An effort is underway to recall District 2 Councilmember Dr. Jennifer Campbell, who was recently selected Council president by the newly elected San Diego City Council in a 5-4 vote. District 2 includes Clairemont, Linda Vista, Pacific Beach, Midway, Mission Beach, Ocean Beach, and Point Loma.
“The campaign to recall Councilmember Jennifer Campbell has begun,” states a widely circulated email by the recall group. “The notice of intent to circulate a recall petition will be published in early January. As required, within five days of publication, Jennifer Campbell will be served with the notice of intent.
The petition will begin to circulate – signatures of resident registered voters of District 2 will begin to be gathered – 21 days after the date of publication. We will then have 99 days to collect a minimum of 13,553 signatures.”
Reacting to news of the recall drive, Campbell chief-of-staff Venus Molina said: “It’s so disappointing because the people who are trying to recall us are the same people opposing us on short-term rentals; a fight they will never win because that ship has sailed. We cannot ban them. We cannot make them illegal. And they say, ‘If you won’t ban them, then we don’t want you.’”
Added Molina: “I can only imagine the class-action lawsuit we could probably encounter if we actually tried to remove that business opportunity from so many operators. I’m pretty sure Expedia and all the different Airbnb platforms would come after [the City]. The people pushing for our recall, would they be willing to pay for [the City’s] legal defense, and for the repercussions, the City will face if they (opponents) actually do what they want us to do (remove all residential STRs)?”
“It’s a combination of factors,” said recall supporter Barbara Bry, former District 1 council member about the movement to remove Campbell from office. “One issue is her stance on short-term rentals and her agreement with Expedia. Another is her support for Measure E, which raised the 30-foot height limit in the Midway District. The third is a general belief that she has not been responsive to her constituents on District 2 issues.”
Added Bry, “The timing (of the recall) had always been to wait until January because it was too confusing to try and do it during the middle of an election. The irony is, if [Campbell] had not tried to become the council president, it would not have happened. This is a big deal.”
Coastal residents Tom Coat and Scott Chipman, who have been involved in the short-term rental issue for more than a decade, favor a compromise.
“What has pleasantly surprised me about Campbell is her willingness to take on big, tough, divisive issues of great concern to the communities she represents,” said Coat. That's not easy. It takes guts. The Midway/Sports Arena issue is one example.
“Vacation rentals are another. At the heart of this effort is a stubborn and unrealistic point of view that all vacation rentals are bad and that we should ‘just enforce the code’ to ban them all. That didn't work in 2018. It has zero chance of working going forward,” Coat said.
“I served on the first short-term rental ad hoc PB Planning Group committee over 12 years ago,” said Chipman. “I was for a compromise then and I am still for a compromise. PB is often the community where city problems such as beach alcohol, scooters, and STRs first get noticed. For once, we have a City Council member who has distilled a decades-long problem into a potential policy that is garnering support. Councilmember Campbell deserves assistance, more support, and positive suggestions, not a recall.”
“I think the recall has a good chance of success because there are so many different issues, and each impacts different parts of the community,” said Bry. “I think the (recall) leaders are well organized, and they understand what they need to do to be successful.
“The way it works is you have to qualify by getting signatures in the council district, and the City then has to call a special election for people to vote in that district, not only whether to recall the council member, but select their replacement from a list of candidates. If voters vote yes by a simple majority for the recall, then the individual (replacing the council member) with the most votes wins,” Bry said.
Concluded Molina: “[Campbell] is being vilified for making decisions that are best for the City. We could be content with filling potholes and fixing sidewalks and petting dogs and kissing babies. She makes hard decisions. She’s not here as a stepping stone for a different office. She genuinely wants to do what needs to be done. That’s why she’s making bold moves. It’s unfortunate that special interests are coming after her.”
There has been one successful effort in the last 30 years to recall a city council member. Linda Bernhardt was recalled from her seat on the council in 1991 by more than a 2-1 margin, removing her from office in the Fifth Council District with nearly two-thirds of her four-year term remaining.
The flashpoint for Bernhardt’s recall was her role in supporting a controversial redistricting map that removed two major neighborhoods – Scripps Ranch and Mira Mesa – from her 5th District. By transferring those communities into another district, her opponents argued the councilwoman broke faith with the very constituents who had helped to elect her.
Supporters of Campbell’s recall have set up recalljen.com.
– Within 10 days after the date of publication of the notice of intention and statement, the proponent(s) shall file with the City Clerk a copy of the notice and statement.
– Within five days after the date of publication of the notice of intention and statement, the proponent(s) shall cause a copy of the notice to be served, personally or by registered mail, on the official whose recall is sought.
– Within 14 days after the publication of the notice of intention to circulate a recall petition, the official whose recall is sought or their designated representative may answer to the statement. Such an answer shall be 300 words or less in length.
– Twenty-one days after the publication of the notice of intention and statement, the petition may be circulated among the voters of the City for signatures by any registered voter of the City, for recall of the Mayor or City Attorney, or registered voters of the District, for recall of Council members.
– Before a recall petition may be submitted to the Council, it must contain the signatures of at least 15% of the registered voters in the City, for officials elected by Citywide vote, or in the district, for Council members elected by district vote.
– Each voter signing the petition shall sign it in his or her own handwriting: Place of residence, including street and house number, or other designation from which the location of the place of residence can be readily ascertained. Post office box numbers, business addresses, or mailing addresses are not permitted and, if used, shall make that voter's signature invalid. Only a person who is a qualified registered voter at the time of signing the petition is entitled to sign it.
– A recall petition shall be filed with the City Clerk by the proponent(s). The petition shall be filed not more than 120 days after the date on which the notice of intention to circulate was published.
– Within 30 days from the date of filing of the petition, the signatures on the petition shall be verified by the Clerk.
– Once the petition is presented to the Council, the Council shall immediately call a special election. The election shall be held not less than 90 days after adoption of the ordinance calling the election, but not later than 180 days after such adoption.