaign will be unveiling very shortly. I am very interested in perfecting these initial policy initiatives with input from many stakeholder organizations including planning and community groups from all over District 9. I am interested in improving: public safety, public transportation, infrastructure and making sure the SDSU Mission Valley project is done well and with input from the community.


Sean Elo

 Sean Elo says he has been personally impacted by key issues facing the District 9 community, including housing and homelessness

I've experienced homelessness when I spent a month living out of my car as a law student and have seen my parents displaced when their rent doubled over the course of a year,”

In addition to his law degree from California Western School of law, Elo has experience as a teacher and high school coach. He has also served as associate director of the Mid-City Community Advocacy Network. Currently he is executive director of Youth Will, an organization that works with young people to create policy changes they believe important to their future and is a governing board member of the San Diego Community College District.

Elo’s positions on the issues are as follows:



My preferred approach to the housing crisis is to protect and produce housing we can afford and keep communities intact, keep households in their communities through a series of protections, including: enforcing the tenant protections embodied in AB 1482; educating both landlords and tenants about the state and local renter protections; providing resources to ensure that all tenants have representation available to them in any tenancy-related court action; creating a flexible spending pool for emergency rent subsidies; control rent increases through methods proven effective in other cities; rental payment reporting so renters earn and build credit without accruing debt; and preservation of existing affordable housing.

Also, increasing the general supply of housing, but leaving no one out by: incentivizing inclusionary housing; upzoning along transit corridors; land banking; encouraging community land trusts; supporting the development of quality community housing; encouraging good jobs that ensure those who build affordable housing do not need affordable housing.



Prevent homelessness by implementing renter’s protections mentioned below and increase funding for emergency rental assistance to prevent homelessness.

Strategic action:

• Replicate successful Housing First models, such as those utilized in Houston, that prioritize permanent supportive housing.

• Coordinate with the Regional Task Force on the Homeless to leverage regional efforts without unnecessary and inefficient duplication. 


Support the College Area Planning Group's community plan update?

Yes. I think the College Area Planning Group is excellent.

I believe planning groups are a very important element of local government. In my previous job at Mid-City CAN, I led efforts to encourage participation in planning group elections.


Other issues on your platform

Our campaign has a unique platform plank with respect to educational and economic opportunity. The city can and should play a much more proactive role in supporting education and providing strategic resources to help young people realize their potential by working in partnership with SDUSD, San Diego Community College District, teachers unions and community organizations to ensure students and families have access to necessary resources; increasing access to child care; and creating an Office of Child and Family Success.

We also have released an anti-corruption plan, consisting of the following key elements: public financing of elections; banning officials or their staff from lobbying the city; public disclosure of all campaign ads; and strengthening the Ethics Commission.


For more information about Sean Elo, visit his campaign website at seanelo.com.


Andrew Gade

Andrew Gade describes himself as a “fiscally conservative small business owner with a background in economics.” If he is elected to the District 9 City Council seat, he said his priorities include focusing on infrastructure, the homelessness crisis, and economic growth, while integrating technology to improve government efficiency.

Here are Gade’s views on the issues:


My preferred approach to solving the housing crisis and lower rents is increased density in specific areas while protecting ourneighborhoods from over-development.


The best approach to solving the homelessness problem in San Diego is increased funding and cooperation from the county and state to address individuals suffering from mental health and substance abuse issues.

Focusing on stability rehabilitation for those on the fringe, while offering compassion along with some tough love for able-bodied individuals that need help getting back on their feet.

Support the College Area Planning Group's community plan update?

Yes, I fully support the community plan update and believe in maintaining strong local planning.

Other issues on your platform

Our city departments are struggling to provide adequate levels of service, and our employees morale is at an all-time low. San Diego needs to fundamentally rethink and reshape the way we provide services and govern our city. Our current infrastructure deficit is over $2 billion and growing daily, so it is extremely important that we focus on long-term solutions.


For more information about Andrew Gade, visit his campaign website at andrewgade.com.


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Alex Soto


Alex Soto immigrated to the United States when he was 11 years old and became an American citizen in 2001. 

After 9/11, he joined the United States Army and did a combat tour in Afghanistan where he learned about leadership and service. After his military career, he worked with the Navy's marine mammals and learned about conservation and animal behavior. “Taking care of animals and working to preserve our environment was and continues to be a passion of mine,” he said. “Today, I work with underwater systems that map our ocean floor. 

Soto is the father of two and husband to “an incredible wife.” 

This race for the District 9 City Council seat is Soto’s first campaign, but he said he wants voters to know that he has fought for representation in both national and local issues. 

I have a proven record of tackling hard complex social problems,” he said.

Here are Soto’s views on the issues:


My preferred approach to housing shortage issues and high rents in the city are to: 

• Lower building costs.

• Invest in both public- and nonprofit-owned housing.

• Focus on middle- and low-income housing with three-plus bedrooms.

• Help renters out in times of crisis through the homeless prevention programs. 


The best approaches to solving the homelessness crises are to:

Streamline homeless services.

• Provide homeless youth transitional living.

• Clean up the mess associated with homeless camps.

• Provide more permanent supportive housing.

• Offer training services for street outreach programs.

• Make a goal to have 0% homeless veterans in District 9 by 2022.

Support College Area Planning Group's community plan update?

Absolutely. Communities should have their say on what type of development is needed and wanted. As a city council representative, it will be my job to endorse this plan 100%. 

Other issues on your platform

The environment. I want to p
reserve environmental, cultural, and historic resources; preserve the integrated open space system of our natural canyons, park grounds, urban plazas, and landscaped streets; and improve fire protection and prevention.


For more information about Alex Soto, visit his campaign website at alexsoto2020.com.


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Ross Naismith


Ross Naismith says his life has been built through volunteering, community organizing, leading, and working with people.  

Whether it’s my background in teaching, community planning, or leading nonprofits in a volunteer capacity, working with people and improving their lives has always been, and always will be at the forefront for me,” he stated.

Here are Naismith’s views on the issues:



We have to think outside the box. I like to say you never know when a good idea will lead to a great idea. Developers are not building homes or units that people can afford. This has been happening for a long time. Multi-story high rises are extremely expensive. Building bungalow courtyards are an attractive option that are cost efficient and community oriented. With the technology available today, these can be built quickly and efficiently. We should be looking more at modular or pre-fabricated home installations as well.



Millions of dollars are being spent and we aren’t seeing enough solutions. There is a shuffle strategy going on with the homeless that is using a tremendous amount of resources — part of the reason communities outside of Downtown are seeing more homeless. 

There are shelter tents throughout the city, and we have more and more homeless storage facilities popping up. The shelters are crowded, and nobody can sleep at the storage sites.  

I would like to see modular or pre-fabricated homes installed, in place of these shelters and storage sites, with services on site, where our homeless community members can truly feel what it feels like to be in a home again. We will actually save money in this process as well. It’s a win-win.


Support College Area Planning Group's community plan update?

I look forward to continuing the work already done and engaging in robust community discussions with community members at the forefront in having a say for what’s best in their community. Being a community planning group member myself, it is very important to support the work they do. I represent Rolando Village on the Eastern Area Community Planning Committee.


Other issues on your platform 

Transportation. We all know the traffic here all too well. Moving people around our city quickly and efficiently must be a priority. I will lead conversations on bringing a legitimate high-speed rail network to San Diego.  

Sure, this is a long-term goal, but everything starts somewhere. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel to do it, other countries have already mastered this technology and are actively selling rail packages throughout the globe. Let’s reach out, ask for help, and bring our international friends into the fold here locally. 

Also, the arts. Being a musician for over 25 years now, it’s tough to see the cuts in our schools and lack of programming for the arts, music, and culture. Having been able to teach, travel, and perform all around the world, I feel very lucky. At the end of the day, is there anything that brings people together like the arts, music, and culture? I will look to support these areas as much as I can on the City Council.


For more information about Ross Naismith, visit his campaign website at vote4ross.com.


Reach editor Jeff Clemetson at jeff@sdnews.com.


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