Attorney Bryan Pease moved to University City in January this year and entered the District 1 City Council race for one reason.

“It’s not that I have an ambition to be on the City Council,” Pease said in an interview. “It’s that I don’t think Sherri (Lightner) should go unchallenged.”

His frustration with the incumbent councilwoman, a fellow Democrat, stems from the hot-button issue Pease is best known for fighting in court. He successfully halted the removal of harbor seals from the Children’s Pool in La Jolla.

A little background: A state court ordered the city to evict the seals in 2008. City officials responded with a proposal to play the sound of barking dogs to scare the seals away. They estimated the strategy would cost $689,000 a year.

Lightner, the area’s newly elected councilwoman at the time, suggested using actual barking dogs instead of a recording. She proposed residents take their dogs to the beach and scare away the seals themselves. She argued it would save the city money. Pease called it cruel. He sought a federal injunction in 2009.

The proposal was strike one against Lightner, Pease said. The second followed her support for putting Miramar Landfill up to bid and the third followed her opposition to new regulation for big box stores like Walmart. On three big issues, Lightner sided against animal, environment and labor advocates.

“It’s not that I’m the seal guy and I have an ax to grind on the seals,” Pease said. “She’s not a progressive and the alternative is Ray Ellis? You want to know who the 1 percent is? He’s the 1 percent.”

But the best way to describe Pease isn’t by comparing him to Lightner, a fellow Democrat; or Ellis, the Republican Party’s pick; or even Dennis Ridz, the fourth candidate in the race.

“It’s very easy,” Pease said. “If Carl DeMaio is in favor of something, I’m likely against it.”

DeMaio supports a high-profile initiative aimed at cutting pension costs. Pease opposes it. DeMaio supports an expanded Convention Center. Pease opposes it. DeMaio supports managed competition. Pease opposes that, too.

One notable exception: DeMaio and Pease agree with the city’s current plan to manage the Children’s Pool. Swimmers and seals can use the beach, but it will be closed to swimmers during the seals’ pupping season. Lightner voted against the plan.

Pease, a public-interest attorney, said his campaign strategy is to knock out Lightner in the June primary and take on either Ellis or Ridz, both Republicans, in the November runoff. A greater proportion of registered Democrats typically vote in general elections than primaries.

Pease’s biggest disadvantage is money. Lightner and Ellis have each raised more than $170,000 while Pease has reported about $11,000 through March 17. Both Lightner and Ellis have endorsements from groups with deep pockets while Pease has none.

Pease’s Top Three Priorities

Neighborhood Services: Pease said his top priorities are public safety, libraries and parks, but he struggled to explain what he wants to change about them. He primarily emphasized that when making financial decisions as a councilman, they would come first.

Animal Rights: Pushed to make a specific proposal, Pease deferred to his bread-and-butter topic: animal rights. He said San Diego should ban the retail sale of cats and dogs, and require that shops get them from local animal shelters instead. He said the policy would help prevent euthanizing animals at the shelters.

Pease also argued San Diego should ban the Ringling Bros. and other circus acts unless they stop using pointed bullhooks, a device for training and controlling elephants. Pease and other animal rights advocates across the nation call the device cruel.

Progressive Voice: Pease highlights his broad stance more often than specific District 1 issues residents are pushing like the controversial Regents Road Bridge or the push for more fire stations. If elected, Pease said he would install a progressive voice on the council.

Best Way to Describe His Pitch

He’s the progressive candidate and the truest Democrat. He would be the strongest advocate to protect animal, environment and labor rights.

Interesting Fact About His Life

Pease is recently divorced and said he wouldn’t be in this election if that didn’t happen. His ex-wife wouldn’t have wanted to leave their home in North Park and wouldn’t have wanted to be dragged into a bitter election process, Pease said. They didn’t part ways because of the election, Pease said, but the divorce freed him to move to District 1 and join the race.

What He’s Taking Heat For

Being the election’s carpetbagger. And he owns up to it. “I’m not hiding anything,” Pease said of his timely move. “I’ve been active on things that affect the district.”

Just moving to the district wouldn’t be a huge detriment, but so far, Pease has struggled to display a connection to District 1 issues beyond the seals. Asked to explain how he would improve the area’s quality of life, he dodged providing specific ideas or proposals.

Near the end of my interview, Pease also grasped the steep challenge he faces. This is his first political campaign, and he said he regrets not hiring a campaign manager to seek donations and plan a more organized grassroots strategy.

“Wait, I think people start voting next week!” Pease said last week, slumping back in his chair. “Shit, I got to get a mailer out.”

Pease realized his chances are slim. “I think I could win if this is all I’m working on,” Pease said. “I just don’t have the time.”

Get in Touch with Him

Office phone + email: 858.999.2343 +



Twitter: @VotePease

Keegan Kyle is a news reporter for Voice of San Diego. He writes about local government, creates infographics and handles the Fact Check Blog. What should he write about next?

Please contact him directly at or 619.550.5668. You can also find him on Twitter (@keegankyle) and Facebook.

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