City Councilman Todd Gloria lives in a rented attic and has trouble finding parking on his Hillcrest street.
“If elected officials are supposed to be representative of their constituency, I’m feeling pretty good,” he joked Friday.
Last year, the City Heights neighborhood where Gloria owns a condo got cleaved from his District 3 and added to a new City Council district. But he’s underwater on his condo and can’t sell it.
“So I am now an inadvertent landlord, an accidental landlord,” he said. He found a room to rent in Hillcrest. He moved, he said, to continue representing those core city neighborhoods. And to begin representing downtown, Mission Hills and Bankers Hill that have previously been lumped in with beach neighborhoods.
“I love my job. I think re-election is about finishing what you started. And I needed to move in order to finish the stuff that we’re working on,” he said.
So what is that stuff? I chatted with Gloria on Friday about his priorities for District 3, what he feels he’s accomplished in office and what he’d be stumping about if he had a challenger.
Where’s District 3?
The new district is powerful, home to San Diego’s influential gay community and, now, its downtown business establishment. The neighborhoods guard their nuances and differences, but acknowledge there’s much they share: Aging infrastructure, battles for historic preservation, homelessness, transportation and safety challenges.
Gloria is well-liked in the neighborhoods of District 3: downtown, East Village, Gaslamp, North Park, Hillcrest, South Park, Golden Hill, University Heights, Normal Heights, Burlingame, Mission Hills, Old Town, Bankers Hill, Little Italy, and that’s not even all of them.
I learned about some of those issues in a weeklong immersion in his district: Navigating the traffic of Mission Hills, assessing the juxtaposed needs of the homeless and condo-dwellers in East Village, continuing the revitalization in North Park, finding a mix of density, parks and transit in Little Italy and uptown’s Hillcrest and Bankers Hill.
As his biggest accomplishment, Gloria argues the city has made major progress in dealing with its budget. That means it can now tackle a major maintenance backlog and restore some of the services it cut in recent years, he said.
• Fiscal Prudence: He says he wants to make sure the city doesn’t agree to fund long-term costs with short-term or one-time money.
• Infrastructure: He’ll keep a continued focus on infrastructure, which Gloria has paid special attention to with his “Sexy Streets” campaign.
• Balboa Park: Gloria’s working with the team planning the Panama-California Exposition’s centennial in 2015. “For an event that literally put San Diego on the map, and the concept that a town of 40,000 in 1915 putting on what amounted to a world’s fair, it’s a pretty audacious thing to do,” he said. “We can’t mark that with a sheetcake; we have to do something magnificent.”
He’s also involved in monitoring the conservancy to maintain the park and the plans to remove cars and create a central pedestrian plaza.
Issues and Potential Fixes in the District
Gloria had read a few of the issues I found in my reporting last week. Here’s some of how he’d imagine addressing them:
• Non-car infrastructure: Gloria argues that fixing roads isn’t only for cars, but also for cyclists and pedestrians. But he also wants to re-examine the parking districts that are supposed to distribute meter revenue to increase parking and bike infrastructure. He’s also proud of his work to push a new streetcar that would loop uptown and downtown, and other bus and mass transit investments from his position on the regional transportation committee at Sandag.
“The car will always win in Southern California if you don’t have an effective advocate on behalf of these other forms of transportation,” he said.
• Homelessness: Gloria’s new district is home to a downtown and East Village concentration of people living on the streets.
He’s working to engage business people and philanthropists to continue efforts to assess the needs of the homeless population and prioritize which individuals could be best served by more services like healthcare and rehabilitation supervision. (A current effort is threatened by the end of redevelopment funding downtown.) He helped push the World Trade Center year-round shelter, slated to open this fall, and hopes to pitch it as a model for other centers elsewhere in the city.
And he wants to add funding for the operation of the Neil Good Day Center downtown to the mayor’s budget.
What Might Be Next:
Gloria’s turning 34 this week and became interested in these neighborhoods and issues as a teenager. He signed his own parents, a hotel maid and a gardener, up to vote in 1992. “I’m brown and gay,” he said. “Growing up, I didn’t necessarily think this was going to be something that was available to me.” A teacher once told him that it’s impossible to hold elected office and be openly gay. He’s thrilled to be proving her wrong.
Gloria said he sometimes feels relatively young for the job. “I listen to a lot of Jay-Z and Rick Ross,” he said. “Not your typical City Council —”
“Oh, I think Kevin Faulconer’s rocking some —” I broke in.
“— rocking some Ludacris on the way to work?” he joked. “Yeah.”
Everyone I talked to in the district likes Gloria and finds his staff responsive and helpful. Gy Kirk, in East Village, said he can’t get his current councilman, Faulconer, to call him back, but he’s heard great things about Gloria. (Update: Faulconer’s office responds in the comments below.)
But a powerful group that supported Gloria’s first election declined to endorse him this time, even though he’s running unopposed. Labor leaders at the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council gave Gloria a “D” for times where he didn’t vote the way they wanted him to.
Gloria challenged labor’s assertion he’s failing at supporting working families even while he’s championed support for homeless services and challenged low-wage superstores.
How to Get in Touch:
Office phone + email: (619) 236-6633 + email@example.com
I’m Kelly Bennett, a reporter for Voice of San Diego covering the City Council District 3 race this week and last. You can reach me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 619.325.0531.